Let’s Chat: One Week With the Xbox Series S

Here we are for the third and – for now – last of the Let’s Chat articles covering the new next generation consoles! To follow up the pieces on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 with Ashley Harrison and Stephen Brown respectively, this time it is my turn to answer the questions! I finally, after repeated attempts, secured myself an Xbox Series S; if you are not familiar, this is the cheaper, all-digital alternative (at £249.99) to the Series X (at £449.99). Whilst Sony also offers a slightly cheaper PS5 with no disc drive, there is a more distinctive difference between the two Microsoft offerings, for example in the design of the hardware itself, and so it is intriguing to see how my experience compares to that of Ashley and Stephen – the latter of which joins me for this article!

The actual posting of this has been delayed slightly by other posts and Christmas preparation, but the conversation itself was done after I had played for a time not dissimilar from the other two Let’s Chats. As well as this, this is a bit shorter than those, as parts of the Series S are so similar to the Series X. Right, let’s get into it!

William Robinson: Proceeding on from two Let’s Chat articles on the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5, in this post it is me responding to questions after securing myself an Xbox Series S. Now I have been playing it for over a week, I am going to share my thoughts on my experience with the system, and how it differs from the other options out there.

Stephen Brown: Hi Will! Welcome to this role reversal of a Let’s Chat. Congratulations on joining the next generation era and the Xbox club. Is this your first time with a Microsoft console, and why did you choose the Xbox over the PlayStation?

WR: So this is not my first time with the Xbox; back in the era of the Nintendo Wii/Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 I eventually supplemented my Wii with the 360, it being my first ever HD console. I spent a lot of time with that system playing series such as Call of Duty and Mass Effect; it was also a console that opened up more opportunities for my friends and I to play together online during my college days! However, with the impressive features and line-up of the PlayStation 4 and the mistakes Microsoft were making at the launch of the Xbox One, I went over to Sony for the last generation. After the subsequent years ingrained in that ecosystem, it was going to take quite a lot for Microsoft to win me back; that is how it played out though! As discussed in previous Let’s Chat pieces, Microsoft have been showing their renewed focus on games and complimenting that with multiple gamer-friendly decisions that have pushed the whole industry forward – Game Pass being a key example. Especially with it being so tough to get a a PS5 order, I have decided to wait potentially until Horizon Forbidden West launches, and instead purchased the Series S first. My long-term plan is a combination of Series S and PS5 to cover each side!

SB: Exciting to hear that Microsoft have improved a lot over the years to win you back as a gamer. It is a good sign of them listening to the community and growing from past decisions. I think that is a great idea to have a Series S and PS5 in order to to get the best of both worlds, fingers crossed you can get a PS5 in time for Horizon Forbidden West! So tell me, we have seen and heard about the packaging and set-up of the Series X and PS5; for the Series S, how were your initial impressions of the unboxing and set-up?

WR: Well, firstly I shall note the immediate realisation of how amazingly compact this console is; I first thought the cardboard box it arrived in was for a different order, perhaps some books! Imagine my delight at discovering it was actually my Series S, earlier than my estimated delivery date. The clean design of the packaging has a sophisticated vibe, with cropped images of the console. Opening it for the first time is – similar to the Series X – a real event, as the top lifts up and reveals your new and contemporary console (though the Series S perhaps has more space around it than the X did!). When placing the Series S vertically, as I do most of the time, the height is around the same as that of my original PS4, but not as deep (the Z dimension). It is crisp and stunning with a pristine colour scheme of mostly white with black details. Setting the console up was so quick; I already had my account from my aforementioned 360 days, and before getting the system I updated that so that I could sign in, go through some initial settings, and be ready to go!

SB: Wow I had not realised how compact it was, very different to the monolith that is the PS5! Sounds as though it was a great experience receiving and setting up your new console. It is great that all the new generation consoles allow for easy and effective set-up. Is there anything else you would like to say about the hardware? Do you like how it looks like a speaker?

WR: Such a surprise that you make the speaker comparison, soooo original Stephen, haha! Yeah I am a fan of the style of the console, with the sharp lines and that circular panel for the fan. The matte finish makes it satisfying to the touch as well, and there are those extra details that impress such as the way the logo lights up on the front when switched on. It seems very well thought out, and that continues on to the controller too!

SB: Hey, that is what it looks like, haha; I do not mean it in a bad way, it is just an observation. Amazing, it sounds very cool! Tell us more about the controller, is there any unique features or comparisons you would like to make between Xbox and other controllers?

WR: Well, again I am very positive; the satisfying matte feel is also present on the controller, and combined with the immersive rumble feedback, there is a tactile feel that accentuates gameplay; though I imagine the feedback is not as comprehensive as the haptic feedback on the new PS5 controller (I have not experienced one myself). Either way, this controller is one I am very much enjoying playing with. To compare it with say, the DualShock 4 of my PS4, the slightly larger size suits my large hands and the sticks feel less susceptible to being worn away; the latter is a major issue I had on PS4 that led to me purchasing new thumb grips. That together with the clicky inputs and spacious layout allows for a comforting amount of room on the controller. In terms of any issues I have had, firstly I had to get used to the different X/Y/A/B configuration again (can we just unify it everyone?), and secondly I was surprised to find out the controller still incorporates a space for batteries instead of having recharging built-in! The prospect of returning to the days of getting endless and expensive Duracell AA batteries did not appeal, so I ordered a £19.99 charging pack from Microsoft, which delayed me for a bit whilst I waited for it to be delivered. Not ideal, but if those are the only hardware issues I have that would be okay!

SB: Ah yes, different button layouts are something I am now getting used to when going between my PS5 and Nintendo Switch; uniformity in layout would be better, but I understand why they do not do it. Amazing, glad to hear the controller continues to be just as impressive as the console. Although, it is weird that it still uses batteries. I wonder why Microsoft have not made them rechargeable from the get. So, you have had no other issues or experienced anything while the console runs and plays games?

WR: Not really, it has been smooth sailing so far, and the console is impressively quiet too. With the SSD and step up in power compared to other consoles I have owned, it is all very quick, including the speedy downloads.

The whole vibe is very serene and contemporary

William Robinson

SB: That is great to hear! We have covered hardware, but what about software? What can you tell us about the structure of the interface? Is it easy to navigate, and how does it differ to the PlayStation?

WR: Without repeating too much from the Series X article – as it is essentially the same UI – it is laid out in a very clear way. You have a row of your most recent games and apps at the top, and then as you scroll down you can see other aspects such as Game Pass and friends; I appreciate how you can customise this too, so that one of your sub-menus could be a detailed view of the profile of a friend, for example. The profile icon in the top left acts similar to the quick menu on PlayStation 4, and can be opened by pressing in the Xbox logo on the controller to access menus such as Achievements and the Store. One of my takeaways is that it is all a bit better spaced-out than I am experienced with on PS4, giving it a more airy aesthetic that is emphasised by their being no sound effects in the background. The whole vibe is very serene and contemporary.

SB: Sounds very accessible, and by the sounds of it the customisation options give the UI (User Interface) a great personalised touch. It’s fantastic that consoles give you those options and allow you to explore a layout that best suits you, whether that is for accessibility or fun. Now, you mentioned Game Pass; tell us more about that. Are you enjoying it, and which games are you excited to play?

WR: Yeah, wow, Game Pass has so much choice! As Series S is all-digital, getting Game Pass Ultimate was the logical choice (£1 for the first three months too!). I was already someone with such a backlog of games to play, and now I additionally have the whole of the Game Pass library at my fingertips! It is amazing to scroll through and see the selection on offer, which includes the whole of EA Access too! So far, I have downloaded – to name a few – Forza Horizon 4, River City Girls, Sea of Thieves, Ori and the Blind Forest, ReCore: Definitive Edition… The list goes on! New games are being added often, too, such as Call of the Sea and Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age. In this paragraph I have only scratched the surface of the games you can download; with so much choice I need to start finishing games before going to the next one aha!

SB: Haha, studios just need to stop making amazing games and let us all catch up for a year! It sounds like Game Pass has really delivered, and allows anyone with a Series S to enjoy a plethora of games. Which have you managed to play so far, and which one have you enjoyed playing most?

WR: Even with all that has happened this year, the games keep coming. In addition to Game Pass, I also downloaded the modern Tomb Raider trilogy to play – again! – as they were on sale and are phenomenal games that I now get to experience on a more powerful system! The idea of playing the second and my favourite of the three, Rise of the Tomb Raider, has been particularly exciting. Furthermore, free-to-play battle royale Apex Legends has been an effective console comparison, clearly running smoother than on PS4, though the lack of cross-progression at this time means I have to start from the beginning again… Speaking of performance, Forza Horizon 4 is – just as Ash said in the Series X Let’s Chat – very impressive, stunning visually and running like silk. Driving around that countryside is awesome, especially when a song in the music selection that you enjoy starts playing (for example, Colors by Beck!). I have spent some time in ReCore: Definitive Edition too, as with developers from the Metroid Prime team and a lonely, post-apocalyptic vibe, it appeals to me. The art direction and characters are awesome, but I was disappointed by it being so arcade-y, with lock-on aiming and frequent firefights disrupting the tension. From that list, the source of the most enjoyment has been starting again with the modern Tomb Raider trilogy! Finally, a note on Cyberpunk 2077; I was on the fence, but hearing the reception, I may wait until later to play it.

SB: Amazing! I bet you are excited to see Lara Croft action in smooth, high definition graphics. That is really great to hear you are having fun with games new and old all thanks to the digital capabilities of the Series S and Game Pass. Ah, yes, I am feeling the same about Cyberpunk 2077. Looks like an amazing game with great features, but due to tight deadlines it seems a few bugs have appeared. That was bound to happen though, and it is good to see they are working on patches and fixes for the new consoles, so like you I am going to wait a little before I dive in. Okay, well I think between us and your Let’s Chat with Ash on the Series X, we have covered all the features of the new generation of Xbox. Let’s wrap things up with your overall thoughts and opinions on the Series S, and also how you hope the platform develops in the future?

WR: Yeah, on Cyberpunk 2077, I am going to wait to see how the next generation console patch goes first. Indeed, for extra info on the UI do go and read that Let’s Chat I did with Ash on the Series X (linked at the top of this post)! I am very glad I got a Series S, and very glad to be playing new games with exclusives such as Halo Infinite, Everwild, and Fable on the way too! I am eager to see how far this system can go on the performance side; more games optimised for it is an enticing prospect. Perhaps Halo Infinite will be one of the games to do that upon releasing in early 2021? Either way, I have plenty to play!

SB: Brilliant, well it is great to hear you are enthusiastic about the new system, and I agree that we are only seeing the beginnings of what these consoles can do, so I am excited as well to see the limits that can be pushed and reached. Also, when you get a PS5 you will have the best of both worlds, and even more games to play! You are going to need a time machine at this rate to catch up. Okay well, thank you for letting me run this Let’s Chat Will and thank you for telling us your experience with the Series S! Can’t wait to hear more about it in the future as well as many, many reviews on all the new games that are yet to come.

WR: Indeed, so much gaming to do, aha! Thanks for flipping the roles in this Let’s Chat. See ya in our next one!

I hope you enjoyed the latest Let’s Chat focused on one of the new next generation consoles! If you have acquired one of the new consoles, you can let us know your thoughts on them in the comments! For more Let’s Chat, you can go here. Have an incredible day!

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