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Xbox Series X and Series S backward compatibility, explained

Backward compatibility is one of the biggest pillars in Microsoft’s pitch for its next-generation consoles: the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, the company says, will launch with the ability to play “thousands of Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Original Xbox games.” But there is a wide gap between the features of the two models – “the most powerful Xbox ever” and “the smallest Xbox ever”, respectively – which means they will handle backward compatibility differently.

Microsoft unveiled the Xbox Series S last week, saying it will debut with the larger, more powerful Series X on November 1

0 at a far more affordable price point of $ 299 instead of $ 499. A big difference between what the two models offer is resolution: While both consoles can play games at frame rates up to 120 frames per second, the Xbox Series X is designed to run in 4K resolution, while the Series S is aimed at 1440p.

Next-generation consoles are analogous to the two current models of Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X. And Microsoft recently announced that backward compatibility will work accordingly on upcoming consoles.

How does backward compatibility work on the Xbox Series S?

Since the debut of the Xbox One X in late 2017, Microsoft has delivered Xbox One X enhancements to nearly 70 Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. These titles look and play better on an Xbox One X than they do on an Xbox One S (or launch model Xbox One) – the improvements include higher quality anti-aliasing, increased texture detail and nine times as high resolution (4K versus 720p).

However, the Xbox Series S does not support these enhancements, Microsoft recently confirmed. Instead, the company said in a statement to VGC on Friday: “The Xbox Series S runs the Xbox One S version of backwards compatible games, while using improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster loading times and Auto HDR.”

It may seem disappointing that even Microsoft’s weaker next-generation console will not be able to deliver the same backward compatibility improvements as the company’s stronger current model. But the math checks out – on paper, the Xbox Series S has less raw power than the Xbox One X with graphics performance of 4 teraflops compared to 6 teraflops. It also has less system memory: 10 GB for Xbox Series S (of which a maximum of 8 GB is available for developers) versus 12 GB for Xbox One X (of which 9 GB is available for developers).

Given that, it’s not a bad consolation prize that the Xbox Series S will still provide some improvements in running older games. Asked for further details, a Microsoft representative told Polygon that the above benefits are “improvements that are not possible on Xbox One X.” The spokesman also noted that the Xbox Series S is still capable of running some “dual frame rates” Xbox One games – such as Gear 5, which supports 120 fps multiplayer action on both next-generation Xbox models – thanks to “far more than twice as efficient CPU and GPU performance as the Xbox One S.”

How does backward compatibility work on the Xbox Series X?

a three-quarter view of the top of the Xbox Series X with a green piece of plastic visible just below the system valves

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft announced in May that backward-compatible games will leverage “the full power of the Xbox Series X” for a number of performance and image quality enhancements. In addition to the same doubled frame rate that Series S supports (again for certain games), Series X will be able to “automatically add HDR support to games,” said Jason Ronald, director of application management for Xbox. And of course, Series X users are guaranteed that games “are rendered with their maximum resolution and visual quality.”

Both Series S and Series X deliver shorter load times thanks to their fast SSDs – 512 GB for Series S and 1 TB for Series X. And they both support a new feature called Quick Resume, which allows users to switch between multiple active games, and, quickly resume the game right from where they left off.

Pre-orders for the Xbox Series S and Series X go live on September 22nd.

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