This is how Xbox Series S backwards compatibility really works

It has been confirmed that both Microsoft’s latest-gen consoles, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, will have some form of backward compatibility. How the $299 Series S will handle the much-anticipated feature, however, has raised some questions, especially on whether the lower-cost console can boost your decade-old Xbox 360 games into quad high definition (Quad HD).

As reported in our previous coverage, the Series S and Series X will both have backward compatibility with games for older Xbox consoles. While they boost the graphics of older games may differ, it is clear that both will provide graphical boosts to older games.

Richard Leadbetter, Technology Editor at Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry broke down how the lower-cost console actually boosts games from older Xbox consoles.

First off, the original Xbox and Xbox 360 will encounter a 3x resolution boost in both axes. Applying math, a 480p image—a staple during the early 2000s—will be boosted to Quad HD or a 2160 x 1440 pixel display. The same outcome is also targeted for the enhanced Xbox 360 titles that were ported to Xbox One, a few years ago, but instead of the 3x resolution, a 2×2 scale is applied instead, which boosts the Xbox 360 games’ 720p to 1440p.

While this falls short of the Series X native 4k enhancement, this is an already impressive feature of the Series S considering its $200 price difference from its big brother. The Series S will also benefit titles released under the Xbox One S platform with a relative increase in display resolution and texture filtering quality.

The console’s solid-state drive also brings massive improvements for the ported titles’ loading times and framerates, while the Auto-HDR feature that’s also present in the Series X will give Series S titles better colors that would pop up on the screen.

Andrew Goossen, system architect of the Xbox Series X tells Eurogamer that the System S is designed in a way that Xbox One S titles will greatly benefit and receive double the framerate when played on the System S.

Specs-wise the effective CPU and GPU performance of Series S is double that of the One S which “makes it pretty straightforward for the games to do this. And in fact, the Series S GPU runs the Xbox One S games with better performance than the Xbox One X.”

According to Goossen, the Xbox Series S enhancement is designed do backward compatibility “in a way that the Xbox One X can’t do.” This would mean that the Series S is a far more compatible console when it comes porting One S games over the One X which was considered an “upgraded” version of the One S. The latter, however, was running the titles at half-rate and was “split between vertex and pixel processing.” The Series S solved this problem with its superior Zen 2 CPU architecture and the addition of the RDNA 2 GPUs.

While it is undeniable that the Series X is the superior console of Microsoft’s next-gen lineup, the Series S has its own tricks up its sleeve. With its unique spin on its much-anticipated backward compatibility feature, it could give Sony a run for its money in the lower-end of the market, especially with owners of older Xbox consoles looking for a cheap upgrade.


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