How and where to pre-order an Xbox Series X or S

Engadget
·12 mins read

They’ve been a long time coming, but on November 12th new Xbox consoles will arrive. This time around there’re two Xbox to choose from: the $499 Series X and the $299 Series S. Microsoft is aiming to avoid a repeat of the mess that was PS5 pre orders last week, laying out which retailers are going to have stock and what time orders go live. If you’re firmly on team Xbox and want to secure a console on day one, here’s what you need to know.

We’ll be updating this guide regularly with links and offers from various retailers to help you find the best deals.

Xbox Series X — $499

Xbox Series X
Xbox Series X

The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s new flagship console, replacing the Xbox One X. It’s designed for 4K gaming, and has, on paper, the strongest spec sheet of any console. According to Microsoft, for $499 you’ll get the console, a controller and an HDMI cable. We’ll go ahead and assume the company just forgot to put “a power cable” in the “What’s in the box?” section of its website.

Xbox Series X pre-orders go live at 11AM ET/8AM PT on September 22nd. Retailers include the Microsoft Store, Amazon, Walmart, GameStop, Sam’s Club, Best Buy, Newegg and Target. The stores confirmed to be offering All Access plans are Best Buy, GameStop, Microsoft, Target and Walmart.

Buy Series X at Microsoft - $499 Buy Series X at Amazon - $499 Buy Series X at Walmart - $499 Buy Series X at GameStop - $499

To take full advantage of the Series X, you’ll want a 4K HDR TV, ideally one with support for HDMI 2.1 and 120Hz variable refresh rate. The console will work just fine on any TV, projector or monitor with an HDMI port, though.

At launch, there is only one storage configuration for the Series X, and that’s a 1TB SSD. Given the prohibitive pricing on high-end SSDs, we don’t foresee a more capacious version coming for some time. Despite games ballooning in size in recent years, we expect Series X games to generally be the same size or smaller than Xbox One X games, thanks to more capable hardware.

The Series X’s $499 asking price is high, but matches the price of both the original Xbox One and the Xbox One X at launch. This time around, though, there is the cut-down Series S to consider.

While there are no bundles worth talking about at present — we’ll update this guide if that changes — the Series X is available through the “Xbox All Access” interest-free financing plan. For $35 per month over two years, you’ll get a console and a subscription to Game Pass Ultimate for the duration. Game Pass gives you access to a rolling library of hundreds of games, along with day-one access to all first- and second-party titles and access to xCloud game streaming.

The total cost of this plan over two years is $840, and whether it’s a good deal for you depends on your circumstances. If you’re already a subscriber to Game Pass, then it’s almost a no-brainer: The monthly cost of Game Pass Ultimate is $15 a month, so coupled with the cost of hardware you’d expect to pay $860 for the same thing outside of All Access.

If you’re not already a Game Pass subscriber, though, things are a little more complicated, as Microsoft offers introductory rates for Game Pass that dramatically reduce the cost. You could, for example, buy two years of Xbox Live membership for $120, and then take advantage of the $1 Game Pass Ultimate upgrade offer. With the hardware included, your total spend would only be $620.

If you’re looking for the best deal, there are likely to be bundles available closer to and after the consoles launch, especially around Thanksgiving. If you choose a retailer like Amazon that doesn’t charge until shipping, there’s nothing to stop you from placing a pre-order now and canceling it if you find a better deal later. Of course, we’ll be updating this guide periodically and highlighting the best deals on Xboxes as and when they appear on our site and the Engadget Deals Twitter account.

Xbox Series S — $299

Xbox Series S
Xbox Series S

At $299, the Xbox Series S is the cheapest way to get into the next generation of consoles. Unlike the PS5 and the PS5 Digital Edition, though, there are some major differences between the two Xbox consoles you need to know about.

Xbox Series S pre-orders go live at 11AM ET/8AM PT on September 22nd. Retailers include the Microsoft Store, Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Newegg, Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart. Stores offering All Access plans are Best Buy, GameStop, Microsoft, Target and Walmart.

Buy Series S at Microsoft - $299 Buy Series S at Amazon - $299 Buy Series S at GameStop - $299 Buy Series S at Walmart - $299

The Series S is made for people whose priority is not 4K gaming. While your Netflix, YouTube and Disney+ videos will stream at 4K, it’s unlikely many games will hit that resolution. Instead, the Series S targets 1440p, an in-between resolution that has 78 percent more pixels than 1080p, but 56 percent fewer pixels than true 4K. It’s a common spec in PC monitors, and has also been the target for many PlayStation 4 Pro titles. Just as with the Series X, to take full advantage of the console you’ll want a 4K TV that supports 120Hz variable refresh rate over HDMI 2.1, but again, anything with an HDMI in will do just fine.

At launch, there is only one storage configuration for the Series S, and that’s a 512GB SSD. This has been a point of much discussion since the console was announced, as many are concerned that this will pose problems down the line. If you tend to only play a couple of games a year, it’s not a huge deal, but if you’re more the sort that wants access to 5-10 games at any given time, 512GB may not be enough storage. With that said, the Series S’s $299 asking price is difficult to argue with.

The Series S is available through the “Xbox All Access” interest-free financing plan. For $25 per month over two years, you’ll get a console and a subscription to Game Pass Ultimate for the duration. Game Pass gives you access to a rolling library of hundreds of games, along with day-one access to all first- and second-party titles.

The total cost of this plan over two years is $600, and, as with the Series X, the value equation depends on whether you already subscribe to Game Pass. The monthly cost of Game Pass Ultimate is $15 a month, so coupled with the cost of hardware you’d expect to pay $660 for the same thing outside of All Access. If you’re not already a Game Pass subscriber, though, Microsoft’s introductory rates for Game Pass can reduce the cost significantly. You could, for example, buy two years of Xbox Live membership for $120, and then take advantage of the $1 Game Pass Ultimate upgrade offer. With the hardware included, your total spend would only be $420.

If you’re looking for the best deal, there are likely to be bundles available closer to and after the consoles launch, especially around Thanksgiving. If you choose a retailer like Amazon that doesn’t charge until shipping, there’s nothing to stop you from placing a pre-order now and canceling it if you find a better deal later. Of course, we’ll be updating this guide periodically and highlighting the best deals on Xboxes as and when they appear on our site and the Engadget Deals Twitter account.

Storage upgrades

Western Digital Game Drive
Western Digital Game Drive

Storage this generation is a little more confusing than the last. While you could previously just plug a USB hard drive into your Xbox to increase your storage, this time around things aren’t so easy.

The internal SSD is not upgradable, but Microsoft has added a storage upgrade slot to the back of both consoles. The storage upgrade cards that fit in this slot have identical specs to the internal SSD. At present, only a 1TB card has been announced, but we do not have a price on this card — we expect it to come in at around $200, with recent rumors suggesting a $220 RRP.

The Series S and X both do support external drives, but only for last-generation games. You can, of course, store Xbox Series titles there, but you’ll need to move them across to a speedy SSD to play them. Given the limited and expensive storage options for both machines, if you do intend on playing last-gen games, it’s probably worth adding some slower storage: The last thing you need is a bunch of old games taking up space on a high-end SSD they can’t take advantage of.

There are plenty of external drives for you to choose from, and none of them are particularly pricey. A decent USB HDD should set you back around $80 for 2TB. SSDs, which are silent and will load games faster, start at around $75 for 500GB or $140 for 1TB. Here are a couple of our top picks:

Buy WD 2TB Gaming Drive at Amazon - $80

Buy Samsung T7 500GB SSD at Amazon - $80

Buy Samsung T5 1TB SSD at Amazon - $140

If you’re really strapped for cash after ordering a new Xbox, and you happen to have a 2.5- or 3.5-inch internal drive laying around, you could always buy a USB 3.0 enclosure for it. This shouldn’t set you back more than $10 for the smaller drives, and given there are so many options out there, we’d recommend looking for a brand you recognize and reading user reviews to choose between them. Here are a couple to get you started:

Buy Sabrent 2.5-inch enclosure at Amazon - $9

Buy AmazonBasics 3.5-inch enclosure at Amazon - $24

Xbox Live Gold — $59.99 annually

Xbox Live Gold
Xbox Live Gold

The Xbox Live Gold membership lets you play games online. If you’re already a member, your membership will carry over to your new console. If you’re not, you’ll be able to sign up directly on your new console, but you’ll find the best prices available online, with retailers regularly running deals on 12-month memberships.

Buy Xbox Live Gold (12-month) at Amazon - $60

You don’t, however, need a Live membership if you opt for...

Game Pass Ultimate — $14.99 monthly

Game Pass Ultimate
Game Pass Ultimate

Game Pass Ultimate packages Xbox Live Gold membership with Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription, giving you access to a library of over 200 games on your console. It also lets you play many PC games for free, and unlocks xCloud, Microsoft’s streaming service for phones. At present the number of devices that can access xCloud is limited, as is the game selection, but through this generation that is expected to expand significantly. As mentioned previously, if you’re not already a Game Pass Ultimate subscriber, you can save a lot of money by prepaying for Xbox Live Gold and then activating Microsoft’s $1 Game Pass Ultimate upgrade.

Buy Game Pass Ultimate at Microsoft - $15 per month

Xbox Wireless Controller — $59.99

Xbox Series X controller
Xbox Series X controller

The latest iteration of Microsoft’s gamepad looks familiar, huh? Improvements over the previous controller include a redesigned D-pad, reduced input latency and improved Bluetooth power draw. Just like the previous model, the official retail price of the Xbox Wireless Controller is $60.

Unlike the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X and S are fully compatible with older pads, so any Xbox One controller will work just fine. That includes pro-options from companies like Scuf, Nacon, Hori and Razer, as well as the vanilla controller, the Elite pads and the innovative Xbox Adaptive Controller. With that in mind, if you do have access to an older Xbox pad we’d recommend holding off on purchasing a second Xbox Series version until there’s a great offer.

If you simply can’t wait, there are three colorways available to pre-order: black, white or blue, all of which are ready to ship for launch day. If none of those hues interest you, Xbox Design Lab will be back in 2021 with the new controller, allowing you to customize the colors to your heart’s content. (The Design Lab will remain open until October 13th for customizing Xbox One controllers.)

Buy Wireless Controller (Black) at Microsoft — $60

Buy Wireless Controller (White) at Microsoft — $60

Buy Wireless Controller (Blue) at Microsoft — $60

Rechargeable Battery + USB-C Cable — $24.99

Xbox Series X rechargable battery
Xbox Series X rechargable battery

While its competitors’ pads have long had built-in rechargable batteries, Microsoft is persisting with two good ol’ AA batteries. If that doesn’t do it for you, you have a couple of options. The first is to pick up the company’s official rechargable battery pack, which can be charged via the pad’s USB-C port. At $25, it’s not exactly cheap — effectively taking the price of a controller up to $85 versus Sony’s $70 all-in-one price.

Xbox Rechargable Battery + USB-C Cable at Microsoft — $25

Another option is to ignore the official pack and buy high-quality rechargable AA batteries, such as Panasonic’s Eneloops. Four of these can be picked up with a charger for less than $20. You do lose the ability to play and charge, but you’ll always have a spare set ready, assuming you remember to charge the ones you’re not using.

Buy Panasonic Eneloop and charger at Amazon — $18