Xbox Series X Digital vs Disc: Which Console Should You Buy?

Xbox Series X Digital vs Disc: Which Console Should You Buy?
  • Xbox Series X Digital

    A Console Perfect for Game Pass

    The Xbox Series X Digital offers the same incredible graphical power and dynamic sound of Microsoft's flagship console in an all-digital format. With 1 TB of storage, buyers will have sufficient space to start their game collection, but they may eventually need to expand their storage with expansion cards. Because of the extensive selection of titles available on Game Pass, gamers won't have any shortage of titles to download. However, it's not priced significantly less than the disc-based Xbox Series X, which makes it a questionable value.

    Pros
    • Impressive selection of Game Pass titles
    • Robot white is refreshing alternative to black Series X
    • No downgrades in graphics or sound
    • Lower MSRP than Series X with disc drive
    Cons
    • Not a huge price difference compared to disc-based Series X
    • No optical drive to play Blu-Ray movies
  • Microsoft Xbox Series X

    An Xbox Without Compromises

    $449 $499 Save $50

    For many gamers, the Xbox Series X with optical drive will remain the most desirable Microsoft console. For marginally more money than the upcoming Digital version, the original Series X includes support for physical games and Blu-ray movies. Deceptively compact, the console fits into almost any existing gaming setup. Without assembling a costly gaming PC, gamers can experience no compromise 4K gaming. However, the console lacks many exclusives, as numerous popular titles are playable on PCs and other platforms.

    Pros
    • Fairly compact despite optical drive
    • Can be positioned vertically or horizontally without accessory
    • Blu-ray drive makes it a versatile home theater component
    • Smooth 4K gameplay with 120 hz in some titles
    Cons
    • Not many exclusive console titles
    • No slim version available
  • The Xbox Series X Digital offers little incentive over its disc-based counterpart at a similar price point.
  • The digital console's design, including a Robot White color and boxy shape, sets it apart but not significantly.
  • Game Pass may smooth the transition to the Series X Digital, but it remains to be seen if gamers will pay more for a streamlined 4K console.

Microsoft hasn't dramatically altered its console lineup since the Xbox Series X and S launched in 2020. With the Series S, gamers have a compact, affordable, and disc-less option that excels at 1080p or 1440p gameplay. Until now, Microsoft's most powerful gaming console, the Series X, wasn't available at a discount without an optical drive. That changed when the company announced the Series X Digital during the latest Xbox Games Showcase.

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Among the newest Xbox models unveiled, the Series X Digital attracts the most attention and spurs some controversy. The disc-less version of the PS5 has already sparked debate over the merits of consoles that lack support for physical media. Now that Xbox gamers face the same dilemma, factors like differences in design and storage space can impact a buying decision. Also, the many popular Game Pass titles would seem to benefit a digital Series X, but that may not be enough to sacrifice a disc drive. With the console still months from release, Game Rant will examine in detail if an all-digital Series X is worth considering.

Design

Much speculation existed about a radical redesign leading up to the Xbox Series X Digital's debut. In March 2024, rumors of a cylindrical Xbox that would not include an optical drive surfaced. Codenamed Brooklin, the leaked information of this disc-less Xbox Series X indicated that the console would have a power button and USB-C port toward the bottom of its front side. Gamers would also enjoy 2 TB of storage and modest improvements in power efficiency and Wi-Fi connectivity. However, observers saw a more conventional design when the newest Xbox consoles appeared at the Xbox Games Showcase.

Instead of a compact round tower, the Xbox Series X Digital sports the same boxy look as the original Xbox Series X. Besides the lack of a disc drive, the only apparent difference is its Robot White color. Microsoft states that the new digital system includes the same internal components, and it's not being marketed as significantly smaller. There is very limited free space inside the existing Xbox Series X chassis, and removing the optical drive would not shrink it down significantly without a complete redesign.

Disappointments aside, the standard Xbox Series X design has many advantages. With less volume than the PS5 or even PS5 Slim, Microsoft's console can be positioned vertically or horizontally without additional stands. Relying on the same cooling strategy as many tower PC cases, warm air generated inside the system rises toward its well-vented top panel. While the less aggressive lines of the hypothetical Brooklin would appeal to some gamers, whether it would be as easy to fit into any setup remained a question.

The main cosmetic difference between the upcoming Xbox Series X Digital and the current Xbox Series X is literally black and white. Microsoft's Robot White, seen in the digital version, is inspired by the bright aesthetic commonly seen in sci-fi movies. With the growing popularity of white gaming keyboards, mice, and headsets, it's no surprise that Microsoft continues to embrace this color. On the other hand, the basic black Xbox Series X makes less of a statement but matches the majority of components on a TV stand.

Xbox Series X Console Wrap
ColorArctic Camo, Mineral Camo, Starfield
BrandMicrosoft
CompatabilityXbox Series X

Ideally, gamers would have a choice of black, white, or other colors with all the various Xbox consoles. One potential advantage of the Xbox Series X with the disc drive is the many available wraps that adhere seamlessly to the console's exterior. These wraps or skins can completely change the system's look and sometimes pay tribute to popular titles like Starfield. Whether similar accessories will fit the Xbox Series X Digital is unknown, but compatible versions will most likely be released quickly.

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Other than color, there is little to differentiate the design of the disc and disc-less editions of the Xbox Series X. There are no indications that Xbox Series X Digital will significantly differ in size. Still, Game Rant will let readers know about any surprises as we approach its Holiday 2024 release.

Value

Along with a change in design, some gamers were expecting a substantial price drop with the Xbox Series X Digital. The most optimistic projections were around a $400 MSRP, but hopes were quickly dashed at the recent Xbox Games Showcase. Of course, any changes in specs, including storage, must be taken into the equation. As it turns out, the Xbox Series X Digital announced price of $450 matches current sales of the disc version, with both having 1 TB of hard drive space. That compares with the price difference between the PS5 Slim and PS5, though the disc-less PS5 has a slightly larger hard drive.

Understandably, some are disappointed with the price of the Xbox Series X Digital, with little financial incentive to abandon the disc-based alternative. That said, the $450 asking price could become more tempting in the inevitable bundles that would likely appear following its release. Even though the standard Xbox Series X configuration is the best value for most buyers, bundles with games like Diablo IV have sometimes sold for even less. It also seems unlikely that the Xbox Series X Digital would sell for the same price as the original console once in the wild.

The two consoles being compared here aren't the only choices among the newest Xbox models. Previously, the only other candidates for buyers included the Xbox Series S with 512 GB or 1 TB of storage. Like the Xbox Series X Digital, all Series S versions lack optical drives. The Series S ranks as one of the top budget consoles, with the ability to play the same games as the Series X. The cheapest Series S sells for $300 and is capable of 120 fps gameplay with certain titles, but its resolution maxes out at 1440p rather than 4K. Nothing earth-shattering came to light at the showcase regarding the Series S, but a $350 1 TB version in Robot White will debut this holiday season.

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Another option in the near future for Xbox fans with 4K TVs is a new Series X, which will have a 2 TB hard drive in a Galaxy Black design. This console would be one of the most expensive current-gen systems on the market that sells in a non-bundle configuration. Depending on whether the black Series X with disc drive is discounted, the premium in price roughly equates to the cost of adding an expansion card. The futuristic sparkled Galaxy Black 2 TB Series X is a limited edition, so stock levels may fluctuate or completely disappear.

Even if it were pricier, it would seem more sensible for Microsoft to release a digital Xbox Series X with 2 TB of storage. The latest titles with cutting-edge graphics quickly eat up any console's SSD, which will cause even more demand for expansion options on a disc-less machine. Sony has yet to offer a PS5 with 2 TB internal storage, so this would have given a digital Series X an advantage for gamers who hate purchasing add-ons.

Like game discs, Blu-ray physical media is also declining due to the popularity of streaming services. Yet, the Xbox Series X's capabilities as an all-in-one home theater solution are often ignored. Microsoft's console, which supported Dolby Atmos surround sound and Dolby Vision early in its life cycle, gave it a leg up on the PS5. In terms of playing the latest movies with the highest quality video and audio quality possible, PlayStation gamers didn't lose as much functionality with digital consoles.

The Xbox Series X with optical drive scores another victory from a value perspective. Even at $500, the ability to buy and resell used physical discs while they are still available makes it worth paying marginally more than its digital counterpart.

Will Game Pass Make the Series X Digital Successful?

Microsoft has been preparing for an all-digital Xbox Series X for several years. Their online Game Pass subscription service provides critical support for multiplayer action and a large library of downloadable titles. The available games aren't just AAA or older releases but new titles that sell for full price in disc form or on other platforms. Whether a gamer prefers a first-party racing game like Forza Motorsport or Blizzard's hack-and-slash RPG Diablo IV, the selection exceeds rival services.

Xbox Series S
BrandMicrosoft
Original Release DateNovember 10, 2020
Hardware VersionsXbox Series S
Original MSRP (USD)$299
Weight4.25 LBS

Microsoft doesn't release console sales statistics, but there is every indication that the digital Series S more than holds its own against the pricier Series X. Without an optical drive, the Series S has largely depended on Game Pass to distribute titles since its debut in 2020. That undoubtedly gives the company faith that gamers will invest in the newest Xbox console.

If Game Pass has a flaw that limits its appeal for console users, it's that many of the titles are available on other platforms. In particular, with subscription tiers like Game Pass Ultimate, gaming PCs with sufficient hardware can play some of the same games without added costs. Sony allows PlayStation Plus Premium members to cloud stream games to PCs and other devices, but gamers can't directly play Windows-based titles. Game Pass's cross-platform capabilities are admirable, but customers don't actually need an Xbox console to benefit from it.

The immense selection and perks of Game Pass undoubtedly will make transitioning to the Xbox Series X Digital smoother. Nevertheless, it's an open question whether buyers will be willing to spend $150-200 more than the Series S for a streamlined 4K console.

Verdict

Even with the popularity of Game Pass and digital game collections, the Series X Digital offers few incentives over the disc-based alternative. Microsoft's main issue is that the standard Series X with an optical drive is available for either the same price or marginally more money. The newest Xbox console will struggle to find early adopters without potentially additional storage or an included Game Pass Ultimate subscription.

Xbox Series X Digital

A Digital Series X Without Much of a Discount

The first all-digital Xbox Series X differs from the original console only in its lack of an optical drive and lower MSRP. The console's Robot White color will attract gamers who have grown tired of dark gaming setups, and its boxy design enables it to stand horizontally or vertically. Even so, the system's price is set at what some Series X configurations are already selling for. Gamers may struggle to find a reason to ditch physical media without further incentives from Microsoft.

There are many reasons to be skeptical of the Series X Digital, but the gaming landscape could change again before its release. The constantly evolving Game Pass may introduce more incentives to assert its dominance and hasten the demise of physical media. Also, while there is no reason to believe the digital console will be dramatically different, it hasn't yet been subjected to a tear-down to see if there are any minor design changes.

Microsoft Xbox Series X

Still the Best Xbox Series X

$449 $499 Save $50

Many gamers have already been converted by the convenience of digital libraries. Still, the Xbox Series X gives owners the flexibility to enjoy both Game Pass titles and a collection of game discs. Recent discounts on the original Series X will make it more difficult for buyers to consider a digital-only alternative. Regardless, there is a demand for a cheaper version of the console that doesn't drop core functionality.

Ultimately, gamers are better served by looking for a discount on a Series X now or waiting for a redesigned digital console with more advantages.

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FAQ

Q: Can I transfer my digital games from Xbox One to Xbox Series X?

Gamers can transfer older Xbox One digital titles to the Series X using network transfer or an external hard drive. For players with slower internet connections or bandwidth limits, this can save time and avoid the need to redownload games.

Q: Do you actually own your digital games?

Although there is much debate on the subject, most experts believe gamers rent digital games rather than own them indefinitely. However, popular platforms like Xbox make a concerted effort to allow gamers to play their downloaded titles throughout several console generations. Gamers should consider the platform from which they purchase digital titles and the likelihood that they will still exist years later.

Q: What are some advantages of digitally downloading games?

Unlike with games on physical media, players can quickly switch between downloaded titles without worrying about scratching discs. Also, console owners are less likely to hear noisy disc drives spinning or face expensive repairs when they fail.

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