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Does the Xbox Series S support native 4K?

Some say you can play games at native 4K on the Series S, others say you can’t, so which is true?

xbox series s with mass effect game next to tv

Quick Answer: Yes, the Xbox Series S supports games at a native 4K, but only a few games are supported. The Xbox Series S does not have the hardware required to run triple-A games at 4K resolution.

There’s an age-old argument about whether the Xbox Series S supports native 4K or not. Some say the Series S support games at native 4K, while others say native 4K is out of the question.

To settle the debate, we’re going to dive deep and answer the question, “Does the Xbox Series S support native 4K?”.

As well as finding out whether the Xbox Series S supports native 4K, we’ll uncover whether any games can run at 4K, and the console’s upscaling capabilities.

Does the Xbox Series S support native 4K?

xbox series s next to 1440p monitor
Image: KnowTechie

Short Answer: Yes.

To cut to the chase, yes, the Xbox Series S supports some games in “true” 4K. But these are few and far between. Natively, however, it doesn’t run in 4K, with the console’s default setting at 1440p.

The Xbox Series S was never marketed as a 4K-capable console since it doesn’t have the hardware required to run triple-A games at 4K resolution.

However, the Series S can output a 4K signal. If you connect your Xbox Series S to a 4K TV, and select the appropriate resolution on your console, games will be upscaled to 4K.

You can also stream 4K media on apps like Netflix and YouTube. If the media you want to stream has the UHD icon, then you’re good to go. The Series S also supports HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos.

So, while a handful of games can run at native 4K on the Series S, the vast majority will not. Despite being more expensive, the Series S’s bigger brother, the Xbox Series X, is the go-to console for 4K gaming.

Xbox Series S overview

An Xbox Series S console and controller, its packaging box, and a 3-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate card against a purple background.
Credit: Microsoft

Let’s take a quick look under the hood. The Xbox Series S is often referred to as “the little brother” of the Xbox Series X. It’s a much smaller console than the Series X, but it supports most of the same features. The main difference is the Series S has less RAM and a weaker GPU. 

Resolution:

  • Maximum resolution: 1440p
  • Supported refresh rate: 120Hz

If your TV or monitor supports 1440p, the Xbox Series S can output a 1440p signal. Bear in mind, however, that the games won’t render at 1440p. The vast majority of games on the Xbox Series S render at 1080p or below while targeting 60 frames per second.

Here’s a quick look at the Xbox Series S specs:

  • 512GB/1TB NVME SSD (expandable storage)
  • 8x Zen 2 CPU 3.66 GHZ
  • AMD Radeon RDNA 4 GPU (4 TFLOPS)
  • 10GB of shared RAM

For a detailed breakdown, take a look at Microsoft’s official store.

Microsoft hasn’t publicly released the sales data for the Xbox Series consoles, but several documents suggest the Series S makes up around 70% of total Xbox sales. 

The Series S is a budget console, and it was readily available when other consoles were struggling with stock shortages. It’s the perfect entry-level system for most users.

How 4K works on the Xbox Series S

TV resolutions on xbox
Image: Xbox / KnowTechie

So we know that the Xbox Series S doesn’t natively run games in 4K, but it does support 4K streaming if you have a compatible 4K TV.

Many people assume that when they change the render resolution of their Xbox to 4K, every game will be set to a native 4K resolution. Unfortunately, the render resolution in the settings only changes the resolution of the Xbox user interface, not the games.

Although the Xbox Series X supports 4K at 120 FPS, not all games run with these settings. Most games use a variety of techniques to output a balance of image quality and performance. For example, some games run at a native 4K, 4K upscaled, adaptive resolution, or locked at a sub-4K resolution.

Most modern games will use adaptive resolution, which automatically decreases or increases the render resolution to meet the targeted frame rate. So, for example, a game might target 1080p, but the resolution could drop to 720p or even lower, in areas with a lot of assets.

Some games allow users to switch between Quality and Performance modes that favor certain settings. For instance, Quality usually renders the game at the maximum possible resolution, while sacrificing framerates, and Performance mode does the opposite. In most cases, Performance mode targets 60 FPS, and Quality mode targets 30 FPS. 

When 120 FPS is enabled, there’s usually a significant drop in image quality. Upscaling features like Fidelity Super Resolution (FSR) can be utilized by developers to further improve game performance. Technologies work behind the scenes to output steady frame rates with decent image quality. 

Games that run native 4K on the Xbox Series S

xbox series s next to mass effect game
Image: KnowTechie

There are a small handful of games that run natively in 4K on the Series S:

  • Hades
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps
  • Mass Effect Legendary Collection
  • Red Dead Redemption 1
  • The Touryst
  • Evil Dead: The Game
  • Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition

While 4K is possible on the Series S, most developers choose not to utilize it because the console’s hardware isn’t powerful enough. The Series S targets 1440p but most games run at a native 1080p or lower, depending on the optimization. Having said that, the Xbox Series S can upscale games to 4K. When you connect a Xbox Series S to a 4K TV the image will automatically upscale.

Should you buy a 4K TV for the Xbox Series S?

Samsung - 55" Class Q60A Series QLED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV
Image: KnowTechie

It’s worth buying a 4K TV for your Xbox Series S. Even though the Series S doesn’t natively support 4K on most games, it supports other features like HDR and Dolby Vision.

To most, the result of playing the same game on the Series S vs Series X on a 4K TV will be hardly noticeable. Despite the Series S upscaling the image, the visuals are still an improvement over the Xbox One. And let’s not forget, you can also stream 4K media on the Series S.

Now you know the truth about Xbox Series S and 4K

The Xbox Series S doesn’t natively support 4K on most games. There is a small selection of games where the console does support 4K. But, due to hardware constraints, 1440p and below is the targeted resolution for the Series S. This is what it was designed to handle.

Either way, most people agree that games still look and run surprisingly well on the Series S. Of course, if image quality is important to you, then you should consider buying the Xbox Series X, which targets 4K and supports higher-resolution textures and assets.

Do you own an Xbox Series S? Have you played one of the games that run natively in 4K? Let us know how you got on in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Timothy Gagnon is a freelance writer and tech enthusiast. As a kid, he's always had a fascination with electronics and never passed on the chance to disassemble them. When he's not taking a hammer to his electronics, he can be found playing with his cats or writing about his latest discoveries.

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