Xbox One S review

Xbox One S sets a new high point in console development

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Our Verdict

Xbox One S is the pinnacle of what Microsoft set out to create three years ago. But being sleeker, cheaper and more powerful than its predecessor, the One S could also rub early adopters (who shelled out for Kinect) the wrong way.

For

  • Vastly reduced physical footprint
  • 4K & HDR streaming
  • HDR gaming
  • Xbox platform is steadily improving.

Against

  • Needs adapter for Kinect
  • Could fragment Xbox One audience
  • 4K gaming limited to upscaling.

Update: The amount of 4K content you can stream on the console has recently seen a big increase with the addition of Amazon Video 4K streaming. The app joins 4K content from Netflix and US-exclusive Hulu, and means that Xbox One S owners will be able to enjoy 4K shows such as The Grand Tour and Man in the High Castle. 

Review continues below...

Three years after the release of the original Xbox One, Microsoft has released a updated version of the console. 

It's smaller, it runs quieter, but its most interesting development is its resolution which has been boosted from HD to Ultra HD, aka 4K

It's not quite a complete 4K console. Games are upscaled to the resolution (a process which doesn't look as good as true or 'native' 4K), but movies will happily make the most out of the extra pixels whether you're streaming 4K Netflix or else playing an Ultra HD Blu-ray. 

Beyond 4K, the addition of HDR is also a great inclusion for the console. It's more powerful than it was when the system came out three years ago, and more spacious thanks to a larger 2 TB hard drive.

But using Microsoft's souped-up console has given us an opportunity to reevaluate how we see the platform as a whole, the good and the bad. 

The good news is that, overall, the Xbox is the healthiest it's ever been. It's added plenty of first-party exclusives in 2015, and the new interface has made the platform even more accessible for first-time users.

We've also spent a good deal of time pouring over every inch of the console itself. From its porous white exterior to its reconfigured front panel, it feels more well-constructed and solidly built than its predecessor ever was. Around the back, an HDMI 2.0a port supports HDCP 2.2 allowing for 4K video streaming and HDR in games and movies.

However, all of these features that we've been craving for have come with a trade-off: the new Xbox One S forgoes a standard Kinect port on the console. In order to use the Kinect, the Xbox One S requires you to pick up a USB adapter – which, to its credit, Microsoft has said it will provide free of charge to any original Xbox One owner who asks for one.

While the lack of Kinect capabilities will affect very few gamers, the removal of a Kinect port will be a shame for those who've grown used to being able to control their console using just their voice.

Xbox One

The other thing to consider is that now the Xbox userbase is slightly fragmented. The gamers who own an Xbox One S will get to play Xbox-exclusives like Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 in HDR, while owners of the original hardware will only get to see them in the standard color range. That will mean the difference in conversations about which games are beautiful or, more frightening, how games handled loading times and lag.

Microsoft originally said that there wasn't any real difference between the hardware inside the Xbox One S and the original console but performance analyses conducted after the console's launch have found that certain games will run slightly more smoothly on the new console. 

Whether a discrepancy between systems will be a boon for Microsoft or a curse, however, the Xbox One S is quite easily the best system, hardware-wise, since the Xbox 360 Elite that Microsoft released back in 2007, especially when you consider its price – $399 (£349 / AU$549) for the 2TB version that's available in early August, $349 (£299 / AU$499) for the 1TB version and $299 (£249 / AU$399) for the 500GB model that's coming sometime later this year.

To put that price in perspective, you can get a brand-new Xbox One for $279 (£199 / AU$399). So, is the Xbox One S worth the extra $120 (£150 / AU$150)?

Here's the good – and not so good – of the first official refresh of the Xbox One.

Oh, and how does it stack up against the PS4 Pro? Watch this video to find out!