Xbox One S review

The Xbox One S sets a new high point in console development

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Our Verdict

The 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.

When Phil Spencer told a small panel at Microsoft's Build Developer Conference he wasn't "a big fan of Xbox One and a half," I had almost given up hope on a smaller console coming our way in 2016 despite the mountain of evidence that pointed to its existence.

The Xbox One S – or Xbox One Slim, as some have taken to calling it – has been a rumor for some time, but it wasn't until E3 2016 that we got all the details on Microsoft's mini machine.

Now, less than two months after it was announced, I finally have a system of my own.

The past week with the Xbox One S has been spent testing out its 4K capabilities – both native 4K streaming on Netflix and up-resed versions of games like Fallout 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider – as well as navigating the updated user interface.

Using Xbox One S has made me reevaluate how I 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 interface – thanks to the recent summer update – has made the platform even more accessible for first-time users.

The week has also been spent 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 is one last kick in the pants for all the gamers forced into buying the more expensive console bundle two short years ago.

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 system-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 has said that there's no real difference between the hardware inside the Xbox One you own today but others, including Rod Ferguson, studio head of Gears of War 4's The Coalition, said the Xbox One S can "leverage the additional power to reduce the frequency of the frame rate or resolution penalties."

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.

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