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 with the original Xbox One. As the new de facto Xbox, the One S is everything a game console should be: sleek, powerful and well-stocked. It's not quite at Xbox One X's level in terms of performance, but the Xbox One S makes a pretty compelling argument by balancing power and price point.

For

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

Against

  • Needs adapter for Kinect
  • 4K gaming limited to upscaling

Three years after the release of the original Xbox One, Microsoft released an updated version of the console, the Xbox One S, which has now become the de facto Microsoft system moving forward. 

While we're sad to see the original Xbox One sail into the sunset, the Xbox One S is smaller, runs quieter and makes the transition from HD to Ultra HD, aka 4K

To that end, games are upscaled to the new, higher resolution (a process which doesn't look as good as the true or 'native' 4K performance on the Xbox One X), 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 that can be found in many of the special editions of the console.

But analyzing 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. 

In our opinion, the Xbox is the healthiest it's ever been. It's added plenty of first-party exclusives, and the new interface has made the platform even more accessible for first-time users - even if it's still not as clean or as simple as the one you'd find on Sony's PlayStation 4.

To fully digest every detail of the console, we've spent a good deal of time pouring over every inch of the console itself. From its porous white exterior to its reconfigured front panel, the One S feels more well-constructed and solidly built than its predecessor ever was. Spin the console around and you'll find an HDMI 2.0a port that supports HDCP 2.2 allowing for 4K video streaming and HDR in games and movies - a small but crucial upgrade on its predecessor.

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 or an Xbox One X 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 first went on sale in early August of 2017, $349 (£299 / AU$499) for the 1TB version and $299 (£249 / AU$399) for the 500GB model that resides on most store shelves.

One more thing before we dive into the full review. If you're a gamer, you're probably wondering how the Xbox One S stacks up against the PS4 Slim that was released around the same time. For you guys and girls we put together a special guide that should answer all your questions: Xbox One vs PS4

How does it stack up against the PS4 Pro? Watch this video to find out!