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

Update: The Xbox One is now compatible with Amazon's Alexa smart assistant, meaning you can control all sorts of power, volume, and playback features from connected Alexa devices. Read our full article on Alexa coming to Xbox here, or read on for the rest of our Xbox One S review below. 

The Xbox One S arrived three years on from the original Xbox One, offering a smaller, quieter, higher-quality gaming machine that shows what the current console generation can do. It's now the de facto Xbox system.

A little piece of us is sad to see the original Xbox One sail into the sunset, but the Xbox One S brings a host of technical improvements, making the transition from HD to Ultra HD (aka 4K), and taking up a lot less shelf space too.

To that end, games are upscaled to the new, higher resolution – though it isn't quite on the level of 'native' 4K that the Xbox One X offers – but movies and TV shows 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 2TB hard drive that can be found in many of the special editions of the console.

While Microsoft has since launched the Xbox One X – a more powerful version of the Xbox One that's capable of playing games in native 4K resolution, without an upscaling workaround – we still feel that the Xbox One S is the better overall pick, if only because it's significantly cheaper (and you really need a seriously big TV screen to notice that 4K anyway).

Xbox One S review

Xbox One S review

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 (perhaps more frighteningly) how games handle 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.

This is especially true 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.

If you're a gamer reading this, 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

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