Xbox One S review

Xbox One S balances power and price

Xbox One S
(Image: © Future)

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The Xbox One S is a smart upgrade to Microsoft's Xbox One system, but whether you'll want to make the upgrade is a slightly more complicated question. If you've been considering buying an Xbox One already, then the Xbox One S is a no-brainer. But if you already own an Xbox One then your decision will likely have more to do with whether you own a 4K TV that's HDR-compatible.

Xbox One S: we liked

In short, the engineering team at Microsoft deserves a standing ovation. Condensing everything inside the original Xbox One – as well as the massive power brick – into a framework 40% of the size is a feat of engineering.

And while not every gamer will be able to appreciate the Xbox One S in all its 4K Ultra-HD, High Dynamic Range glory, those that can will be absolutely floored by the speed at which content loads over decently quick connections, and how drop-dead gorgeous games look when they're 3,840 pixels wide by 2,160 pixels high.

Xbox One S: we disliked

While there's never a great time to unveil a smaller, more powerful system to someone who's just purchased one of the now second-tier original consoles, Microsoft's original timing did seem questionable. Ditching the Kinect port entirely was the final indicator that Microsoft's motion controller is truly dead, one last slap in the face to everyone forced to buy the peripheral two-and-a-half years ago.

Microsoft's new console poses a problem in the form of a fragmented audience. While some gamers will see games in more vivid colors that are brighter and have higher contrast than those rocking the first Xbox One, others will be stuck with the capabilities of the original console. 

Does that mean you shouldn't buy an Xbox One S? Probably not. But it might mean investigating how the game looks and performs on your specific model of Xbox One before plunking down a wad of cash for the latest release.

Xbox One Black Friday deals

Image credit: Microsoft (Image credit: Future)

Xbox One S: final verdict

But all that taken into account, it's hard to find anything tangible to dislike about the Xbox One S in its current form. By all accounts, it's a slimmer, sleeker and sexier console than the Xbox console we've had in our cabinets for the past two and a half years. But, given all the advancements, it's hard to fathom how Microsoft plans on selling it for the same price as the current hardware.

Of course, the obvious downside is that anyone who recently bought an Xbox One is now faced with a difficult and expensive decision: is the upgraded performance, 4K HDR streaming and 2TB of storage worth re-buying the system?

If you own a 4K HDR TV or you're running out of space on that measly 500GB hard drive, the answer is an emphatic yes. If you can hold out another 12 months, however, there's an even more powerful system on the way that will blow this one out of the water.

Originally reviewed August 2016.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.

With contributions from