The Xbox One S 2TB edition is out now. We’ll be publishing a full review soon, but we already know a huge amount about the new console and how it compares to the original.
Should you buy one? In short, existing owners needn’t upgrade unless you really want an Ultra HD Blu-ray player as well, but it’s certainly a big improvement for anyone who hasn’t already got an Xbox One.
XBOX ONE S IS 40% SMALLER, HAS BUILT-IN POWER SUPPLY
The Xbox One S is 40% smaller than the original – it’s a huge reduction. Given how big the original Xbox One is – at 333mm x 276mm x 78mm, it dominates the comparatively slight PS4 – it’s an important change.
Even more impressive, the power supply is now built-in. The bulky power brick on the Xbox One was annoying as hell and was another con against it given the PS4 has it built-in.
So, 40% smaller and no bulky power supply? That’s a pretty big tick in favour of the Xbox One S.
4K ULTRA HD, 4K BLU-RAY AND HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE SUPPORT
This is arguably the most important feature of the Xbox One S. Not only does the Xbox One S support 4K video playback from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, it also has a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray built-in.
This is especially good news for AV fans as the $299/£249 starting price makes it excellent value compared to the price of dedicated Ultra HD players currently available.
Provided it’s a good Ultra HD Blu-ray player, which is something we’ll test soon, then it could be an essential purchase for anyone who owns a 4K TV already.
While the original Xbox One is technically capable of supporting 4K gaming and video, it comes with an HDMI 1.4a port, which means it can only output 4K at 30Hz, which is useless for games and problematic for some video. The Xbox One adds support for HDMI 2.0a, so it now supports proper 4K 60Hz output.
4K explained (by LinusTips)
Xbox one S HDR explained (by Korrupt Klae)
HDMI 2.0a, with its capacity for a deeper colour space, also allows for High Dynamic Range (HDR). If you’re yet to catch up on exactly what this HDR stuff is all about.
In short, you can expect more natural colours, deeper blacks, and brighter whites from an HDR image, providing you have a compatible TV. It could be great for games and video, so this is another major plus point.
There’s been some talk that old Xbox Ones could be upgraded to the new HDMI standard through a firmware update, but we’ve heard nothing since E3 so it seems a distant hope now.
XBOX ONE S SPECS: TURNS OUT THERE IS A PERFORMANCE DIFFERENCE
Much like the rumoured PS4.5, the Xbox One S will not mark the beginning of a new console generation, but an expansion of a platform we already know and love. Initially then, it looked like the new Xbox wouldn’t come with any extra processing power, but it seems that wasn’t quite true…
The Coalition (the studio behind Gears of War 4) head Rod Fergusson revealed to Polygon that his team had taken advantage of additional raw GPU and CPU power for the forthcoming game, which runs in HDR. This was apparently just to improve frame rates and not to improve the graphics in any other way.
Ferguson claimed his engineers have been able to, as Polygon puts it, “leverage the additional power to reduce the frequency of the frame rate or resolution penalties.”
A Microsoft spokesperson then confirmed, via The Verge, “We have the same SoC architecture as Xbox One today.
“For games that want to take advantage of HDR, we gave developers access to a small amount of additional processing power.”
In use, early analysis suggests the Xbox One S does run games slightly better than the original console. But the differences so far seem relatively minor and are limited to small improvements in frame rate. Existing games won’t look better on an Xbox One S compared to the original console.
However, we will be looking into this area in more detail when we publish our full review of the Xbox One S.
PLUS, IT CAN UPSCALE GAMES TO 4K
When the Xbox One S was first announced, Microsoft neglected to mention that the new console is also capable of upscaling games to 4K.
The upscaling capabilities were revealed by Jeff Henshaw, Group Program Manager at Xbox at an E3 session (via TechRadar).
Henshaw said: “It’s not native 4K, but the Xbox One S can upscale games from 1080p to 4K.”
It means the Xbox One S will be able to offer a taste of gaming at a higher resolution than its predecessor, although it won’t quite be as good as native 4K.
IT CAN BE STORED UPRIGHT
Yes, that’s right, you can store the Xbox One S upright. That’s great news, though the stand is an optional extra, unless you buy the 2TB model, which comes with the stand bundled. As it only costs $20, however, it’s not a huge imposition.
THERE’S NO DEDICATED KINECT PORT
Not a huge surprise here. The Xbox One S removes the dedicated port for Kinect. Given its increasing irrelevance this isn’t a huge loss, though owners who want to use one can do say via a USB adapter. We assume the adapter will be sold separately, too.
BUT THERE IS AN IR BLASTER
In the place of a dedicated Kinect port, the Xbox One S comes with an integrated IR (infrared) blaster. That means you can configure your Xbox One S to turn on other devices, like your TV, audio/video receiver, and cable or satellite receiver.
The idea is that you can reduce the number of remotes you need to control your stuff. Pretty neat.
NEW CONTROLLER ADDS BLUETOOTH
Not content with the already excellent Xbox One controller, , Microsoft’s unveiled the Xbox One S controller as well.
As for the controller itself, it has a new textured grip, exchangeable colour covers, extended range and – most importantly – it now has Bluetooth so you can use it with a PC wirelessly.
Initially, it seemed as if the controller was an optional extra based on a message at the end of a promotional video, but it turns out this was a poorly worded disclaimer on Microsoft’s part. So, one controller is included in the box, but they’re also sold separately.
XBOX ONE S VS XBOX ONE: SHOULD YOU UPGRADE?
There’s no doubt the new Xbox One S is a better all around console than its predecessor. Not only does it slim down what was an unbelievably bulky case on the original console, and by 40% no less, the Xbox One S comes with a load of features that make it a desirable device regardless of comparisons with the previous model.
Firstly, you get a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player built in. Currently, those things will cost you upwards of £400 on their own. Secondly, you can stream 4K at the proper 60 Hz in HDR from apps such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. Plus, there’s even a slight performance boost. The console benefits from extra processing power which will be used to run games in HDR.
It probably isn’t worth it for most Xbox One owners if you don’t care about 4K video, especially considering the Project Scorpio launch coming next year, but it looks like a good upgrade if you fancy getting into Ultra HD Blu-ray.
And if you don’t already own an Xbox One, the smaller size and great features make it very tempting indeed.
Will you be buying or upgrading to an Xbox One S? Let us know in the comments.
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