We’re undeniably in a strange era for the console gamer. With the recent announcement of the Xbox One S coming before the Xbox Scorpio, and the PS4 Slim and PS4 Neo announcements set for September 7th, it’s clear that we’re in strange waters. Some might say that we’ve been here before, with various Xbox 360 and PS3 models in the last generation, but this certainly feels like something new. While Microsoft and Sony are both stuck in a limbo of mixed messaging — do we want to upgrade now or wait a year and purchase an even better upgrade — one thing is clear: the Xbox One S is the best version of the Xbox One. After spending a week with the new Xbox One S, I’m not only impressed with the fact that it’s smaller and has a better design with added features, but it’s also slightly faster than its predecessor.
First and foremost, the Xbox One S feels like a new premium Xbox One without the premium price. Typically, slim models of consoles don’t do much more than shrink the size of the consoles to make them more visually appealing, but there are some other interesting bits the come along with the new Xbox One S that are more than just a tweak to its outer shell. For example, the fact that the new console can now include a 2TB internal hard drive (instead of having to have one of the USB ports tied up with an external drive) is a big plus. If you’re like me, you were greatly disappointed when that original 500GB Xbox One hard drive was filled a couple weeks after the console launched. Microsoft still has a 500GB edition of the Xbox One S that’s significantly cheaper, as well as a 1TB version. If you own and play a lot of games, you’re going to want to opt for the 2TB version to save yourself the headache later when it would become an issue.
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Secondly, at least in Microsoft’s eyes, is the fact that it adds the ability to stream 4K video from Netflix and Amazon Video and the ability to watch 4K Blu-Rays. Of course, this only matters to those who own a 4K TV. But the benefit of 4K content is undeniable, and especially as we head into the holiday season, we should expect to see the 4K TV market booming. 4K capabilities work flawlessly, and although there is yet to be a breadth of 4K content available, what’s there looks great. What’s more, the Xbox One S uses High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology to provide a richer, more vibrant color palette in both your games and video content. Binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix has never looked so great (Note: you have to subscribe to Netflix’s 4k streaming tier to use 4K content on your Xbox One S). The Xbox One S will also upscale all games to 3,840 x 2,160 resolution — a second best to actual 4K content. Content is loaded just as fast, if not faster, on the new Xbox One S than on the 2013 edition of the console.
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Most immediately noticeable to the naked eye, of course, is the new design of the Xbox One S. Not only does it now sport a beautiful machine white color, but it’s also much thinner than its older brother. Of course, it was no secret that the standard Xbox One’s design was a bit disappointing when it comes to its massive size, but when it’s placed next to the Xbox One S, its flaws are even more noticeable. It’s also worth mentioning that you can now stand your Xbox One upright with the One S, giving you another option when it comes to placement on your TV stand, desk, or wherever else you intend to keep your console. To do so, simply slide the Xbox One S vertical stand onto the bottom of the console, and you’re able to stand it up. Instead of the original Xbox One’s touch-enabled power and sync buttons, which were intended to add a futuristic feel to the console but failed because they simply don’t work reliably, the new console has physical buttons that are pressed, not touched. In the design department, the Xbox One S is the
Another improvement over the original Xbox One is that Instead of the original’s touch-enabled power and sync buttons, which were intended to add a futuristic feel to the console but failed because they simply don’t work reliably, the new console has physical buttons that are pressed, not touched. In the design department, the Xbox One S is the best-looking console currently on the market (and judging by the early PS4 Slim leaks, it’s likely going to stay that way for awhile). While we love the new white edition, we can’t help but wish the Xbox Design Lab, which enabled players to customize their controllers, were also opened up to consoles.
The Xbox One S also now uses a plug more akin to the PS4, as the power supply is now within the Xbox itself instead of having to hang on the floor or be placed atop your entertainment center. If you’re concerned about heat dissipation, the console’s porous shell should put you at ease, as its design allows for heat to escape its innards so that your Xbox won’t overheat.
I’ll also note that the weird creaking noise that occurs when you move the 2013 version of the Xbox One is entirely gone with the Xbox One S, likely due to the size reduction and the different shell. Worth noting, though, especially since I’d never even really thought about it before writing this Xbox One S review.
But does the Xbox One S actually make your games run better?
Yes, the Xbox One S makes your games run noticeably better. There are less frame drops in Fallout 4, GTA Online booted up quicker, and Project Cars had a better framerate when compared to the original Xbox One. Not all games will run better, as we didn’t see any improvements in Rise of the Tomb Raider, at least noticeable to the naked eye. Of course, this slight jump in performance should be expected, as the new Xbox One S has an overclocked GPU speed that jumps from 853 MHz to 914 MHz, and higher ESRAM bandwidth that adds an extra 15 GB/s. It’s not enough for Microsoft to make a big deal about, but it is worth noting that buyers should expect a slight boost. You know, because boosts are cool.
Is the Xbox One S worth upgrading to? That all depends on how much you like/love your current Xbox One or even if you have an Xbox One already or not. I hate to sound too wishy-washy when it comes to things like this, but I can tell you that buying the Xbox One S won’t leave you disappointed. In business school, we were introduced to a term called ‘opportunity cost’, which refers to the benefit a person could’ve received but gave up when choosing an alternative. With the Xbox One S, the opportunity cost — in this case, the launch edition of the Xbox One — is low, as the Xbox One S is the best Xbox One currently available. If you don’t have an Xbox One just yet, the Xbox One S is a must-buy, especially after its impressive year of games (and games like ReCore on the way).
+ Improved Exterior Design
+ Physical On/Off and Sync Buttons
+ Vertical Stand
+ Slight Performance Boost
+ 4K Capabilities and Upscaling
+ Internal Power Supply
– No Other Color Options
– No Trade-in Options
Overall Score: 9.5 out of 10
The Xbox One S is now available on Amazon and retailers everywhere starting at $299.99.