Xbox One S review: Harder, better, stronger, faster?

Three years after the original Xbox One, Microsoft is making another push for our living rooms with the Xbox One S. With it comes various improvements over the old model – size and 4K capabilities the key differences – so is it time grab one? 

SLIMMER, FASTER

The new console is 40% smaller, something apparent even before you open the box. Given the size of the original, there’s some good space saved. It also looks great – gone is the monolithic black, replaced with a classier white. The vents, previously diagonal lines, are now little round dots, giving it a pleasing aesthetic that will belong on any TV console. 

The small console isn’t the only place you save space: The pesky power brick is finally gone. That’s one less lengthy cable to worry about too – this is what the Xbox One should have been in the first place. The old power brick was large enough to be some perverse source of pride for some, I guess? I’m just happy that they’ve gotten rid of it.

Under the hood things are largely the same – an amazing feat, given how much space was saved. There’s a slightly faster GPU, but it’s really about how much they managed to stuff into a smaller space compared to the 2013 Xbox One.

THE LITTLE DETAILS

The console also comes with some little upgrades that previous owners of the Xbox One will appreciate. Firstly, that power button (the X logo) is no longer touch sensitive, so no more accidentally turning on your console while cleaning it. (My cats have turned on the console by accident more than once too.) 

Next is the controller – which comes with little changes that make it better than the original. It feels a little more ergonomic, and the back of the controller is now textured for better grip. The Xbox button in the centre is also flush with the front plate, which feels like more of an aesthetic change. The D-pad feels squishier than the original controller’s – which might not be as pleasing for some. But I’m happy to say that it’s much better in terms of accuracy – I no longer get double presses when using it to select options.

That said, the new controller is not as good as the Xbox One Elite Controller, but the Elite isn’t something that is within most budgets.

Hard-drive-size wise, the maximum space in this console goes up to 2TB – and any Xbox One owner will tell you 500GB just runs out in no time at all. There’s always external storage for those who need it, but this is definitely more convenient.

The new console also comes with a much faster Wifi – it’s ac capable, which gives you some nice bandwidth for better lag-free gaming. You also get to gaming faster too. For example, Forza Horizon 3 – about 49.32gb in size – took about 3 hours 26 minutes to download on the Xbox One, and 2 hours and 10 minutes on the Xbox One S for me. Games launch faster too, even though the CPU is the same – using the Xbox One S is a much smoother experience. 

And, well, you lose that Kinect port. Not sure how many people will be crying over this – but I do love me some Dance Central.

FOUR THOUSAND REASONS

If you need reasons why the Xbox One S is an upgrade over the Xbox One, well, you’re going to get about four thousand of them (this is bad math – ed). The updated console has 4K capabilities – as long as you’re viewing media. While most of us don’t have 4K TVs yet, it’s something that we’re going to see more of. (Unlike those now defunct 3D TVs.) On the Xbox One S you can play 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, as well as stream Netflix in 4K. 

You can get a basic 4k Blu-ray player for about S$250 these days. While that’s cheaper than the Xbox One S,  a basic player won’t let you play Xbox games on it. That said, there isn’t a flood of 4K content available out there, so this is not something you have to rush into. Netflix is expanding their library, so there’s that.

But if you’re more into gaming, the Xbox One S comes with High Dynamic Range (HDR) capabilities. This also requires a HDR-compatible TV, but if you do have one the (compatible) games you play are going to look much better with deeper, richer colours. It won’t be 4K gaming, but it’s going to look pretty good.

VERDICT

In the end, whether or not you should get the Xbox One S depends on major factor: Whether you already have an Xbox One. While the 4K and HDR capabilities are a boon, the 4K boost doesn’t apply to games, so it’s a question of whether a nice, slim console is worth it for you.

The latest model also comes with a price premium – so if you just want to get an Xbox One, the larger model might be able to better fit your budget. Both can play some pretty good games, so if you need a good UHD Blu-Ray player and think it’s finally time to dip your toes into the Xbox One world – this is a solid buy. 

Right now, one can’t help but shake the feeling that Sony has a better slice of the exclusives market (look at Horizon Zero Dawn). The PS4 Pro, released last year, can play some games at 4K, but oddly doesn’t come with a UHD Blu-Ray player. Streaming, however, works fine. 

In the end, this is really an incremental update for the Xbox One, albeit one that is necessary. If you don’t have a 4K TV, it’s going to feel a bit same-same but different if you already own an Xbox One. The minor improvements do bring a smile on my face. And as a current Xbox One user, I can’t help but want to keep it. The smaller footprint, much faster wifi speeds, and the slight future-proofing with the 4K and HDR capabilities, it’s what the Xbox One should have been a few years ago. But if you already own an Xbox One, you might want to use it till it breaks.

The key Xbox exclusives remain Halo, Gears Of War and Forza. They have all had great new instalments, but if you haven’t been swayed to get an Xbox One yet, saving space won’t seem to be a major driving force. 

And let’s not forget, Microsoft has this planned for end-2017: 

The Xbox One S with game bundle is now on sale at S$499.

About direcow

The technological backbone of HereBeGeeks.com, Alvin’s machinist-nature also ensures that this blog remains alive when the unpredictable Murphy’s Law comes into effect.

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