The Xbox One S should have been the system Microsoft unveiled back in 2013. In an ideal world, that’s what we would have gotten: a slim, aesthetically pleasing box with 4K video output and HDR capabilities. Instead what we got was a black slab of plastic, that looked more like a giant’s paper-weight than a gaming system.
The Xbox One S is a nice piece of hardware – pleasing to look at, and with enough assorted bells-and-whistles that are sure to turn the heads of tech enthusiasts. But with the more powerful Scorpio slated for a late 2017 release window, I’m struggling to see who the system is for.
For our review we received the limited run Xbox One S 2TB console, coming in at $649.00. The system comes packaged with:
The Xbox One S has a number of features that differentiate it from the original system. First and foremost is the size. Coming in at 40 percent smaller, it’s a welcome change from the original Xbox One, that – from a distance – people would often confuse for a VCR. What makes the feat more impressive is that it now houses the power supply internally, meaning you don’t have to deal with a large, obtrusive power brick behind your cabinet.
Microsoft makes use of that reduced size by adding a vertical stand to the mix. The system can now be oriented on its side. This is a great way to save space, especially amongst the other systems, controllers, and peripherals that are likely cluttering up the surfaces around your TV.
The form factor goes beyond size and orientation too. The system sports a white matte finish, with a simple rectangular casing. One half of that has a grating pattern that, while clearly functional (as it lets more air into the system), is also pleasant to look at. As a whole I appreciate the physical design – in fact, I think visually the Xbox One S is the nicest looking console on the market.
The controller has also seen a slight redesign. The back features light grips mirroring the material of the system, so holding it for extended periods is a lot more comfortable. It’s not as textured as the Elite, but it’s preferable to the base controller. The slight bezel around the guide button has been removed, and instead incorporated into the main shell – a design choice that looks cheaper, but is physically unimportant. What’s more is that it now sports Bluetooth functionality, meaning PC users won’t have to use an annoying dongle to hook the controller up.
There is one caveat to the system’s reduced size and redesign, and that has to do with fan noise. Compared to the original box, the Xbox One S does run slightly louder under load – but this is to be expected; a smaller fan needs to turn more frequently to maintain a stable operating temperature. Compared to the PlayStation 4 however, the Xbox One S still runs much quieter.
The Xbox One S has also been poised as a media playback machine – sporting 4K resolutions for select video content. If you have a TV that can support such resolutions (3840x2160, approximately four times that of 1080p sets), then some services like Netflix will be able to serve that content up to you, provided you have the bandwidth. Games don’t run at 4K however; they are merely upscaled.
Another selling point is the system’s HDR capabilities – or High Dynamic Range. Again, to use this feature you need a TV that can support it. With it, you’ll notice greater contrast between light and dark colours, making images pop a little more. Currently no games make use of the feature, with the only confirmed titles being the upcoming Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, and Scalebound.
If the Xbox One S was the system Microsoft lead with back in 2013, I have a feeling that today's console climate would be very different. Visually pleasing to behold, and with 4K and HDR video support, it has a lot going for it. The slick and sharp form-factor make it the nicest looking console currently on the market.
As an upgrade from the base unit however, there really isn’t much there to warrant the purchase – unless you routinely find yourself devouring Ultra HD content. With the more powerful Scorpio also slated for a late 2017 release, I’m struggling to see who the Xbox One S is for. Maybe if you have enough disposable income, and don't currently own the original system.
Other SKUs are slated for released on August 23 – a 500GB model ($499.00) and a 1TB model ($599.00). Both of these will also come bundled with Halo 5 Guardians, and a download code for Halo Master Chief Collection.