Release Date: 11/30/2016
MSRP: $299.99 (500GB), 349.99 (1TB), $399.99 (2TB)
Colors: Crimson Red (2TB Gears of War 4), Storm Gray (500GB Battlefield 1), Special Blue (500GB Gears of War 4), White, Army Green (1TB Battlefield 1)
Every console generation has newer slimmer hardware that brings about a new chapter in that generation. Usually, these are to promote blockbuster first-party games or brand new peripherals that only work with that console version. Sometimes it’s just to cut down manufacturing costs as hardware gets smaller and easier to make as time goes on. We saw this all the way back to the 16-bit era. The most popular transition was the Fat PS2 to the Slim PS2 which everyone has grown to love. It was one of the most attractive and compact consoles ever made and kept all the features of the PS2 minus the HDD bay.
The last generation saw three iterations for each console and here we are with the first new transition to a smaller console. This time around things has changed as the hardware inside has also gotten more powerful which is a first in the console scene. Normally everything gets smaller as the same hardware becomes cheaper and easier to make. In 2016 consoles are taking a page from PCs and getting more compact with more powerful hardware. With the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S in the light, we can see a trend starting. Now the versions with older hardware also have a new iteration called PS4 Slim and Xbox One Slim. It’s a strange move as you would think the older versions would be discontinued. This has mostly to do with a fidelity shift in the industry where 4K is finally affordable, but most people haven’t adapted to it yet. Sony and Microsoft released a console geared toward 4K users but keeping the 1080p users happy with new versions as well.
The Xbox One S is 40% smaller than the original version and you can really tell. Even the large power brick is gone in favor of just a two-prong cable. The system looks sleeker, and sharper, and the newly redesigned features are beautiful. The Xbox One is completely rectangular with all sharp corners. The power button is in the same spot, but it is now a physical button instead of a touch button. The disc eject button is now a small dot next to the drive and the controller sync button has been moved to the bottom of the console in the front out of the way. You will also gladly find a USB port up front and center instead of on the side. All of the same ports are in the back like TV IN, Optical Audio, Ethernet, and other ports. The console is also much lighter and not so much of a giant building.
Once you plug the console in I immediately ran into a major problem. There was a system boot loop every time it tried to connect to Wifi. I had to open up my wifi to allow the Xbox to connect to get the latest firmware update because it won’t let you into the dashboard without connecting. This is completely insane and needs to be fixed immediately. I only figured this out after an hour of research and trial and error. Outside of that, the system booted up quickly and I was ready to set everything up.
This is where I have to say that you need a 4K TV with HDR to warrant the price of the Xbox One S. If you don’t have a 4K TV then don’t bother because you’re not getting anything besides slightly better running games. Everything is upscaled to 2160p as the Xbox One S does not render games natively in 4K like the PS4 Pro does which can be a major turn-off for most customers. However, this is the only console that plays 4K UHD Blu-Rays which is a major plus. The PS4 Pro does not which is very odd. Each console has a major trade-off so you decide which is more important to you. To be honest, even games being upscaled look fantastic and there’s a huge difference from games rendered natively in 1080p. HDR is a huge addition to next-generation games and movies and it adds a layer of fidelity and beauty that you can’t get anywhere else.
Even older Xbox 360 games looked pretty damn good upscaled in 4K as it made the game sharper and less blurry. I did notice some games loaded a tad faster and ran slightly better, but most won’t notice a difference. The Xbox One S has an 11% power increase over the previous model Microsoft overclocked the GPU to 914Mhz over 853 and the ESRAM bus speed was increased from 204GB/s to 219GB/s. This allows for faster load times which are noticeable.
Secondly, the system comes with a slightly redesigned controller which is for the better. If the Xbox One controller wasn’t amazing enough the new model has better Bluetooth, a new home guide bezel, less clicky bumpers, and can work on Windows 10 PCs via Bluetooth without the dongle. The back of the handles has textured plastic and the thumbsticks have wider concaves for better grip. I love this new controller design and can feel and see the difference from the previous model.
Overall, the Xbox One S offers awesome new colors, features, and parts where they should have been, upgraded hardware, and 4K upscaling that makes games look clearer and sharper. The addition of a 4K UHD Blu-Ray player is something that will steer some people away from the PS4 Pro. However, unless you have a 4K TV with HDR there are not enough added benefits to justify a purchase.