As some of my friends have pointed out, there’s a few comparisons to be made between the newly released Xbox One S, and the ever-popular iPhone. The similar naming convention isn’t the only thing the new Xbox has when compared to Apple’s flagship product though. Much like the iPhone and its iterations, the Xbox One S marks a half-step of sorts when it comes to product revisions. This is by no means the ‘next Xbox’; those looking for a noticeable step up in processing power should wait until the recently announced Project Scorpio is fully unveiled.
Instead, the Xbox One S sits more comfortably as a product of iteration, not innovation. Compared to the original Xbox One, there are plenty of improvements and changes to be found, though whether you’ll actually benefit from those changes largely comes down to the other devices that you use in tandem with it, or if you plan to upgrade in the near future.
In terms of what’s stayed the same, the main thing to note is that (for all intents and purposes) the internal processing power is the same as the original Xbox One. Simply put, that means the Xbox One S will play all the same games, and more importantly, both versions of the hardware will continue to play the same games down the line.
Now, as some intrepid individuals have pointed out, the Xbox One S does have a very slightly improved CPU and GPU. What that means for the end user however is very little. These mild overclocks are meant to handle some additional processing loads for 4K and HDR (more on that later), which means that almost all games will run virtually the same across both consoles. It is true that some games that feature unlocked frame rates or dynamic resolution scaling might run marginally better on the Xbox One S, but frame rate gains are somewhere in the 5-7% range, which doesn’t make much of an impact.
Similarly, in terms of the operating system and user interface, the Xbox One S is very much the same. With the new Anniversary Update available across all Xbox One SKUs, menus and navigation is the same across the board. While some have reported that the Xbox One S feels a little snappier (and I noticed this too), it’s hardly a meaningful impact at the end of the day. On a side note, the Anniversary Update, which was released alongside the Xbox One S, does vastly improve the layout and organization of the Xbox One operating system, so both new and old owners should check it out.
When it comes to changes however, easily the most noticeable (and impressive) is just how much smaller the Xbox One S is. I was lucky enough to see the revised chassis when it was revealed at E3 this year, but the change in size is most apparent when you (literally) get your hands on the console itself. For those who don’t know, the Xbox One S boasts an impressive 40% reduced size compared to its predecessor, putting it neck and neck with the PlayStation 4. The reduced footprint is even more impressive when you also take into account that the once external power brick has been moved inside the console, meaning you’ll no longer have to deal with a rather bulky power cable.
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There’s also a few minor hardware revisions to the case, mainly the inclusion of an IR blaster (for those who use the Xbox One as a multimedia device). In a nice touch, the USB 3.0 port and controller sync button have been moved from the side of the console to the front, and the capacitive power button has been replaced with a physical one, eliminating accidental shut downs. For Kinect owners, you’ll be displeased to hear that there is no dedicated input anymore, meaning you’ll have to purchase a USB breakout cable should you want to keep using a Kinect. Thankfully, original Xbox One owners can contact Microsoft in order to get one free of charge .
The Xbox One S also comes packaged with the updated controller. Sporting the same ‘Robot White’ color as the console, the new revised controller is fairly similar to the original one, albeit with a few quality of life improvements. The built-in 3.5 mm headphone jack allows for headphone use without a complicated audio setup, and redesigned bumpers feel more accurate than the previous ones. The textured back is also a nice touch, as it prevents accidental slips when gaming for long periods at a time. Interestingly, this new console doesn’t come with an included headset, which was disappointing to discover.