These changes might seem insignificant individually, but as a whole, the redesigned chassis is easily one of the biggest improvements made to the Xbox One S as a whole. Not only does the reduced size lend a sleeker look to the system overall, but from my time with it, the new console seems to run a little cooler and quieter than my old one; a welcome addition to anyone who uses it as a Blu-Ray player.
The only real complaint I can bring up against the hardware is with the hard drive. While the included 2 TB storage space is a boon to those with a sizable collection of games, the inability to upgrade the hard drive without voiding the warranty is a detriment for those who want to upgrade to a faster hard drive or one with solid state memory. While USB storage support is an option, it is not a true replacement for internal hard drives.
Hardware quibbles aside, the other big draw of the Xbox One S comes from its native support for 4K media playback and streaming. While the PlayStation 4 and original Xbox One are technically capable of outputting 4K content, without support for proper codecs, and more importantly, the newer HDCP 2.2 digital content protection standard, most streaming services won’t bring 4K content to these consoles.
On the other hand, the Xbox One S is built with HDMI 2.0a support right out of the box, meaning 4K streaming is not an issue from content providers such as Netflix. Streaming in 4K is a breeze, thanks to a built-in settings menu that lets you know if your TV supports 4K to begin with. For those who’ve already jumped on board with Ultra HD Blu-Rays, the Xbox One S natively supports these as well. The other big addition comes in the form of HDR support (specifically HDR 10).
For the uninitiated, HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, is a new method of displaying video, by increasing the color depth that is displayed on screen. For those who have compatible TVs (which began retailing last year), you’ll be able to enjoy an increased bit depth when watching movies, which translates to ‘blacker blacks’ and an overall greater range of color. Unfortunately, while some games such as the upcoming Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 are set to take advantage of HDR video, there are no games that support it at this time. Still, for those who already purchased (or are planning to purchase) a 4K-ready TV in the future, this is something to keep in mind.
As someone who is looking to upgrade to a 4K TV sometime in the near future, the Xbox One S was well worth upgrading to. Increased resolution aside, the additional hard drive space, the redesigned controller (that also happens to work natively on PC via Bluetooth), and the sleeker, smaller look were big draws to a tech enthusiast such as myself. Still, for the general masses, whether or not you should upgrade to the Xbox One S largely comes down to your ‘tech plans’, both present and future. If you happen to have a 4K TV, and don’t already own an Xbox One, the Xbox One S is an obvious purchase, especially considering the included 4K Blu-Ray player. Standalone Blu-Ray players that support UHD Blu-Rays will cost you $300 or more, and with the 500 GB model of the Xbox One S due out in a couple of weeks for only $300, there’s really only one choice here.
When it comes to those who don’t have an Xbox One or a 4K TV, the best decision is a little tougher to discern. With Project Scorpio on the way, and the rumored PlayStation Neo set to be unveiled in the near future, it’s a little tougher to recommend the Xbox One S without seeing what else is in store. If you’re looking to buy a new console in the near future however, and would rather not wait for Project Scorpio (which is due out in late 2017), the Xbox One S makes for a very attractive option, even if you don’t have a 4K ready display right now.