There isn’t a gamer in the land who can say the original Xbox One isn’t anything short of a mighty beast. In both looks and stature, the big black box which had been sitting under my TV for near on three years is anything but subtle.
Now though, there’s a new Xbox One in the house. And this one is an altogether different machine. It’s small. It’s sleek. And it’s a whole load of sexy.
Ditching the previous black colour scheme, the ‘robot white’ design may not fit in with the rest of your technical team, but that just ensures the S stands out from the madding crowd a little bit more. Whether you’ll want it to stand out so much in a world of tech that just loves the black, I’m not too sure, but even with its smaller, 40% decrease in size, the Xbox One S is most definitely more noticeable than its older brother. Much of that is due to the stunning half-and-half design which sees one side of the console resplendent in cool hard white, whilst the other sports enough venting options to keep the internals chilled on even the hottest days. With a small central disc release button and the iconic power switch positioned well on the front, the Xbox One S is beautiful to look at.
Should you wish to have your Xbox One S console hiding away under your TV, in that glorious cabinet that has always housed your consoles, the S is small enough to now warrant verticality as well. Moving it from the usual horizontal to stand proud vertically to one side of your TV, with the included black stand attached, the S is more than sturdy enough to withstand the odd hit or two of the kid’s toys in the process. Personally, I like my consoles to lay flat, with next to no chance of them being pushed over in the heat of battle, but should you wish to mix things up a little and make use of the well designed stand, then you’ll find no problems at all. In fact, it is positively encouraged.
Ports-wise, everything is pretty much similar to what we had originally because obviously this is really just a redesign of everything that was previously there on the bigger, blacker box. The USB ports are still in place although the one that was originally placed on the side of the Xbox One has been shifted round to the front of the S. It’s a much preferred placement and ensures that should you be looking to run with a play and charge kit, or occasionally attach a USB powered headset or wireless dongle to the console, it’s less of a faff than before. In fact, I think I would have actually preferred to see a couple of the three ports moved to the front, as fiddling around in the dark with the rear of the console is still a pain. Not as much of a pain as previous, as the new size and lightweight nature allows for easier clearance and movement, but it’s still not ideal.
Around the back and you’ll find the usual optical audio port, HDMI In/Out, two more of those beloved USB attachment ports, a power connection (which now thankfully does without the huge brick that accompanied the original release) and the standard ethernet option. With wireless capabilities obviously baked in, unless you’re concerned that your magical internet wifi isn’t strong enough to cope with the demands of modern day console gaming then the latter will be the most unused option ever made available.
And you know what? That’s about all there is to the Xbox One S.
Because yes, the Xbox One S basically does exactly the same as its older brother and once fired up, you’ll not find any difference in performance. Yes, it is a known fact that the S runs slightly quicker, and I’m sure some tech-bod will happily tell me for hours that it’s an overall greater experience that just has to be checked out, but in the real world, when tensions are running high and all you want to do is score that last minute winner on FIFA, you’ll notice zero difference.
And because of that, if you already own an Xbox One console, and are quite happy with its bulky size, then you’ll have very little need for an Xbox One S.
That is unless you have a 4K or HDR ready TV. And then you’re probably going to be in for the time of your life.
You see, other than its physical footprint and new design, the big draw of owning an Xbox One S is that you’ll now be able to stream 4K video direct to your eyes, either with a compatible streaming service or via the 4K Blu-Ray drive within. Whilst Xbox One gaming hasn’t yet caught up to the visual clarity that it offers, S will also upscale to HDR, so if you’re at the halfway house and are looking for a seriously nuts graphical upgrade, then you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, you’ll probably need a new TV in order to wonder at the delights and neither my current gogglebox, nor my current budget, stretches to allow the new experience. But should you have one ready to roll, then we’re pretty certainly you’re not going to be able to ever erase the crisper visuals, fuller colours and better contrast from your memory.
Coming bundled with the console is also the new controller – the snazzily titled Xbox One S controller – something which compliments the new console remarkably well. Of similar size and weight to the standard controller that we know and love, the S has become more subtle in its design with the black lid that previously highlighted the Xbox button all but gone. Instead it’s been filled in with the same robot white gleam which covers its entirety. Discrete is the name of the game and the slight lip that used to be present along the top is nearly gone, as is the pronunciation of the Xbox button, with the new one running as flush as can be with the top of the controller. I have to admit to loving the new design but its practicality isn’t quite as good as before, leaving you scrambling around for the big Xbox button more than usual. It does however come with a larger range, should you ever find that sitting miles from your TV was an issue in the first place, whilst on-board Bluetooth support should allow those who wish to make use of the upcoming Play Anywhere cross-platform features of Win10 and Xbox One that little bit easier.
On the rear, the new controller sees a gloriously fine texture that is lovely to caress. It’s not as prominent as that found on the Lunar White or Forza gamepad editions, and unless you’re looking very closely, will struggle to spot much texture at all, but it certainly stops your hands slipping or getting too sweaty in those long gaming sessions.
So, the Xbox One S is here and it’s pretty much an awesome experience, quite easily surpassing its older brother in looks and quality. It’s not however all fun and games in the new Xbox One S house though.
You see, I’m not overly enthused by the change from the original power button, which required a delicate hover of your hand in order to fire it into life, and the new slightly recessed physical switch that now sees the S spring into action takes a while to get used to. Similarly, the Xbox button on the S controller requires a little scrabbling in order to grab its features – something which is highly noticeable when you want to quickly double tap for a screenshot or utilise the record function. Whilst the controller itself is of the same size, those with smaller hands may struggle to reach up and over enough to be able to hit that big button with ease.
There is also a massive problem for fans of Kinect as out of the box, you won’t find any way of connecting the two together. Granted, a cable upgrade (available for free to those who own an original Xbox One, the Kinect itself and a new Xbox One S by providing serial numbers) slightly removes the negativity, but it’s just another sign that the superb motion and voice tracking hardware is anything but on the list of Microsoft’s priorities. Sadly. If there is one thing I’ve really missed in my couple of weeks with Xbox One S, it’s the glowing light of Kinect and the reassurance it brings.
Overall though, and as I proposed initially the Xbox One S is most definitely a smaller, slimmer, sleeker and a whole lot sexier Xbox One. Whether you need it’s 4K video goodness or HDR features will all depend on your TV. If you don’t, then it’s a fairly pricey upgrade which brings little extra to the table. But if you have, then you should be jumping on the upgrade train without hesitation.
If you’re one of those who are completely new to the scene though and just can’t bear to miss out on the likes of Forza Horizon 3, Recore, Gears of War 4 or the chance to compete in the Halo 5 madness, then this is now your best option. I wouldn’t even consider bothering to pick up the older original Xbox One as the S has everything you need, but in a tighter, easier-to-handle package.
Well at least the 2TB version has at least. Because with the extra storage that brings, it’s the version you will really, really want.
Related: Unboxing the Xbox One S 2TB Console