Gaming

Is it worth getting an Xbox One S?

Posted by
David Cornish
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Right, let's get one thing straight: I am not an Xbox fanboy. I have never posted a YouTube comment claiming Microsoft makes the "best console eva". I don't disown mates should I find out they prefer triangle and circle to X and Y. 

It's with a real degree of surprise that I write the following sentence: Microsoft has just released the best video game console ever made. 

Allow me to explain...

The original Xbox One was a bit rubbish

The original Xbox One was a bit rubbish

The Xbox 360 was great. Better than great, it managed the improbable: despite the PlayStation 2 being the best-selling console of all time, Microsoft's white box packed enough tricks'n'titles that it converted scores of Sony fans, eventually going on to outsell the PlayStation 3

The Xbox One is yet to match the success of its older brother: current estimates suggest that Microsoft has shifted something close to 20 million consoles worldwide, with Sony selling 40 million PlayStation 4s. 

Why? Here's the short version: the launch of the One was a muddled affair of u-turns, the console's bulk was seen by many to be unappealing, and games were consistently reported to run with improved visuals on the rival PlayStation 4. 

Microsoft was in need of a white knight. So they went and made one.

How small is the Xbox One S compared to the original Xbox One?

How small is the Xbox One S compared to the original Xbox One?

The Xbox One S is 40 per cent smaller than the original Xbox One.

Or to put it another way, the Xbox One was massive, and the One S is the sort of size you'd expect from a console made in 2016.

We could tell you about how Microsoft has restructured the circuit boards to reduce size and avoid overheating. We could go into details about how they managed to squeeze the power brick inside the svelte white case.

But you probably don't care, do you?

It's a small white box with a circular hole in it that pumps out hot air. The point is, the One S will now fit under your telly with room to spare. You can even stand it vertically, if you're totally nuts like that. 

If Microsoft had shown this off back in 2013, they wouldn't be lagging so far behind the PlayStation 4.

What's the Xbox One S controller like?

What's the Xbox One S controller like?

If you squint at this woefully-lit photo, you can spot a few subtle differences between the old Xbox One controller and the new S model.

Subtle differences like "it's white". 

The controller was one of the strongest sells of the Xbox One, and the new S model polishes the design: the plastic of the rear now has a texture to it, allowing sweaty palms to grip it with more confidence. It's got twice the wireless range (great if your One S is positioned at the opposite end of a barn?) and can talk to Windows 10 PCs via Bluetooth. It's not as impressive as the Elite controller, but it's a shade comfier than the original pad.

But then, you're not going to buy the Xbox One S for the new controller, are you...

You're going to want an Xbox One S for the 4K visuals

You're going to want an Xbox One S for the 4K visuals

The Xbox One S is the best console ever made for one, pure, number-crunching reason: it's the only gaming box currently available that can pump out games High Dynamic Range, making the most of your 4K TV. 

"But I prefer PlayStation's exclusive games."

Then buy a PlayStation 4.

"But I love retro games..."

Then wait for Nintendo's little NES to arrive in November.

"But I don't own a 4K TV..."

Ah. Right. In which case, here's how things stack up:

Already own an Xbox One but don't own a 4K TV? Don't bother getting an Xbox One S unless you really, really want your console in a nice shade of white - you won't be able to experience the full benefits of the console until you get a screen that warrants the upgrade.

Don't own an Xbox One but want a new console? The Xbox One S is an equal to the PlayStation 4 - you should base your decision on which exclusive games you prefer and which interface you feel most comfortable with. If you've been using an Xbox 360 and still not splashed out on any of the latest consoles, the One S is probably the most natural fit for your gaming habits.

Got a 4K TV? Then this is the box for you. 

And yet...

With Sony working on its PlayStation 'NEO' console, and Microsoft announcing that the super-powerful Project Scorpio will arrive in December 2017, if you're looking to buy a console based purely on graphic capabilities, the Xbox One S sits in something of a tricky position. 

This feels like the Xbox One that Microsoft wished it had shown off in 2013 - a worthy successor to the Xbox 360. The 2TB version has already sold out, but when the 500GB and 1TB roll round on 22 September - we expect them to end up on many Christmas lists.

If you've already got a 'next gen' box in your life, there's little point in investing in the One S. 2017 is going to give you far more convincing reasons to empty your wallet on a new games machine. 

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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