Microsoft Xbox One S Review

Microsoft’s latest video game console, the Xbox One S, improves greatly upon its previous iterations.

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Microsoft’s latest video game console, the Xbox One S, improves greatly upon its previous iterations. Barely half the size of the standard Xbox One, this console has 4K capabilities, an internal power supply and a beautiful minimalistic design. Despite an absence of powerhouse exclusive video game titles, something which its competitors – the PlayStation 4 and the handheld Nintendo Switch consoles – have released to great success, the One S is still a powerful machine that makes a statement.

Some critics consider the One S to be a stepping stone between the original One gaming console and Microsoft’s rumored next console, codenamed Project Scorpio. Others say that the One S is what the original One ought to have been. Either way, the One S is clearly a modern machine that is a superior version of its former self. Its body is 40 percent smaller than the standard One, and the real kicker that every gamer is thrilled about – no more power brick. With an internal power supply, the One S now takes up way less space in your entertainment center and looks better sitting (or standing) there.

Depending on your games, you can load plenty of your favorite titles onto the video game console. You can choose a console with 500GB, 1TB or 2TB of storage. If you find it difficult to wait for your physical copy of the latest game to ship, having a larger hard drive can save you here, allowing you to download a larger selection of games as soon as they’re available.

For those who perhaps use their consoles for more than just gaming, the High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K capabilities of the One S can impress even serious videophiles. With 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback and the ability to stream 4K Ultra HD content from online media services like Netflix, you can easily enjoy high-definition movie nights in your house every night. However, it doesn’t yet support 4K gaming. Microsoft has the console using the HDR 10 standard, and most newer TVs do support that.

Its 1.75GHz eight-core AMD custom CPU beat those of the PlayStation 4 and 4 Slim, but fall behind the 2.1GHz eight-core AMD custom Jaguar CPU of the 4 Pro. The Xbox One S includes 8GB of DDR3 RAM, compared to the PS4 Pro or Scorpio’s GDDR5 memory.

At first glance, the most obvious upgrade of the One S from the previous version is its sleek new design. Yes, it’s smaller, but it also just looks better. The console has an attractive matte finish, and the entire right half of the One S is perforated with small circular holes, adding visual texture while doubling as a vent for the system’s fan. The default white color is a bold change of pace from decades of black consoles. Of course, you can also purchase it in other colors like blue or grey, or even opt for special editions like the Gears of War 4 or Battlefield 1 versions.

On the front of the device, you have the power button, IR receiver and blaster, pairing button, eject button and a single USB 3.0 port, which gives you the bare minimum access to the important things, keeping the design slick and uncluttered. At the rear, there’s the power port, HDMI in and out ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an IR output port, an optical out, an Ethernet networking port and a lock port to securely connect your laptop. However, it doesn’t have the proprietary Kinect port, so you’ll have to purchase a separate adapter for that if you wish to use one.

Along with a redesigned console is an enhanced wireless controller. While it looks visually similar to its previous version, it has a few upgrades that make it more solid. The textured grip makes it easier to hold and less likely to slip out of your hands. It is extremely easy to hold and keeps your wrists at a comfortable angle. It also has Bluetooth and an improved wireless range.

If you want something more exciting than the basic white controller, the Xbox Design Lab allows you to customize the color of the body and buttons on your controller for an added cost. You can also opt to buy an Elite Wireless Controller, which has more extensive customization options. With the Elite, you can actually swap out physical buttons, D-pads and thumbsticks for ones with different shapes and stick heights. For the hardcore gamers, the Elite controller also gives you the option to add interchangeable paddles on the underside of the controller. You can set the functions of each paddle with the accompanying app. Within the app, you can set up multiple controller mapping profiles, adjust trigger min/max values and set the sensitivity for your thumbsticks.

Although Xbox consoles are not known for their vast selection of exclusive video games, first-party titles are still very much an important thing. Xbox is the only place where you can play the Halo or Gears of War franchises, but Microsoft still doesn’t hold a candle to the extensive collection of exclusive titles of PlayStation, which includes the Uncharted and God of War franchises, as well as The Last of Us. However, what Xbox consoles lack in exclusives, they more than make up for with backward compatibility. This compatibility allows you to play old Xbox games – like Borderlands, Far Cry 3, Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed 2 and a variety of classic arcade titles – on your One S.

Though it’s less expensive to buy just the Xbox One S, you also have the option to buy it in a bundle, which typically includes a game and sometimes other accessories for less than the total cost of buying those things separately. Bundles can help you get a quick start into gaming, giving you something to play immediately, and they make great gifts.

One of the major downsides of any Xbox system is that there is no corresponding virtual reality (VR) unit available at this time. PlayStation has had a VR headset, called PSVR, out for some time now, but any VR capability with future Xbox consoles is purely speculation.

You can do more than game with today’s consoles. If games aren’t your thing, or if you simply need a break from your Battlefield 1 marathon, you can download a variety of apps to enjoy. If you like streaming video, you can get apps from YouTube, Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Crunchyroll Amazon Video and tons of others. For listening to music, there are apps from Pandora, VEVO or iHeartRadio. Sports lovers have access to ESPN, Nascar, NBA, NBC Sports, NFL, NHL and other apps. There’s even a Twitter app for you to enjoy.

One of the most outstanding aspects of the new One S is that it allows for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and video streaming. You can immediately start enjoying 4K content from Netflix and other sources if you have a compatible screen. Additionally, its added support for HDR helps ensure you can enjoy a premium playback experience. A few games can run in HDR, but it doesn’t yet support 4K native gaming.

The Xbox One S is a great console for multimedia, and it’s a much-needed step up in processing power and video playback quality if you’re stuck with an older-generation console. However, if you already have a regular Xbox One and aren’t too hung up on having 4K right now, or a smaller, more aesthetically pleasing console, you may be better off hanging on until Microsoft’s latest rumored console, Project Scorpio, is released later this year.