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Xbox One S review

The affordable all-rounder

Xbox One S Review
(Image: © Microsoft)

Our Verdict

Microsoft nailed it on the second pass. A sleek redesign, built-in 4K Blu-ray Player and the fantastic Xbox Game Pass subscription service ensure that the Xbox One S is the best value console on the market.

For

  • Diverse Multimedia Options
  • 4K Blu-ray Player
  • Xbox Game Pass

Against

  • Lacking in power
  • Weakest exclusive lineup

Xbox One S: What you need to know

The Xbox One S is more of a refresh for the Xbox One, rather than a new console in its own right. But while Microsoft stumbled out of the gate on their first try, they’ve nailed it with this second effort. The Xbox One S is a sleeker, more refined console than the launch model. At the same time, Microsoft’s library of exclusive titles has finally seen some improvement with critically acclaimed titles like Forza Horizon 4 and Gears 5

With the next generation of consoles just around the corner, the Xbox One S is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a cheap gaming machine to tide you over. The Xbox One S has an MSRP starting at $299 for the 500GB model, while the 1TB model has an MSRP of $349. You can often find the console bundled with an additional game at no extra cost too.

Xbox One S: Specs

  • 40% smaller than the launch Xbox One
  • 1.75GHz eight-core AMD custom CPU
  • 500GB, 1TB and 2TB models to choose from

If you just glance at the specs, the Xbox One S looks virtually identical to the launch Xbox One. But the devil is in the details and the Xbox One S has had some serious improvements. For one thing, it’s 40% smaller than the launch Xbox One, which was absolutely enormous. This weight loss program has also come with a makeover to create a rather sleek looking console - a far cry from the monolithic launch model.

The Xbox One S has an 1.75GHz eight-core AMD custom CPU and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. There are also several models on offer this time around, with a 500GB, 1TB and 2TB models to choose from. There are even several themed consoles with their own design, including a 2TB Gears 5 special edition Xbox One S.

Like its bigger brother, the Xbox One S comes equipped with a 4K UHD Blu-ray Optical Disc Drive. On the front of the console you’ll find the disc drive and eject button, power button, an IR blaster, and a USB 3.0 port. On the rear of the console is the power port, HDMI 2.0 out and in ports, two additional USB 3.0 ports, IR out, S/PDIF and an Ethernet port. It also features dual band wireless Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Xbox One S: Games and subscriptions

  • First-party efforts have been improving steadily
  • Expect to see a lot more going forwards
  • Xbox Game Pass just $9.99 a month

Games was the major failing of Microsoft’s Xbox One this generation, which wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t trying to sell a games console. With that said, their first-party efforts have been improving steadily for the past few years with the likes of Gears 5, Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon 4

Microsoft have also recently been on a bit of a spending spree of late, buying up or creating seven new studios in the last year, so expect to see a lot more from their exclusive lineup going forwards. But, for now at least, Sony and Nintendo easily have the edge when it comes to exclusives.

In the meantime, Microsoft also offer Xbox Game Pass, a games subscription which gives you access to over 100 games including all first-party releases as they launch. That means every new Microsoft Studios game will launch straight into Xbox Game Pass. This service offers phenomenal value for money, with a monthly subscription costing $9.99.

Xbox One S: User interface

  • Games and apps are easy to find
  • Less common features are still hidden away
  • Wireless controller

Microsoft have gone to great lengths to fix up the Xbox UI since it first launched. The original UI was clunky and difficult to navigate, but we’re thankful to say that there have been huge improvements in this area. It’s still not perfect though — your games and apps are easy to find, but some of the less common features are still hidden away in odd places. The experience on Xbox One S isn’t quite as smooth as we’d like though, as we often see stuttering and freezing when moving between tabs.

The Xbox controller is still wireless, with the option to connect it to your console with a micro USB cable. There is no built-in battery pack so you’ll need two AA batteries or an optional Plug and Play kit. 

The Xbox One controller has been given an upgrade though, with an update to the troublesome bumper buttons. These previously worked on a hinge system which made them difficult to press from certain angles, but this issue has now been resolved. The controller now also features an audio port, so you can plug in your headset directly without the need for an adapter.

Xbox One S: Multimedia

  • Features an integrated 4K UHD Blu-ray Optical Disc Drive
  • Dedicated streaming apps
  • Music streaming apps also supported

Much like the upgraded Xbox One X, the Xbox One S features an integrated 4K UHD Blu-ray Optical Disc Drive. This eliminates the need for a separate Blu-ray player in your entertainment setup. Considering the fact that a good Blu-ray player can cost $200 by itself, the Xbox One S is a bargain at $299 for the base model.

If you’re more interested in streaming services, then the Xbox One S has you covered with dedicated apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, YouTube and more. Music streaming apps like Spotify and Pandora have you covered when it comes to your tunes.

Xbox One S: Verdict

The Xbox One S is proof that sometimes a bunch of small changes make a huge difference in the final product. A sleek redesign and a whopping 40% size reduction have resulted in a gorgeous home console, while a few tweaks to the UI have improved the user experience immensely. 

It’s still not the most powerful console on the market (that title goes to its big brother, the Xbox One X). But with a 4K Blu-ray player, Xbox Game Pass, and an MSRP of $299, the Xbox One S is certainly the best value console out there.