Ed notes: Yes, I am quite aware that the Xbox One S has been out for a while now both in the US and in SA. The console launched in August last year, and we only received it in April in SA. While this review is a bit late as we only got our hands on a review unit now, it is still important for us to have one up for those who have looked at buying the new, slimmer console.
4K, Ultra-HD Blu-Ray, and HDR, the Xbox One S is the console Microsoft should have delivered three years ago, and with the sleek design and improved internals to a certain point, it is the only version you should look at if you are in the market for your second console. The Xbox One S has a sleek new design to it and in its all-white enclosure, it looks fantastic from every angle.
The new matte material gets rid of those nasty scratches that we all have on our glossy Xbox One and the new power button is no longer touch, which in my case is a godsend as I am forever turning my Xbox One on by mistake. Microsoft has also opted for a button on the eject switch rather than the touch from the original console.
Xbox One S Design – Sexy and I know it!
In a nutshell, the visual design aesthetics of the Xbox One S are the same as the original console, but everything looks and feels a hundred times better. To be honest, the white design 'pops' on my gaming shelf more than anything else, as every console I have is black. Sure the light on the power button kind of disappears due to the lighter design of the console, but all in all it just works for me.
The USB port has now been moved to the front of the console, which is much better than the side which prevented you from plugging things in if you were in a tight area. The console has also seen the removal of the Kinect port, which has me in two minds. I want to say that it was a good move as Microsoft has wasted that tech beyond saving, but again I own Kinect on my original Xbox One, and it would have been nice to test it out or just have it plugged into the slimmer console. There is an alternative option, as you can purchase a USB to Kinect adapter where you can plug it into the USB port and use the sensor, but this is not 2010 so that will not be happening in my household.
There are some issues, however. The console is much louder than the original, and this was noticeable from the moment I turned it on. The large fan inside kind of rattles a little. This could have been a problem specific to my review unit, but in my silent gaming room, it was a clear distraction. Saying that however, the power supply is now in the console, which means that it does get a bit hotter than before, but luckily the fan is large enough to keep things cool while gaming.
Xbox One S – Let's talk upgrades
From the start, I noticed a vast improvement in UI resolution. the Xbox One S makes use of a 4K (3840×2160) display, four times of that of the original. The extra boost in CPU from 853MHz to 914MHz also gives the console's slow UI a speed increase. The Dashboard on the original console is a very clunky and slow experience, and the Xbox One S was much smoother. It could be just me, but menus loaded faster and the overall user experience was easier to get around. Even in-game, the pop-up menus loaded faster and friends lists were quicker to get into.
Then we have the hardware upgrades and for anyone who owns a PS4 Pro, you would be familiar with some of these to a certain extent. While the Xbox One S has a 4K Dashboard, the games, however, don't run at 4K resolution. There is no 4K gaming here at all, rather the Xbox One S, again like the past console, focuses on improving the entertainment aspect by packing in an Ultra-HD Blu-Ray Drive for movies, and features 4K support through streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube.
The lack of 4K gaming is expected from the console, as unlike the PS4
The Ultra-HD Blu-Ray drive is also a great addition to the hardware, as buying one as a standalone unit can set you back a few thousand rands. This means that the Xbox One S could be the PS3 of this generation where users would rather spend money on a console that does more than just a home theatre system. I did not have any films around to test the drive with but it would have been great to give it a go.
There is also an IR Blaster that will let you control the console with a third-party device. Again, this situation is unfortunate as we do not have any support for TV Guide, Groove, or any other entertainment app in SA, so this feature of using the Xbox One S as a media centre is a complete hit and miss for local players. This has been one of my major issues with the console in SA, as to us it is just another gaming device, but to Microsoft, it is so much more. Unfortunately, we have not had the chance to see this in action, and I doubt we will anytime soon.
The last upgrade of the console is the Xbox One Wireless Controller which has seen a light tweak. The controller has a rough matte texture now on the outside for a better grip, and the gloss has been removed for a more streamlined design. The biggest feature is the built-in Bluetooth support which lets you use your controller on your PC without any specific dongles and wires.
If you have Bluetooth on any PC or gaming laptop, it will connect to it without a hitch. Other than that the controller is still the awesome Xbox One device we love. The same analogues and haptic feedback in the LT and RT buttons makes it one of the best around, and there was really nothing better than the feeling of your car changing gears in the triggers while playing Forza Horizon 3
The white elephant in the room
Yes, original Xbox One, you are pretty fat now, and the new Xbox One S is pretty sexy. The only issue I have here is that right now unless you are determined to own an Xbox One S, is the Xbox Scorpio which is set for release in December. If we had this Xbox One S on sale in August like the rest of the world, then perhaps it would be a viable option for someone who is looking to get an Xbox, but now we are in June and in a few months time we will (hopefully) have the Xbox One Scorpio on sale in SA.
I think when the Scorpio releases, the Xbox One S will act as a cheaper, downgraded model for anyone who cannot spend whatever extreme price range the Scorpio releases at. Right now, the Xbox One S is the only Xbox you should look at buying if you are in the market for one, or just want to own a sexier, cleaner and sleeker model. The price tag is not bad at all and considering the features like the Ultra Blu-Ray drive, I can say that it could be a perfect fit for some.
I, on the other hand, do not own an Xbox One S and I do not plan on buying one mainly because I have a PS4 Pro that gets the 4K job done and I would rather save for the Scorpio when it releases.