Microsoft announced 2 new consoles at E3 this year, surprising everyone with their announcement of the ‘Scorpio’ project, a powerful console due out in Winter 2017. While the Scorpio is still some way off, the redesigned Xbox One hits stores this August.
Xbox One S
The Xbox One S is, for all intents and purposes, a slim Xbox One with a few bells and whistles. Just as the Xbox 360 got a slim version, this is the Xbox One’s latest iteration.
It launches on August 2nd in the UK, starting at £259.99
The Xbox One S does differ in several ways to the current Xbox One;
The most obvious difference is that this new Xbox One is 40% smaller. Not only that, but the large power brick unit that normally hangs around outside the console is now built in to the case, making it a far neater package overall.
The console, as you may have noticed, is also white. As far as we know there are no plans for a black version, but we’d expect special editions to follow based on some of the big franchises coming out over the next year.
The Xbox One S has also been built to stand upright if that’s your thing, which should aid cooling, as should the extra vents and holes in the design. The Xbox One actually runs much cooler than the 360 did, but extra ventilation is always welcome in a console.
The side-mounted USB 3.0 port has been moved to the front for easier access. The rear USB port remains. This should please fans of Toys-to-life games who have to plug and unplug their portals from the console.
It comes in 3 different flavours; 500GB, 1TB or 2TB. You can, of course, still add a USB 3.0 hard drive to boost the space available, saving money on the higher capacity models.
4K Video Support
This is the big one. The Xbox One S provides 4K support for media.
The main way 4K will be introduced will be via Ultra HD Blu-ray. There are a growing number of UHD Bluray movies on the market and the Xbox One S is, so far, going to be the cheapest way to grab a compatible Bluray player for them.
Netflix and other apps will also be supporting 4K on the new Xbox One.
4K Upscaling for Games
While it can’t handle native 4K (the processing power of the S is the same as the original Xbox One) the Xbox One S is able to upscale games for 4K displays. If you own a 4K TV then this means games will looks a little better, though it’s an artificial image created by smoothing out pixels.
High Dynamic Range is, at its most basic, a better range of colours displayed on the screen. This means video content and games that are designed to support HDR will look clearer and more lifelike on TVs that support HDR.
HDR isn’t supported on all TVs, but some newer 4K displays will support it. However, there are currently 2 different formats for HDR and it’s unclear whether the Xbox One S will support both or just one of them.
No Kinect Connection
It was probably inevitable that Microsoft would silently drop their Kinect functionality, but it’s still worth mentioning that you’ll need to buy an adaptor if you want the motion sensing hardware to work on the new Xbox One S.
However, the IR Blaster initially found on the Kinect has now been added to the front of the console, giving players the same functionality to control their TV and AV equipment.
It may not look any different on first viewing, but the new controller, which will also be available separately on launch, adds a few extra features.
The first big difference is the addition of Bluetooth. This means that PCs and tablets will be easily able to connect wirelessly, very important when you consider Microsoft’s leaning towards Windows 10 gaming and the Xbox app on tablets for remote connection to your console. It continues to support the legacy connection, making it compatible with the older Xbox One console as well.
Secondly, the controller has extra grip on the underside to help keep it in one place. It still won’t prevent you throwing it at the screen when you lose the next game of FIFA, though.
The Xbox One S is a nice looking refresh of the console’s design, though the white colouring might not be to everyone’s taste. For those who already own an Xbox One and don’t have a 4K TV, the console isn’t going to be an essential upgrade. If you’ve been waiting for a good 4K video player with Ultra HD Bluray, however, then it’s a good option at a reasonable price. Expect plenty of trade-in offers from retail chains.
4K Gaming isn’t really this console’s main selling point, think of the 4K upscaling as a nice-to-have extra.
For those new to Xbox One, the Xbox One S console is a good stepping on point, especially if you own a 4K TV or plan to get one in the near future. Project Scorpio is a long way off and the price and design still remain unknown, so Microsoft are hoping this gives even more potential customers another reason to join the Xbox brand.