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Microsoft’s Xbox One S is out today in a 2TB configuration for $400, and the company is taking its first step into 4K with the system. But what if you are sticking with that 1080p set you just bought last year? Well, this is the review for you.

I’m planning to look at how well Xbox One S handles 4K content in a follow-up review, but — for now — I want to talk about whether this new version of the Microsoft gaming console is worth it for anyone stuck with only 1,080 rows of pixels. Sure, this revision can play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies and games in high-dynamic-range color, but it is also 40 percent smaller with an internal power supply and a built-in IR blaster.

Are those features worth it if you’re not planning to upgrade to 4K anytime soon? Yes, but only if you don’t already own an Xbox One.


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What you’ll like

Slim and handsome

Microsoft now has the best-looking modern console on the market. The company has had nearly three years to make revisions, and it has come out with something smaller and sleeker.

The company advertises the Xbox One S as 40 percent smaller than the original model, and I didn’t get the measuring tape out to test that. But that’s because this model easily passes the eye test.

It is tiny compared to the original Xbox One, and it is even smaller than the PlayStation 4. Here are a few comparison shots:

Is it faster?

The Xbox One S definitely seems faster to me, and it does have a smaller, more power efficient 16nm chip. From navigating menus to playing certain games, I thought I noticed some improvements — but they are minor. They are also difficult to test because Microsoft is constantly updating its OS. But this system gives me the impression that it is speedier even if it isn’t a drastic improvement.

Improved build quality

Microsoft didn’t just cut down on the size; it has taken this opportunity to really to improve the overall quality of the system. The original Xbox One feels flimsy in comparison to the S’s sturdy, highly engineered package. When you pick up the Xbox One S, nothing rattles or sounds hollow.

Part of that is the weight of the Xbox One S, which is still significant. But Microsoft has also clearly learned more about materials and is putting that knowledge to work.

Integrated power supply and IR blaster

The premium quality also comes with some smarter design choices. Microsoft stuffed the power supply inside the unit this time. That means no enormous power brick. It also included an IR blaster. That means you no longer need a Kinect to turn on other devices in your living room with your Xbox One.

On the back, you get highly organized inputs and outputs. While this panel was fine on the first Xbox One, it is much better here by putting all the ports in a row and flush with the back cover.

Comes with the awesome S controller

And the biggest positive of the Xbox One S is that it comes with the excellent S controller. This is a sleek upgrade to the Xbox One gamepad that emphasizes comfort and more high-end design. The result is the best $60 controller available.

What you won’t like

Your 1080p screen is gonna miss out on the biggest improvements

The only big negatives about the Xbox One S is that you miss out on a ton of things if you don’t have a 4K set. HDR gaming and 4K movies could represent a major leap forward for a lot of gamers. But a lot of us don’t want to buy a new TV,  and that means this system makes a lot less sense.


If you don’t already own an Xbox One, the S model is definitely the version to get. It comes with a great controller, and it is an inexpensive Ultra HD Blu-ray player on top of everything else. You’ll also appreciate the improved design elements.

But while this is the right version for new Xbox One owners, I’m not sure that this smart upgrade from Microsoft is a smart upgrade for everyone else.

Xbox One S is smaller. It stands out alongside other modern consoles in a really great way. I love that it brings the power supply into the box. But if you are not a 4K early adopter and already own an Xbox One, then I would recommend sticking it out with your older model. After all, Microsoft is planning to roll out the more powerful Xbox One Scorpio with true 4K gaming next year. You could save up for that, and — by then — the Ultra HD television market will have calmed down.

The Xbox One S is out now in a 2TB model for $400. Microsoft sent GamesBeat the system early for the purposes of this review.

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