In Depth

Xbox One S: New console launches next month

New console was announced at this year's E3 Expo, but is it worth moving on from the original?

A flurry of new games consoles are expected over the coming months, with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all having releases on the radar.

Sony is currently working on a 4K version of its PlayStation 4 platform called the Neo, which could be out by the end of 2016, while Nintendo is promising "a new way of playing games" with its mysterious NX console, which set to be available next March.

However, Microsoft will launch two new consoles between now and the end of next year. A 4K, virtual reality-ready version of the Xbox One, currently codenamed Scorpio, will arrive Christmas 2017, but its other system launches very soon. 

The firm revealed its Xbox One S, a lighter and slimmer version of the Xbox One, at this year's E3 expo in Los Angeles, and it comes complete with one or two nifty new features.

Microsoft has since confirmed it will be released on 2 August.

So, what's new about the Xbox One S?

Design and controller

The Xbox One S is much smaller than the original 2013 console, shrinking 40 per cent. Pocket Lint says its hefty diet is particularly important considering the PlayStation 4 is a noticeably smaller bit of kit than its first incarnation so Microsoft gains bragging rights in terms of portability and how much space the console will take up wherever you place it.

Despite the significant reduction in size, the One S benefits from some clever packaging. Gone is the chunky power brick connected via a cable, replaced by an internal power source. You can also now stack the console vertically – although you'll have to buy a stand to do it.                                    

In terms of looks, the One S's overall shape remains relatively consistent with its big brother. A white colour scheme has been introduced and small holes have replaced the cooling slats which ran down one half of the console.

The controller has been refreshed, too, and is now sleeker with a slightly redesigned interface and textured grips on the underside. It's compatible with Windows 10 PCs, tablets and phones via a Bluetooth connection and also works wirelessly, with twice the range as the original.

Features

While the much smaller casing takes the headlines, there are one or two notable new features on the Xbox One S. 

First of these is 4K Playback compatibility – but this doesn't mean running games at 4K resolution; that's a feature strictly reserved for the upcoming upgraded model, currently codenamed Scorpio. If you have a 4K-ready television set, however, you'll be able to use the Xbox One S to watch higher-quality video content on DVDs or streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.                                          

There is movement on the gameplay front, however. The One S comes with high dynamic range support so should give more vivid, bright colour pallets with deeper blacks. Tech Insider says games "will look more gorgeous than ever". Again, you'll need a compatible TV for this.

The dedicated Kinect port has been removed as part of Microsoft's efforts to make the Xbox smaller and you'll need a USB adapter to connect it. The Verge argues this shows that Microsoft has admitted defeat over its motion-control accessory, after purposefully bundling one with the original Xbox console when it was first on sale, and initially making it a required piece of kit led to criticism. The USB adaptor is included with the console.

Lastly, the One S gains an IR blaster, so you can command your television set through the media remote.

Performance

As Know Your Mobile points out, the Xbox One S is slightly more powerful than the original console, although it's not actually listed as a selling point.

The console needs to be a little more powerful in order for developers to take advantage of the high dynamic range quality, so processing power is ever so slightly up.

There's also a new storage level available – a special launch version of the One S will come with a huge 2TB of space.  

Price and release

The Xbox One S goes on sale on 2 August, but the first versions will be the most expensive – the launch edition featuring a 2TB hard drive is priced at £349.

Cheaper versions are expected to go on sale not too long afterwards. A 1TB version will follow priced £299, alongside a 500GB entry level console from £249. Despite earlier rumours, buyers will get a new controller with the console.

Many major retailers have dropped their prices for the original Xbox One in response to the reveal of the One S, says Eurogamer, so we can expect more discounts in the run-up to the release.

Is it worth buying?

The release of the One S has come at a bit of a funny time for consoles, with the anticipated arrival of more powerful, 4K gameplay-ready versions of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on the horizon. While Sony's kit could launch later this year, Microsoft will take until Christmas 2017 to get its VR-ready console out, leaving the One S fighting solo alongside the larger Xbox One for a little more than a year.

Stuff tries to weigh up whether Microsoft's shiny new console is actually worth buying, but says the anticipation already building for Microsoft's Project Scorpio console is a little off-putting. It advises current Xbox One owners not to take the plunge and wait it out – in a year's time, the Scorpio should completely steal the One S's thunder.

Unlike Sony, whose upcoming PlayStation VR virtual reality headset will work on the PS4, Microsoft currently has no plans for VR gaming for the Xbox One or One S so its fans should wait for the Scorpio as well if they want to try out the new tech.

However, if you're not intending to buy a 4K television to use with the Scorpio, then there's little point in waiting to buy it as "all of the extra power you'll be paying for would be going to waste," adds the site. It's also likely to be very expensive, considering it's shaping up to be the most powerful mass-production gaming console ever sold.

Instead, Stuff says Xbox 360 gamers will find the One S a tempting proposition – although again, some may want to wait and see what the Scorpio has to offer.

Tech Insider largely echoes Stuff and says the One S isn't worth buying if you've already got a One, but if you're just about to pick up a console, then it is definitely the one to go for.

Alphr says the One S is shaping up nicely and, with its slimmer design and extra features, is "the console the Xbox One should have been". If you haven’t already got an eighth-generation console and you've no plans to wait it out for the 4Ks coming later, the One S is the one to go for, it adds.

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