Xbox One S Review Round-Up: A Nice, But Unnecessary Upgrade

The Xbox One S released today—and, to be frank, it’s not necessary. It’s a fine upgrade, but nothing that warrants another purchase.

Microsoft’s Xbox One is a decent gaming console. Most games run at 900p, which is acceptable, but it could be better for such an expensive device. (A good handful of games run at 720p, like Remedy Entertainment’s Quantum Break, and some of them run at 1080p, like Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max). The inferior—and rather superfluous—Kinect (dubbed Kinect 2.0) allows for seamless integration between TV and gaming controls, voice commands, and full-body gaming by way of 3D depth sensors. (There is an excellent document that goes in-depth on the technology behind the Kinect. Too bad Microsoft essentially abandoned the product; with the right software and coding, it could have been “revolutionary”). The Xbox One controller was a subtle, but welcomed step up from its Xbox 360 counterpart. Aside from its big, blocky, VCR-like shape, size, and weight, and the obnoxiously large power brick, the Xbox One was poised for gaming success. (Okay, we’ll ignore the atrocious E3 2013 reveal.) There are a couple of different versions of this console: the original Xbox One, a 500GB console; the newer Xbox One, featuring a 1TB console and an Xbox One controller with the 3.5mm headphone jack built-in; and the Elite Xbox One, a 1TB Xbox One coupled with a solid state drive (SSD) and the expertly designed (and extremely expensive) Elite controller. (Of course, there are bundles as well, each with either the 500GB the 1TB console and a game like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity or The Coalition’s Gears of War Ultimate Edition.) All of this is to say there are options in terms of purchasing the Xbox One. And with the launch of the Xbox One S, a sleeker, slimmer, whiter, and slightly more powerful console—and a 2TB hard drive—choosing an Xbox One just became more difficult.

Unless you already own an Xbox One.

Annual E3 Gaming Conference In Los Angeles
Reviews for the system went live today to accompany the official launch of the system. Interestingly, for all the praise the new system is getting, there are a few caveats. Quite a few, actually.

For starters, many reviewers commend the Xbox One S’ design. Dieter Bohn of The Verge writes, “Microsoft says the Xbox One S is 40 percent smaller than the original, and it shows. Instead of a hulking monster of a machine squatting under your TV, you have this slim, white box. I really like the clean, squarish look of the thing, a matte white block on a black base.” And Mark Hachman of PC World posits, “Unlike the original Xbox One, the One S actually looks like a media box that would fit comfortably in your existing living-room setup.”

Furthermore, the integrated power supply—you know, that huge brick you hated carrying with you whenever you didn’t transport the console—is a godsend. Timothy Seppala of Engadget says, “What finally doesn’t require an additional dongle, though, is the power supply. Since 2005, every Xbox has needed a bulky external power brick. That’s thankfully no longer the case: The One S uses a power cable similar to what’s included with many other modern devices.” And Jimmy Thang of GameSpot claims, “Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Microsoft managed to do all this while integrating the power brick into the chassis. This is a small engineering marvel as far as I’m concerned […] To go along with the integrated power brick is a thinner two-prong power cable[.]”

Not everything in the land of the beautifully designed Xbox One S is so beautiful, though.

The lack of dedicated 4K gaming is a huge disappointment, especially considering the 4K video streaming currently available in the system. (After the mandatory Summer Update has been applied, of course.) Richard Leadbetter of Eurogamer states, “In the here and now, the upscaling from 1080p to 4K is competent but could be better. Hooking up the Xbox One S to a 58-inch Panasonic DX750, we noted that the UI upscaled to 4K better using the display’s scale compared to the Xbox One S’s efforts (yes, the front-end isn’t native UHD).” And Ryan McCaffrey of IGN laments, “The console does at least upscale everything to 4K to avoid forcing the TV to display a non-native resolution (which can look bad). While it’s better than nothing, I couldn’t see any notable difference compared to native 1080p, or 900p depending on the game.”

Additionally, the Xbox One S forgoes the Kinect port, which, frankly, is a good thing. (Unless you’re a fan of the peripheral.) If you’re one of the many Xbox One early adopters forced into the Kinect, or actually like the Kinect as a companion device, you’ll have to get an adapter. Edwin Garcia of Nerdist pens, “As for the Kinect port, few used the voice peripheral, so it makes sense to lose it for the sake of keeping the new hardware as tight as can be. But if you’re a fan of the Kinect, and end up grabbing the S, go to this site to get a free adapter.” And Matt Smith of Digital Trends reports, “Overall, the connectivity is almost identical to the original, with one notable exception. The Xbox One S drops the dedicated Kinect port. You’ll need a USB adapter to plug a previous Kinect into the new console. Aside from the annoyance of having to obtain an adapter (Microsoft is handing them out for free, at least, if you contact Xbox support), this change means Kinect users effectively have one less USB port than they did previously.”

Like most incremental upgrades, there is both good and bad to owning it. However, it seems the consensus is if you already own an Xbox One, there’s no need to purchase the Xbox One S—just wait around until Project Scorpio, Microsoft’s next Xbox One, releases sometime late next year.

Do you own an Xbox One? If so, will you purchase the Xbox One S? If not, will you buy the Xbox One S or wait until the “most powerful console ever,” Project Scorpio?

[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]