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Xbox One S Review-in-Progress: Evolutionary

The next Xbox One, the Xbox One S, is finally here. But is it worth upgrading or should current owners stick with the tried-and-true? Find out in our review.


It was inevitable that the Xbox One would get a slimmed-down version. Most modern-day consoles have received such an iteration shortly after release. We’ve seen it with multiple Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft products, but few offer as many improvements as the Xbox One S.

Microsoft officially unveiled the Xbox One S at E3 2016 where it said the console was its “smallest Xbox One yet” as it sports a body that’s 40% slimmer than the original. Not only is it slimmer, but it comes with a redefined Xbox One controller, and 4K support for Blu-ray discs, streaming video, and most importantly, video games. With the console wars heating up this holiday season, Microsoft is betting big on its customers embracing 4K gaming before most living rooms even have a compatible TV screen.

Refined Palette

When the original Xbox One was revealed, there was quite the uproar as to its size and design. Microsoft didn’t change the overall shape of the Xbox One S, but what it did change makes it look less like my grandmother’s VCR. It's smaller, white, and offers an interesting use of textures to various parts of its body. While the holes located at the front of the console appear to be for aesthetics, the holes surrounding its perimeter are obviously for venting purposes as I can spot smaller vents that aim directly into them.

It also finally did away with the infamous Xbox power brick as its power supply has been squeezed into the new console’s body. Without a power brick to weigh it down, the Xbox One S feels more portable than ever when combined with its reduction in size and weight. It also has done away with a dedicated Kinect port, which we’re sure won’t surprise many considering how Microsoft has been slowly steering away from motion-based gaming. Fans of the little peripheral that could can receive an adapter from Microsoft free of charge if they want to use it with their Xbox One S.

Control(ler) Freak

Microsoft had an instant hit with its Xbox 360 controller, and its Xbox One controller continued to impress. The Xbox One S controller feels like a combination of the best aspects of the Xbox 360 controller along with the modern look and feel of the Xbox One controller. The controller’s slight texture to the rear side of its handles offers a much more secure grip, which will be a welcomed addition to sweaty palms everywhere.

Additional changes include bumper buttons and a D-Pad that require less effort to trigger and are less clicky and a more streamlined look to the Xbox button. Instead of being surrounded by a reflective piece of plastic, the Xbox button now feels like it’s a part of the controller as it fits right into the controller’s shell.

I’m still disappointed Microsoft has yet to include a rechargeable battery for its Xbox One S controller, instead continuing the use of AA batteries to power it. While I’m aware there are third-party peripheral makers, like Nyko, that offer rechargeable batteries for Microsoft’s controllers, I still feel it’s about time it includes one in its controllers, which would also make it feel much lighter and slimmer.

A 4K Trojan Horse?

I’m going to be spending much more time with the Xbox One S this week. I still need to dig into its slight software changes, how Xbox One games run in upscaled 4K, and how 4K content looks running on the Xbox One S. In the meantime, please feel free to let me know what you’d like to know about the Xbox One S in our Chatty or send me a message on Twitter.

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