The Xbox One was built with a specific vision in mind, and it was one that included a whole lot more than games. From streaming videos to dollops of motion sensing in the form of Kinect, it aimed to be the centre of your living room - much like Microsoft envisioned the original Xbox to be, when it launched in 2001.
Slimmer consoles usually release three or four years after the release of the original, a cadence we’ve seen with both the PS3 and Xbox 360, so the Xbox One S is an expected, known quantity. It punctuates this specific period of the Xbox One’s lifecycle with a resounding exclamation point that signifies it finally finding its feet after several management changes. Perhaps the biggest change, however, is the console's renewed focus.
In comparison to the Xbox One, the Xbox One S focuses on its greatest strength - games. In many ways, the Xbox One S is what the Xbox One should have been at launch. It sports a clean, modest design, and most importantly, doesn’t need a bulky power brick.
Furthermore, it relegates everyone’s favourite spy cam, the Kinect, to being an accessory that now actually requires a special adapter. That’s a problem for all of the Xbox One owners that still use it, a number that’s small enough to make it a non-issue.
There’s support for 4K UHD Blu-ray disc playback and high dynamic range or HDR - which allows a truer, more accurate range of colours, though you would need a television with HDR support to be able to experience this. And of course there’s a minor bump in specifications to make your games a bit more stable even in the busiest of sections.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll notice some of these under-the-hood changes when compared to the original Xbox One, the new design, and improved build quality make the Xbox One S a whole lot easier to like than its predecessor.
From an all matte finish that isn’t a fingerprint magnet, to the removal of the featherlight power button, there’s a host of neat little tweaks that make this a better Xbox One. Oh, and not to mention the 40 percent reduction in size. Gone is the early 80s VCR bulk and styling.
Decked up in what Microsoft calls Robot White, it is easy on the eyes with a thoughtful arrangement of inputs such as a USB port upfront, in addition to the two at the back. Audiophiles should note that while Sony has removed optical audio output on the PS4 Slim, the Xbox One retains it. The Xbox One S is a robust, elegant piece of kit – though one you’d have to clean ever so often. During our time with the device we noticed it that while it was durable, it was easy to mar its pristine exterior, even when transporting it in a backpack. After a few days of use, we noticed marks and smudges. Luckily, thanks to its matte finish, these were easy to remove.
Along with the Xbox One S, comes a revamped controller also in Robot White. It sports a host of modifications ranging from a textured grip at the back that isn’t as pronounced as it was on special edition controllers, a 3.5mm jack for audio, and buttons that have a nice, clicky feedback.
Though the hardware is a fantastic improvement over its predecessor in every aspect, the OS isn’t quite there yet. It didn’t lag like our first generation Xbox One, but the sense of overall sluggishness was hard to shake off. Minor annoyances would rear their head ever so often such as taking screenshots or recording video not being as easy as it could be. These could possibly be hangovers from the initial direction of being a device also intended for media and consumption. Considering the Xbox One OS has remarkably improved over its initial release, we’re hopeful that our grievances are alleviated with further system updates.
Available in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB variants, the Xbox One S is worth considering if you don’t already own an Xbox One. As we stated at the beginning, it’s what the Xbox One should have been. It’s a welcome change for new buyers, but there’s no strong reason to upgrade, and the timing of its arrival couldn’t have been stranger.
That’s because a souped up, more powerful Xbox One, dubbed Project Scorpio is due next year, so Xbox One owners should definitely consider holding off for now. It's worth pointing out, however, that Project Scorpio isn't really direct competition to the Xbox One S, and it won't be out for around a year anyway. And much like the PS4 Pro, you will need a 4K display with HDR to get the most out of it, which bumps up the overall cost drastically.
On the other hand, while a better TV does complement the Xbox One S experience, it isn't necessary as games output at the same resolution as the Xbox One. And considering that Project Scorpio is expected to be fairly more expensive too, it makes the Xbox One S a decent option if you're not looking to shell out for a new 4K and HDR TV anytime soon.
There’s no release date for India yet, although you can pick one up from around Rs. 30,000 onwards if you’re willing to import it or scour the grey market. If you absolutely must buy an Xbox One right now, forget about the original, and go only for the Xbox One S.
Rating (out of 10): 8