During E3 this year, Microsoft unveiled not one but two future consoles. Project Scorpio will be the company's flagship, with full 4K gaming and high-end PC style specifications, but the first to hit the market is the Xbox One S.
The Xbox One S is a bridge console between the standard edition and the Scorpio in that it has faster processing and 4K video output, but stops short at full Ultra HD gameplay.
It is reasonably priced, especially when you consider it doubles as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, but is there really enough of an upgrade to consider a purchase over the original, especially as the latter has been heavily discounted for Black Friday and beyond?
We've put them head-to-head in spec terms to help you make your mind up.
Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Design
Design is undoubtedly the biggest and most noticeable change between the original Xbox One and the slimmer Xbox One S. In fact, Microsoft removed 40 per cent of the body mass, making a console that’s just over half the size of its predecessor.
You can now also stand it vertically, and that the power brick is internal.
That means instead of having it lie flat, taking up tonnes of room on a shelf and having a chunky power brick lying next to it (or on the floor somewhere), it can neatly stand next to your TV with nothing but a couple of cables attached. It’s clearly a much neater all-round package.
Like the Xbox One, the One S has a two-face design. One half of the device has a single solid texture and matte finish, the other half is patterned.
Unlike the Xbox One, however, it has hundreds of machined holes and dots on one half, and not the diagonal line and slits. This is partly for aesthetic purposes, and partly for cooling. A large circle section underneath the machined holes acts as the air vent to cool all the internal components. Arguably, having it stand vertically with more of its surfaces exposed to the air will help cooling too.
Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Controller
The updated Xbox Wireless Controller has also seen some welcome changes.
It looks similar to the original but, like the console, is a touch sleeker and now has a grippy finish underneath the handles to ensure it stays in your hands and doesn’t slip out.
It also has twice the wireless range of its predecessor, just so you won’t have to huddle around your TV so closely. And it works with Windows 10 PCs, tablets and phones via Bluetooth too.
Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Features
Apart from its design, the biggest change we see in the Xbox One S is that it’s 4K capable.
Not only can it stream 4K Ultra HD content from Netflix and other online services, but the console also supports 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback. This is a big deal for more than one reason, but predominantly because, for those currently in the market for a decent Ultra HD Blu-ray player, you’ll struggle to find one as competitively priced.
Not only are you getting a great gaming console, you’re also getting a 4K Blu-ray player for less than those from the likes of a Samsung or Panasonic.
Xbox One S also supports 4K HDR content, meaning videos have a wider colour gamut and feature a much higher dynamic range in addition to the sharper resolution. In simple terms, if you have a 4K HDR TV, your movies are going to look awesome.
HDR capabilities also mean that supported games can look better too. Darks will be much darker thanks to the higher contrast ratio. Although it doesn’t support 4K native gaming, it is capable of 4K upscaling, so games should look better on a 4K TV regardless.
In terms of other features, it’s a case of one lost, one gained. The Xbox One S doesn’t have a dedicated Kinect port, confirming that Microsoft isn’t as concerned about its motion-tracking technology as it once was. However, you will still be able to connect a Kinect using a USB adapter, plugged into the USB port on the console.
As for the one gained, the One S has an IR blaster built-in, so that you can switch on your TV, audio receiver or satellite receiver without needing to go hunting for all of your remotes.
The USB port is now on the front of the console too, rather than the side. As is the pairing button to connect to wireless controllers. And the on/off switch is physical on the Xbox One S rather than the touch panel found on the original Xbox One.
Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Pricing and availability
The Xbox One S is available now, priced at £219 for a 500GB model and £269 for the 1TB version. A 2TB model was also initially available for £349 but that has now sold out. In comparison, you can pick up the current Xbox One in various bundles and deals starting from around £180.
If you are in a mad dash for an Xbox One because a game has just been released and you're not bothered about the size or added features, you can definitely find a bargain out there for the original model. But it could be worth looking at the new version, especially if you have a 4K TV.
If you’re already in the market for a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, then it’s hard to see a reason not to buy an Xbox One S. Even if you already have an Xbox One, it could be the sole reason to encourage you to upgrade.
HDR gaming might also be something you'd like to have for your brand, spanking new 4K TV. And the entry level price of the S is reasonable to say the least.
However, if you’re happy to wait and want true 4K gaming, you might want to cast an eye at the PlayStation 4 Pro or hold off until next year. Project Scorpio is coming at the end of 2017 with 4K gaming and high quality VR. But it will no doubt be very pricey on launch, so that could be a factor too. At least Microsoft has promised that all games released for Xbox will be compatible across all of its machines, just with slight benefits for the consoles with more oomph.