What the original Xbox should have been
The original Xbox One gaming console has been around since 2013, and Microsoft is finally giving it a much needed refresh. The Xbox One S is also aimed at countering Sony, which has updated its PlayStation line-up, including the PlayStation 4 Slim (Rs27,990) and PlayStation 4 Pro (Rs38,990). Microsoft is currently selling the 500 GB and 1 TB variants in India. A 2 TB version is also available in some countries.
The Xbox One S is 40% smaller than its predecessor, and 600g lighter. While the Xbox One had an external power supply adaptor, this is inbuilt in the Xbox One S, so there is no unwieldy power brick to slot behind or under the table. Sony has done this with the PlayStation 4 all along. The Xbox One S looks good too, dressed in white with black accents around the optical drive and parts of the front panel—an inspiration from the Stormtrooper of Star Wars perhaps? It is also possible to place the Xbox One S vertically—as long as you buy the optional accessory (around Rs2,400; Amazon.in)—transforming a big black box into something sleeker and better-looking.
The Kinect port, for the motion-detection technology that Microsoft had initially pushed with the Xbox One, is no longer there. This should, in all likelihood, signal the end of that technology—there just weren’t enough new games coming through which supported Kinect. You will also find an infrared (IR) port, which means the console can now be configured with the universal remotes for your home entertainment devices. Microsoft claims to have improved wireless “AC” performance, though we did not find any difference in game download speeds and video-streaming performance on our 100 Mbps internet connection, between the Xbox One S and the Xbox One.
The eight-core AMD processor remains the same, and the overall performance does not feel faster or in any way different from the trusty Xbox One. Graphics, however, have a faster clock speed of 914 MHz, up from 853 MHz earlier. This change is to process the high dynamic range (HDR) feature—HDR offers a wider range of colours and richer contrast, both of which combine for better detailing. Games that use dynamic resolution (it will be mentioned on the games) will look better visually.
Microsoft has tweaked the controller as well. While the design and button layout largely remain the same, the textured grip makes it better to hold. It too comes in a white colour—be careful, because dirt will show up rather easily. The new controller gives the illusion of being heftier than the predecessor, which actually feels good while gaming.
To become a proper 4K (up to 3,840x2,160 resolution) streaming machine, the Xbox One S has HDMI 2.0 support, which works with 4K videos at 60 Hz refresh rates (Xbox One has HDMI 1.4, a standard limited to 4K at 30Hz). Your 4K TV will also need to have HDMI 2.0 capability.
The Xbox One S is not a 4K gaming machine though—that is an honour reserved for the Xbox One X console, which should arrive in India in 2018. This will be capable of handling complete 4K gaming with HDR, and have a custom 8-core AMD processor as well as more RAM. At present, what you get with the Xbox One S is gaming that has been upscaled from the Full HD resolutions, using a method known as “checkerboarding”. This uses multiple image-processing algorithms to understand the contents of the visuals on the screen in real time and add new pixels between existing pixels vertically and horizontally, to offer sharper and more detailed visuals. The Xbox One S does the upscaling rather well and makes lesser-resolution content look good on a 4K TV.
The Xbox One S is leaner, prettier and fully compatible with your existing Xbox One game library. HDR gaming capability adds some amount of future proofing, but the question remains—should you spend on the Xbox One S when the more capable Xbox One X is arriving soon? Perhaps the Xbox One S launch comes a tad later than would have been ideal. If you already own an Xbox One, there doesn’t seem to be enough to justify the expense. And if you aren’t necessarily loyal to any one platform, you might also want to consider the PlayStation 4 Slim.