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What is Xbox One S? All your questions about Microsoft's slim new console answered

Everything you need to know to understand what in the heck is going on in the Xbox family.

xbox one s

What is Xbox One S? All about the latest Xbox console

Xbox One S is a hardware revision of the Xbox One. Announced alongside the more dramatic Project Scorpio, it is best thought of as similar to the "slim" hardware revisions we've seen in past console generations.

What makes it different from those past efforts is that it actually boasts a number of features and capabilities the original Xbox One does not support. That said, it is not a new console generation, and Microsoft does not intend to release games that are only playable on Xbox One S. Let's take a closer look.

How is the Xbox One S different from the Xbox One?

To date, the only key differentiator between Xbox One models has been the size of the hard drive and what it came bundled with - things like the Kinect camera, games or the Elite controller. The base console itself was largely the same. That all changes now.

Because it has the same basic innards as the Xbox One, the Xbox One S can play all Xbox One and forwards compatible Xbox 360 titles - but it is a new piece of hardware with expanded capabilities. The Xbox One S has more graphical capabilities than Xbox One for those developers who choose to take advantage of it moving forwards.

To be explicit: unlike the Xbox One, the Xbox One S supports HDR visuals for games (should developers choose to take advantage of it), has full 4K support for Blu-ray and all compatible media playback, and can upscale games to 4K output. That said, you won't see improvements in game performance, so don't expect all those 30 FPS games to suddenly run at 60 FPS.

Unlike the Xbox One, the Xbox One S supports HDR visuals for games (should developers choose to take advantage of it), has full 4K support for Blu-ray and all compatible media playback, and can upscale games to 4K output.

It also has a very different form factor. You can think of it as the Xbox One Slim: it's physically smaller (40%, according to Microsoft, and who are we to argue?) and doesn't have that great big power brick hanging off it.

Unlike the original Xbox One, the Xbox One S can be positioned vertically as well as horizontally; the vertical stand is bundled with the Launch 2TB Edition, or sold separately for $20. The Xbox One S has a physical power button instead of the touch sensitive control of the original Xbox One, and some of the Xbox One's back panel components have moved to the front face of the Xbox One S - the device pairing button and a single USB slot. It's also "robot white" rather than dark and brooding.

The Xbox One S control pad is different, too; it has new, more durable analog sticks and a textured grip. It will connect to your PC via Bluetooth, so you can use it for Microsoft's new Play Anywhere Windows 10 scheme or just general PC gaming.

The Xbox One S is not compatible with Kinect out of the box; you'll need an adapter. The situation with the adapter is a bit of a strange one: you'll need access to the serial number from your Xbox One S, your original Xbox One, and your Kinect. If you have those three, Microsoft will kindly send you the adapter free-of-charge. If you don't, you can buy the adapter separately.

Handily if you choose not to worry about Kinect the console does come with a built-in IR blaster you can use to control your TV and other devices, something currently only possible with a Kinect.

Finally, the Xbox One S is available with a hard drive of up to 2TB in size, whereas the Xbox One only goes up to 1TB.

xbox one s new wireless conroller

Why should I buy an Xbox One S, or upgrade from an Xbox One?

If you already own an Xbox One, there are several reasons why you might choose to upgrade to an Xbox One S. Perhaps you want a 2TB hard drive, or want to free up some space on your entertainment unit by going vertical (or just smaller). Maybe you have a 4K TV, or simply must have that shiny white colour scheme.

For the rest of us, the original Xbox One is still doing the job - and if you really fancy the new control pad, you can purchase it separately for $60.

Xbox One S release date: when does the new Xbox come out?

  • Xbox One S 2TB Launch Edition - August 2
  • Xbox One S 1TB - August 23
  • Xbox One S 500GB - August 23

The Xbox One S 2TB Launch Edition will be a limited run, and followed up by two other SKUs. At present, it looks like the 1TB and 500GB Xbox One S consoles will only be available in bundles.

Xbox One S price: how much does it cost?

The 1TB and 500GB Xbox One S consoles appear only to be available in bundles. As of July 2016, only two have been announced:

  • The Xbox One S 1TB Madden NFL 17 bundle comes with copy of Madden NFL 17 (physical at GameStop, digital elsewhere), seven Madden Ultimate Team Pro Packs and one month of EA Access. First-run purchases will also include a 20% voucher for NFLShop.com.
  • The Xbox One S Halo Collection bundle is available in 500GB or 1TB versions. Both come with Halo 5: Guardians and Halo: The Master Chief Collection packed in.

All three Xbox One S SKUs will come bundled with a controller, which is also available separately for $60/€60/£50.

Likewise if you're in search of a larger hard drive, remember Xbox One takes external USB hard drives as standard - all you have to do is plug and play, so if you're happy with your current console's form factor and design you might find just picking up a new external hard drive both cheaper and more palatable.

Xbox One S special editions

One Xbox One S special edition has been announced so far: the Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Xbox One S.

Scheduled for release on October 7 2016, the Gears of War-themed Xbox One S comes with a unique Crimson Omen design with matching controller, a vertical stand and custom system sounds.

It has a 2TB hard drive and is bundled with Gears of War 4: Ultimate Edition; buying this Xbox One S console will grant owners a four day early access window for Gears of War 4. It also includes the Gears of War 4 season pass.

The Gears of War-branded Xbox One S controller found in the Limited Edition will be available for purchase separately at $75.

Where can I buy an Xbox One S?

The Xbox One S is available for pre-order through most major video game retailers, including Amazon and GAME and GameStop.

Which is the newest Xbox?

  • As of the latest update to this page on August 1st 2016, the Xbox One S is the newest Xbox console you can buy.
  • As of the same period, the Xbox One S will be the newest Xbox console on the market.
  • The Xbox Scorpio will become the newest Xbox when it launches, but that won't be until late 2017.

Which Xbox One to buy?

Right now, a 1TB Xbox One will set you back $279/€279/£230 or less. If you haven't yet got an Xbox One of any kind, you might want to take advantage of this lower price and buy in with the entry level model.

If you can wait till August, you can pick up a limited edition Xbox One S with a 2TB hard drive for $399/€399/£349. Other configurations with smaller hard drives will also be available, but have not yet been dated.

As for the Xbox Scorpio, it won't release until the end of 2017 and is absolutely only for 4K capable displays. Unless you're certain you'll have the screen to live up to it, there's little point waiting that long when you could be playing on an Xbox One now or Xbox One S in August.

There's no need to worry about investing in potentially soon-to-be-obsolete games and accessories, either. All Xbox One software is and will be forwards-compatible with both Xbox One S and Xbox Scorpio. All Xbox One S software and peripheral hardware will be forward compatible with Xbox Scorpio.

xbox one s

Xbox One, Xbox One S and Project Scorpio: Play Anywhere

Xbox One S is only one of two new Xbox One consoles detailed at E3 2016, so you may be wondering what in the heck is going on. The key to understanding all this is Microsoft's "Play Anywhere" scheme: most first-party Microsoft titles are now Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusives. Whether you purchase a Play Anywhere game on PC or one of the three Xbox One consoles, you can access it from any of those pieces of hardware.

The idea is that Xbox Live becomes the platform, rather than the hardware.

The idea is that Xbox Live becomes the platform, rather than the hardware, and that Microsoft-branded gaming will be affordable on a whole range of budgets. Whether you have a low-end gaming PC, an Xbox One, an Xbox One S, an Xbox Scorpio or a top of the line super PC, you can play Gears of War 4, and play it cross-platform with everyone in the Xbox Live family (using the Xbox One S's new PC-friendly control pad, to boot). If you have more than one of these hardware setups, you can play on any of them, swapping seamlessly between them.

These smaller-step hardware increments mean hardcore gamers with a lot of cash can pony up for top of the line visuals without having to wait for a whole new generation of consoles, while those with less pocket money aren't left behind. Microsoft and its customers can take advantage of shiny new advances in tech like 4K and virtual reality without leaving its existing user base behind if they're not ready to invest in the necessary hardware.

It also means those of you with plenty of disposable income but no desire to get into the intricacies of PC gaming can have a comparable experience to high-end PC gamers even several years on from a console generation transition. No selecting and installing components, or worries about compatibility; just plug and play. Conversely, PC gaming on the Xbox Live platform is more like a walled garden than PC gamers will be used to.

Xbox One S vs PS4 Neo, Project Scorpio and Nintendo NX

The Xbox One S isn't the only new console on the horizon. Microsoft has already announced Project Scorpio, a second hardware revision due in late 2017; Nintendo's NX will be detailed this year ahead of early 2017 release; and we're expecting the PS4 Neo perhaps as early as this year.

Of these new pieces of hardware, the Xbox One S and the PS4 Neo have the most in common: they're comparable luxury upgrades to existing consoles rather than significant leaps forward.

If you're yet to purchase either a PS4 or an Xbox One, the PS4 Neo and Xbox One S just give you more options to choose from if you decide to make the jump. If you've got one or both consoles, a 4K compatible display and a burning desire to have the latest and greatest tech, things get a little bit more complicated.

Right now, without consumer builds of either console and no official announcement of the PS4 Neo, it seems like the Xbox One S is positioned to bring the Xbox One roughly on par with the PS4, making up for Microsoft's shortfall this generation. From what we know at the moment, and subject to change: it looks like the Neo is then another step up from that point. (Want to know more? Here's everything we know about the PS4 Neo.) On the other hand, it seems like Project Scorpio is going to up the ante considerably - and then there's the NX wildcard.

In short, unless you're absolutely sure you want a 4K-compatible console and have the money to splash about, it might be best to wait and see how things play out in the coming months.

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