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Xbox One S review: The Xbox One moves into the 4K generation

Mark Hachman | Aug. 3, 2016
But it's only worthwhile if you own or plan to own a 4K TV.

So the Xbox One S’s support for both 4K Blu-ray discs, 4K streaming, and HDR make it seem inexpensive, especially given all of its other capabilities—much like how Sony’s PlayStation 3 was generally thought of in the same light for the first Blu-ray discs in 2006. (Sony has announced plans for its own 4K, HDR-capable version of the PlayStation 4, but hasn’t named a price or a ship date.) And that 4K content looks great on the screen, whether it’s streamed from Amazon, Netflix, or YouTube, or played off a 4K HDR Blu-ray.

Xbox One S 4K
Mark Hachman

A scene in the 4K version of the movie Star Trek looks great, thanks to both the source media as well as the Xbox One S.

How much of a “Wow!” factor you’ll encounter will depend on what you watch—Microsoft provided a 4K Blu-ray of 2009’s Star Trek, but that film’s brown-and-orange palette didn’t do much for me despite looking sharp and detailed. Netflix and YouTube offered many more impressive moments, especially when viewing the sort of bright, vibrant nature videos that TV makers use to show off their new products.

The S will support games with HDR, incidentally. But the first ones with that feature—such as Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, and Scalebound—are still some months away.

Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra has also said that the One S will upscale games to 4K resolutions—if it does, though, I saw no obvious indication of that in the One S I used for this review, even with a 4K, HDR-enabled display in the PCWorld.com labs. Keep in mind, though, that upscaling interpolates pixels, which is quite different than processing a game and textures specifically designed for 4K.

Fit for the living room

Unlike the original Xbox One, the One S actually looks like a media box that would fit comfortably in your existing living-room setup. It measures 11.63 inches wide (or tall, if mounted vertically), 9 inches deep, and two inches thick—the original Xbox One, on the other hand, is about 13 inches wide and 11 inches deep.

While that’s about 40 percent smaller by volume (as mentioned earlier), the One S comes with another bonus: the integration of the previously massive power brick into the system. It’s a welcome subtraction, and makes the lighter weight of the One S (6.58 pounds, or about half a pound less than the original Xbox One) even more impressive.

Xbox One S front
Mark Hachman

 

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