Thoughts after 3 months with the Xbox One S

Xbox One SBack in August, Seán reviewed the Xbox One S console for 4-One Gaming. Since its release, it has received a few updates, and with Black Friday and the holidays coming up, a few of them may be expected to fly off the shelves. Therefore I thought that an update to his review three months on might make for an interesting read, so here we go.

I wanted to give everyone an update on my personal Xbox One S experience since I bought it in August. For those who are on the fence about getting one this holiday season I want to give you some pros and maybe a con or two. Despite it being an excellent console all round and taking advantage of a 4K Blu-Ray player unlike its closest competitor, it’s not exactly a must purchase at this point. Here are a few points to consider before making the jump. 

Games – Does it actually improve performance over the vanilla Xbox One? In short, no. During the time I have had it I have not noticed any significant performance improvement. Using an external hard drive on my vanilla Xbox One I was getting near similar loading times. In certain games there could be a slight gain in frames per second on Xbox One S but honestly, you probably won’t notice it. I haven’t and I am really attentive to these kinds of things.

xbox one s

I would say the improvement in frames per second is negligible. The UI navigates at a very similar pace as the vanilla Xbox One as well. If there is anything I can say with regards to the added performance boost it’s that you might notice a slight improvement in load times off the internal hard drive. Basically, don’t buy it expecting a noticeable performance improvement. It’s still on par with the previous system. It never advertised itself as a performance boost over vanilla Xbox One and it really isn’t.

4K Performance – Let’s be honest, this is why everyone is really buying the Xbox One S. The Xbox One S upscales all available content to 4K if your TV is compatible. It does a very good job as well. A lot of budget priced 4K TV’s have less than stellar upscaling. Even many mid-range 4K TV’s do not do an excellent job of upscaling content. The Xbox One S picks up the difference and does a great job of upscaling the 4K content.

The 4K BluRay player is excellent. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch actual native 4K content on BluRay and not just upscaled streaming 4K content. The sound quality on the actual BluRay is far superior to the streaming audio quality and the picture is obviously a constant and uninterrupted 4K picture. It offers a truly immersive home theatre experience with the right TV setup. Not even Sony can match that experience for movies right now with its PS4 Pro.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) – As with my initial review this topic is a bit more tricky to answer in some aspects but here are a few facts to consider. Xbox One S supports HDR10, the gold standard in HDR content. Its does not support Dolby Vision and Microsoft have no plans to implement support for it. Most every HDR compatible TV set now supports HDR10 with very few exceptions. I won’t focus too heavily on compatibility right now but just make sure that if you have a 4K HDR compatible TV set that you do verify on your TV manufacturer’s website that it states that it supports HDR10 or Premium HDR. If it says it’s a Dolby Vision set, the HDR settings on the Xbox One will not function properly or fully.

HDR is not universally the same with regards to quality. My personal 4K TV is not HDR compatible but I have it professionally calibrated and the color accuracy is darn near perfect over the out of box standard tuning. HDR is, in a nutshell, just a technology that is capable of displaying a wider array of colors. Deeper blacks and brighter colors. I have spent dozens of hours pouring over this HDR issue and I would just caution anyone considering a new 4KTV and Xbox One S not to get hung up on the HDR thing. It’s not a hill to die on. It’s not all on a level playing field yet and the technology is still very young. It is having growing pains and still needs a few more years to mature before it will be totally ironed out.

True, full HDR is expensive and will put a 55″ set well towards the $1500 to $2000 price tag. Just because a TV set is technically fully compatible with the Xbox One does not mean the set is actually displaying a full and true HDR experience. Compare a 55″ Samsung 6300 series ($599) versus a 55″ Samsung 9000 series ($1495) for the differences in HDR quality. One offers a “limited” HDR and the other a true and fully enabled HDR.

In summary, buying an Xbox One S for its HDR content is inadvisable at this point. It’s a bonus if you can afford it but the amount of games utilising HDR compatibility is slim right now. You are better off simply buying the Xbox One S simply for its excellent 4K upscaling technology and experience. It is now the new standard for the console, but you can grab the vanilla Xbox One for cheaper if you’re not too fussy about HDR and 4K TV watching.

Overall, if you are considering an Xbox One S and you have or will have a 4K TV shortly, it’s a worthwhile purchase. If you don’t have a 4K TV, wait. There is no reason to spend the extra money for a device that won’t be fully compatible. I hope this helps makes your choice a little easier this holiday season.

For Seán’s full console review back in August, click here.

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