How the Xbox One S Became an Elite 4K Media Machine for Thrifty Gamers

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Xbox One S

The Xbox One S serves as a refined, streamlined version of Microsoft’s 8th generation console. This slick new model provides some worthwhile enhancements and design changes while sticking with the original Xbox One’s ethos as an all-in-one entertainment system. How does the refreshed One S compare to the original model? What exactly does it bring to the table for both new and existing Xbox gamers?

A Slimmer, Sleeker Design

Physically speaking, the most obvious upgrade with the Xbox One S lies in its new slim form factor. Microsoft managed to shrink the console’s footprint by around 40% compared to the chunky original launch model. It now measures 11.6 x 8.9 x 2.5 inches and weighs about 7.7 lbs.

The overhaul provides a svelte new look in line with modern tech aesthetics. The matte white finish is a stark departure from previous black Xbox models. It may not appeal to everyone, but helps make the device fit seamlessly into living room entertainment setups.

Other physical changes include a newly integrated power supply to trim things down. There’s also an eject button on the front rather than on top, and the USB ports were moved to the front rather than side for easier access.

Beefed Up Hardware Under the Hood

Despite the trimmed exterior, Microsoft upgraded some of the internals for increased performance:

  • Processor: The Xbox One S retains the 8-core x86 AMD CPU but it has been slightly overclocked from 1.75GHz to 2.1GHz.
  • Graphics: The integrated AMD graphics chipset sees a noticeable bump from 853MHz up to 914MHz.
  • Memory: The DDR3 RAM remains the same at 8GB for multitasking and system performance.

This improved hardware allows the One S to output 4K visuals along with High Dynamic Range (HDR) capabilities. When paired with a compatible 4K TV, the difference in clarity and depth is highly impressive for video content and some games.

4K and HDR Support

One of the biggest upgrades offered by the Xbox One S is its ability to support 4K Ultra HD media playback as well as upscaled 4K game visuals and HDR:

  • For video, the Xbox One S can stream 4K content from providers like Netflix and Hulu. The onboard HDMI port is HDMI 2.0a enabled as well.
  • For disc-based media, it includes an integrated 4K Blu-ray player. It’s the most affordable way to enjoy 4K Blu-ray movies.
  • On the gaming front, the One S supports 4K upscaling for some titles. While games don’t natively render at 4K, the console will upscale visuals to near-4K quality.
  • High Dynamic Range enables a wider color gamut with darker blacks and brighter whites. When paired with a compatible TV, it makes for livelier, more nuanced visuals.

While not as powerful as the Xbox One X, the Xbox One S marks a notable milestone as the most affordable 4K HDR console option on the market currently.

Refined Gaming Performance

Even with games rendering below native 4K, Microsoft made some under-the-hood tweaks to improve gaming performance on the Xbox One S over the original model:

  • Small CPU overclock combined with the faster GPU improves frame rates in some games that struggled on the original Xbox One.
  • USB transfer rates see a welcome boost on the One S, decreasing game install and load times.
  • Overall system software including boot times and game launching runs a little smoother on average.

These refinements lead to a subtly but noticeably snappier overall gaming experience. While not revolutionary, games feel a bit peppier compared to sluggish moments on the first iteration of Xbox hardware.

Backward Compatibility

Owners of the original Xbox One don’t have to worry about leaving their gaming libraries behind. The Xbox One S retains full backward compatibility with all existing Xbox One titles.

It also builds on Microsoft’s push for cross-generational compatibility. The Xbox One S can play a variety of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games just like its predecessor.

Over 400 past Xbox titles are playable on the Xbox One S. Microsoft has also vowed to continue adding compatibility for new games in future system updates.

What’s Included in the Box?

The Xbox One S comes nicely packaged with the essentials for setting up and playing the right way:

  • Xbox One S 500GB or 1TB console
  • Xbox wireless controller (with Bluetooth connectivity)
  • HDMI cable
  • Power cable
  • 14-day free Xbox Live Gold trial
  • 1 month Xbox Game Pass subscription

The streamlined packaging reduces waste compared to the original model. The Xbox One S is ready to use out of the box without any complicated setup steps.

Xbox One S

Customization and Accessories

While not as robust as the Xbox Design Lab offerings for the Xbox One X, buyers do get some nice customization options for the One S:

  • The console itself comes in basic white or bundled limited editions with colored accents and designs.
  • Xbox Wireless controllers can be bought separately in a variety of color patterns and designs.
  • Other accessories like headsets, charging stands, and cables also come in matching colors for a customized setup.

For those invested in the Xbox ecosystem, most existing Xbox One accessories will work on the Xbox One S without issue.

Entertainment and Features

Like the original, the Xbox One S strives to be the centerpiece of any living room entertainment setup:

  • It provides complete access to popular media streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, and many more in up to 4K.
  • The onboard 4K Blu-ray player provides stunning disc-based movie playback.
  • Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana integrates directly through any Xbox One headset for hands-free navigation.
  • Xbox One’s robust social features like party chat are fully present.

Microsoft regularly updates the Xbox One with new features. Any changes roll out to both the Xbox One S and original models simultaneously.

Xbox One S vs. Xbox One X

Shortly after the One S release, Microsoft launched its Xbox One X console in 2017. This remains the company’s leading console in terms of performance:

  • Xbox One X natively renders games in 4K resolution whereas the Xbox One S upscales to near-4K visuals.
  • The Xbox One X offers much more processing power with a stronger CPU and beefier GPU for smooth 60fps gameplay on visually enhanced titles.
  • Xbox One X supports full Dolby Vision HDR compared to standard HDR10 on Xbox One S.

However, the Xbox One X costs more while the Xbox One S provides a more budget-friendly 4K gaming option. It still improves upon the original Xbox One model in meaningful ways at an affordable price point.


On the whole, the Xbox One S serves as a compelling iterative update to the 8th generation Xbox platform. It retains everything that made the original Xbox One a solid living room centerpiece while injecting some worthwhile upgrades like 4K and HDR support. For new buyers or upgraders without a 4K television, it still provides moderate performance gains over the launch Xbox One. With affordable pricing and bundles frequently on sale, the Xbox One S earns its place as the ideal entry point to Microsoft’s gaming ecosystem heading into the next generation.


What resolution do games run at on the Xbox One S?

The Xbox One S upscales games to near-4K quality. Most titles render natively at 1080p and are upsampled to 4K output resolution. On a 4K TV it provides a noticeably sharper image over regular 1080p. Native 4K game rendering is only available on the more powerful Xbox One X.

How is performance compared to the original Xbox One?

Thanks to a slightly faster CPU and bigger GPU, games generally run a little better on the One S. You can expect moderately higher and more stable framerates as well as shorter loading times. Improvements are modest but noticeable.

What makes the Xbox One S better for media playback?

The Xbox One S supports 4K Ultra HD and HDR content. When connected to a compatible 4K HDR television, you can enjoy stunning clarity and contrast for video streaming and 4K Blu-ray movie playback that the original model lacks.

Is the Xbox One S completely silent?

No, there is still a built-in fan for cooling like the original model. But the One S runs quieter and generates less heat thanks to the integrated power supply and redesigned internals. It is much quieter than the launch Xbox One during media playback and light gaming. Intensive 3D games can still cause fan noise though.

Can I use the same accessories?

Yes, all existing Xbox One controllers, headsets, cables, and other accessories fully work on the Xbox One S. New accessories like the Xbox wireless controllers with Bluetooth also work on older Xbox One consoles.

Should I upgrade from my launch Xbox One?

If you don’t have a 4K TV, there’s less incentive to upgrade. But if you do have 4K/HDR or plan to upgrade soon, the Xbox One S makes a worthy successor. It provides the full slate of Xbox One gaming and entertainment features in a smaller package with 4K media support.

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