E3 2016: You would have already heard of the Xbox One S (“S” for Slim) by now, which Microsoft announced earlier this week at their Xbox E3 2016 Briefing. At a behind-closed door session, Albert Penello, Senior Director for Product Management & Planning, gave us a more intimate moment with the console.
The Xbox One S is essentially a downsized version of the original Xbox One. Microsoft is calling it their smallest and most compact Xbox console ever, and it’s not hard to see why, considering that it’s a good 40% smaller than the Xbox One. What’s more surprising is that they managed this degree of compactness and weight (it’s lighter than the current Xbox One + power brick) even after integrating the power brick directly within the Xbox One S! Say goodbye to the old clunky external power brick. And if it’s not yet obvious, the refreshing “robot white” color scheme is another welcomed change with this updated console.
It even offers slightly better performance than the standard Xbox One too, as it now boasts 4K Ultra HD video support for 4K Blu-ray movies and content streamed from Netflix and Amazon Video. Your videos should be noticeably more vibrant as well, thanks to its newly implemented High Dynamic Range (HDR) capabilities.
Games that support HDR will, obviously, look more beautiful than their non-HDR counterparts. At the moment, we only know Gears of War 4, Scalebound and Forza Horizon 3 will have HDR implementation. You’ll also need a HDR-compatible TV, of course. Albert told us that implementing HDR in games is a decision developers have to make for themselves, but he also added that from a technical standpoint, it isn’t a difficult task at all. The Xbox One S is also able to upscale games to a 4K resolution too. It’s important to note, of course, that this doesn’t mean Xbox One games will run at a native 4K resolution on Xbox One S, nor is it clear how much of a difference it will make over your 4K TV’s internal upscaling.
Also launched alongside the Xbox One S is the new and improved Xbox One wireless controller, which shares the same white color scheme as the console, on top of new textured grips on its back. It now supports Bluetooth connectivity as well, allowing you to pair it up with the Xbox One S and your Windows PC / notebook / tablet. An Elite Controller with this Bluetooth upgrade is apparently in the works too.
The Xbox One S will come in three versions, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB, and priced at US$299, US$349 and US$399 respectively. Albert also shared that one popular feedback from fans have been for both horizontal and vertical orientation support with the stand. So the stand will be available together with the 2TB console, but owners of the 500GB and 1TB version will have to buy it for an additional US$19.90. Do the math, and the 2TB does makes the most value-for-money choice.
Another small, but useful change is the relocation of the left USB port to the front of the console. Other significant changes include using a traditional push switch-button over a touch-sensitive sensor (Editor: No more accidental shutdowns during intense gaming moments when your pet brushes past your Xbox console), and an upgrade to the wireless 802.11ac standard. Microsoft has also done a lot of work and improvements on the console’s thermal design, so that it runs cooler and quieter.
Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the Kinect camera is not included as part of the package. Kinect games are nearly extinct on the Xbox One, although there are a couple of gems here and then – such as Ubisoft’s excellent Just Dance franchise. So Microsoft is still keen to ensure that the Xbox One S supports the Kinect camera. The shrinkage of the internal circuit board meant that the size of the Kinect port at the rear has shrunk as well. So owners who wish to use their existing Kinect camera on the Xbox Console S will have to request for a cable adapter from Microsoft, which they will mail over free of charge. Kinects sold on the shelves will come with this new adapter.
The new Xbox One S and the new controller, will be available in the US from August 2016 onwards, and a staggered release for other markets.