Is Microsoft’s newest Xbox worth buying?
This year’s E3 was rather interesting if you are an Xbox and Microsoft fan. Microsoft announced not one, but two new upgrades to the already existing base Xbox One- the Xbox One S, which is the slimmer version of the current SKU, and the Xbox Scorpio, which will be a major upgrade hardware wise- but more on that later.
One of the advantages of any slimmer machine is that it’s expected to be smaller in form factor compared to the original version. And fortunately, the Xbox One S obliges- it’s far smaller than the already existing console. Microsoft claims that it’s 40% smaller, and while we are not interested in debating those claims, those numbers seem to hold up at a casual cursory glance. Perhaps equally importantly, Microsoft has got rid of that that old and bulky power supply by integrating it within the console form factor. It’s one of the major design wins of the new console, so kudos to the engineering for finally get it right, although it did take them years to get rid of this nuisance. Excitingly enough, it also seems to hint that the Xbox Scorpio will most likely also have an inbuilt power supply. Well, hopefully anyways.
Next up is the controller. When the Xbox One S was announced, we weren’t really expecting Microsoft to update the controller in any way, but they kind of surprised us. The new controller is now Bluetooth compatible (which possibly opens it up for more device compatibility ventures) and it features a studded grip in the back, which provides a superior holding experience. Other than these two updates, the overall design and form factor seems to be similar as the base model. According to us, the Elite controller is still the way to go if you are looking for a premium and just better experience overall. Regardless, these updates to the standard controller are certainly appreciated.
"Perhaps equally importantly, Microsoft has got rid of that that old and bulky power supply by integrating it within the console form factor. It’s one of the major design wins of the new console, so kudos to the engineering for finally get it right, although it did take them years to get rid of this nuisance."
Looking at the technical side of things, yes, the Xbox One S does feature slight hardware upgrades as well. The new SKU has slightly better eSRAM bandwidth, compute performance, and GPU TFLOPS, so overall, we’re talking about a 7 percent increment in the GPU in shading performance, along with 14 GB/S of extra bandwidth. Despite the improvements, though, the slight bump in specifications is a non issue for a couple of reasons. Most games have their frame rates capped at 30 or 60 fps, so even if the One S could manage 2-3 fps faster on average (which itself is miniscule), it wouldn’t show up most of the time. Meanwhile, some games with adaptive V-sync that frequently dip below 30 may see less screen tearing. However, as Microsoft themselves have said, games with dynamic framebuffers could show a marginal improvement in image quality. So for something like DOOM where the Xbox One fails to hit 1080p consistently, the Xbox One S may end up seeing slightly higher resolutions slightly more often, but nothing to write home about.
So overall, the gaming experience will most likely be same with some minor improvements. The most likely reason for this slight spec bump was because they they’ve moved to 16nm FinFET with the Xbox One S. There’s a lot more potential there for a GPU clock speed increase than just 7 percent. If they wanted to, they could’ve easily bumped up the clocks by 100-150 MHz; it’s why Nvidia’s Pascal cards have such high clock speeds. But they didn’t do that to ensure that there’d be no noticeable difference in gaming performance. To conclude, while there is definitely a spec bump, the Xbox One S will still be lagging behind the PS4 in terms of raw performance.
Talking about I/O ports, the Xbox One S features almost the same layout as the original (except that the Kinect port has been removed which further points to Microsoft’s lack of interest in the device). However, the USB port and the controller pairing button has been moved to the front of the chassis, which is the way it should have been all along.
"While there is definitely a spec bump, the Xbox One S will still be lagging behind the PS4 in terms of raw performance."
So yes, let us ask the big questions and give you a final verdict. If you don’t have an Xbox One, should you buy the Xbox One S? Well, yes, absolutely. It offers a slightly better gaming experience compared to the original Xbox One, and will also take less space in your entertainment center due to its revamped design and internal power supply. If you are a fan of the Xbox 360, the Xbox One S is the best way to jump into the current generation of consoles. But what if you already have the original Xbox One? Should you buy the slim version?
The answer in that case would be, it depends. Do things like the irritating external power supply, the lack of a 4K Blu-ray player, and the slightly inferior performance of the original Xbox One bother you? Then yes, the Xbox One S is a worthy investment. But other than that, there is absolutely no reason why you should jump into the bandwagon and buy this new slim model. You need to remember that there is a more powerful Xbox coming out next year that will play games in native 4K with fantastic graphics- so why not wait for a year and buy that instead? Given the design wins Microsoft have achieved with the Xbox One S, we believe that the Scorpio will be a better investment for current Xbox One owners.
Note: Technical sections contributed By Arjun Krishna Lal.