With Microsoft's aggressive push into 4K gaming, while pledging to bring the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and original Xbox ecosystems into the fold via backward compatibility, the Xbox platform has never been more attractive. That's due to constant updates via Xbox Live, free games every month, Netflix-like game pass subscriptions with over a hundred games, and a vast lineup of first- and third-party games that will look and play better on the new Xbox One X.
If you're already inside the ecosystem, we have a post looking at whether or not you should upgrade your existing Xbox One to the upcoming Xbox One X, slated for launch in November 2017. This article is designed to guide newcomers toward the ecosystem, focusing on what you'll gain, and what you'll lose, depending on whether you choose the One S or One X.
Tech spec breakdown
For the sake of comparisons, here's what you'll get between the Xbox One S and Xbox One X.
|Console||Xbox One S||Xbox One X|
|Optical drive||4K UHD Blu-ray||4K UHD Blu-ray|
|Memory||8GB DDR3 / 32MB ESRAM||12GB GDDR5|
|Memory bandwidth||64 GB/s||326 GB/s|
|CPU||Eight Jaguar cores|
cores (2.3 GHz)
|GPU||12 CUs (914MHz)||40 CUs (1,172Mhz)|
The Xbox One X is more powerful in every single respect, rocking more advanced processing, far more compute units, and an incredible 6TFs of computational power. It's also more expensive, and the Xbox One S is still capable of outputting 4K for media and video. The choice isn't as clear-cut as it might seem.
Do you need a 4K TV?
The noteworthy differences pertain to power. The Xbox One X is ridiculously more powerful than the Xbox One S. The Xbox One X is designed to power 4K games, complete with HDR and wide color gamut. All games will look and run better on an Xbox One X, regardless of whether you have a 4K TV or not. And it's worth noting that the Xbox One X will have no "exclusive" games or accessories, they'll all work on the Xbox One X, and vice versa.
The Xbox One X uses supersampling to improve the image quality of games running on 1080p screens. For more details on how supersampling works, take a look at the post linked below. You'll benefit from better draw distances, better lighting, texture filtering, and other visual upgrades developers bake into their games designed for the Xbox One X. Of course, to get the most out of the Xbox One X, you'll need a 4K television, which can be rather pricey. If you have a 4K TV already though, the decision essentially boils down to one thing: price.
The Xbox One S can be purchased for around $250 these days, often with a game. The Xbox One X will set you back $499. The Xbox One X is more expensive due to the engineering effort and super-powered hardware inside the machine. Microsoft developed new techniques to increase the speed at which the Xbox One X's parts communicate, increasing the console's value and power without simply stuffing in more powerful parts. To obtain the feature set of the Xbox One X with a Windows PC, you'd have to spend significantly more than $499.
On the other hand, the Xbox One X won't have a huge amount of games with 4K updates at launch. Some notable titles include Forza Motorsport 7, Crackdown 3, Assassin's Creed: Origins, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and a few others, that will output at native 4K with boosted draw distances, texture density, and other features.
Games that have been developed with "change resilience" in mind will also run better on the Xbox One X. Games that utilize dynamic resolution scaling to maintain frame rates during intensive sequences, such as The Division, and Battlefield 1, will look better on the Xbox One X even without a patch, hitting their target frame rates and resolutions more frequently. However, many games will be getting upgrade patches too, including the aforementioned Battlefield 1, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
However, those games will all still look and run great on an Xbox One S, too, which is significantly cheaper. The Xbox One S also comes with HDR and a 4K media capabilities, and even if it's not powerful enough for 4K games it serves as a cheaper entry point to the ecosystem. If you're not particularly interested in getting the best visuals and you just value gameplay, the Xbox One S is still a compelling option. And, hey, it's available right now unlike the Xbox One X, which is expected to launch this fall.
Xbox One S vs. Xbox One X: Wrapping up
The Xbox One X is a pricey option at $499, but Microsoft demonstrated the value very well at E3 2017. The Xbox One X packs 6TFs of computational power, making it the most powerful console ever built, designed for 4K resolutions. It's also the smallest Xbox ever made.
The Xbox One S is significantly weaker than the Xbox One X, with games generally targeting resolutions around the 900p mark. The Xbox One X will produce better visuals even on 1080p screens, but if you don't particularly care about graphics, games running on the Xbox One S can still look truly stunning.
If you can afford it, I recommend the Xbox One X and a good 4K TV every time. Seeing Assassin's Creed: Origins running at True 4K was eye-wateringly beautiful, and that alone sold me on the console. You could also buy the Xbox One S today, and trade it in for an Xbox One X come November 7, 2017.
If you'd rather save money, the Xbox One X will still be around in a year and will get plenty of price drops of its own - along with the 4K TVs it really requires to shine. The best part: Any games you purchase on the Xbox One S will work on the Xbox One X, and they'll look better too.
If you have any questions about the Xbox One X that I've left unanswered, hit the FAQ in the link below or leave a comment and I'll get back to you.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!