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The ultimate Xbox One buyer's guide

After E3 2017 there is a whole family of Xbox One consoles to enjoy. Three different consoles, with different perks to each, but all with the same shared value: playing all the great Xbox One games available today and in the future.

The buying decision is therefore now more difficult. Should you drop the extra cash on an Xbox One S when there are still other, perhaps cheaper, options to spend your money on? Or start saving for the newest and most powerful console yet, the Xbox One X?

Hopefully, that's where we can help. This is our Xbox One buyers guide.

Xbox tech specs

CategoryXbox One XXbox One S
ProcessorEight-core CPU at 2.3GHzEight-core custom AMD CPU at 1.75GHz
Storage1TB (more options could be announced)500GB, 1TB or 2TB launch edition
Memory12GB of GDDR5 RAM at 6.8GHz with 326 GB/s bandwidth8GB DDR3 RAM
GraphicsSix teraflop GPU at 1,172MHz, 40 compute unitsCustom Radeon GPU with 1.23 teraflops
PortsHDMI-in; HDMI-out; one front-facing USB 3.0; two rear-facing USB 3.0; IR receiver/blaster; SPDIF digital audio; EthernetHDMI-in; HDMI-out; one front-facing USB 3.0; two rear-facing USB 3.0; IR receiver/blaster; SPDIF digital audio; Ethernet
Optical drive4K UHD Blu-ray4K UHD Blu-ray
Price$499From $249

The Xbox One X

Xbox One X

The first thing you should know about the Xbox One X is that it is an unrivaled beast of a console. It;s the most powerful games console ever made, by a fairly big margin.

The second thing is that it doesn't come out until November 7, 2017. So you either wait or you buy one of the other versions of the Xbox One that are currently available.

The Xbox One X will handle games at 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second (FPS), which for a console is a staggering achievement, and Forza Motorsport 7 will be the poster child achieving just this. Add in generally enhanced graphics, better textures and more, and you have games at a quality that until now were unheard of on a console.

The Xbox One X is also the smallest Xbox console ever made, while retaining things like an internal power supply and 4K UHD Blu-ray player first brought with the Xbox One S. The IR blaster is also retained. And 4K isn't just for games and Blu-ray discs, either, with streaming content from sources like Amazon and Netflix available, and everything can be had in glorious HDR.

The base model will have a 1TB hard drive and will cost $499. We expect other sizes to be available for an additional cost, but those details are unknown. Preorders for the special Project Scorpio edition sold out very quickly, but the regular version is now available for preorder. But get it while it's hot, they're selling fast.

See at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

The Xbox One S

Xbox One S

The 2016 addition to the Xbox family is going to become the new entry-level model. It's half the price of the Xbox One X yet still offers some of the benefits you get on the forthcoming monster console.

The Xbox One S is 40 percent smaller than the original Xbox One and while there are no internal upgrades in a sense of "better" games and graphics, there are some important bits and pieces that make it stand out.

The first is 4K video output. The Xbox One S was the first console to output at native 4K resolution, though it's limited to video content. Games can be upscaled from 1080p, but true 4K gaming is reserved for the Xbox One X.

With that you also get to watch 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. The Xbox One S is about the cheapest 4K Blu-ray player on the market, which in itself is remarkable. It's also got an IR blaster for easier remote control of other AV components.

The Xbox One S can be used vertically, which is new over the original model, and the enormous power brick was banished. The controller was also refreshed for 2016, with an amended design featuring rear grippy parts and Bluetooth for use with non-Xbox things more easily.

There's little doubt the Xbox One S is worth its asking price, if even just to be a 4K Blu-ray player. Throw in a games console with that, and you've got one hell of a package.

New for 2017 is the limited edition Minecraft Xbox One S (opens in new tab), with a custom paint job including a see-through base panel, custom controller, Minecraft game download, 1TB hard drive and an included vertical stand for $399. It's probably only of appeal to a Minecraft fan, but it looks so damn good!

See at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

The 'old' Xbox One

Xbox One

The "old" Xbox One is large, it's less attractive and has fewer features than the sleek upgraded models. But that doesn't mean it's bad. Sfter all, it's served us pretty well for long enough now. It's also going to cost a bit less than the Xbox One S, which could be the clincher for some.

You still get a Blu-ray drive for all the HD movies you could want, the same exact software and games experience, and you can even get it in white if the color is important.

You're "limited" to 1080p output for video on this console, and you can't use it vertically. You also have to account for the enormous power brick you have to find a home for, too. The original version of the Xbox One has comes in many bundles, some including Kinect, some including games. You can pick up either 500GB or a 1TB of storage.

One that stands out is the Elite bundle (opens in new tab), which includes a hybrid hard drive inside at 1TB, but also the incredible Xbox Elite Controller, an expensive item on its own.

With the One S announcement, the original Xbox One enjoyed some deal pricing almost immediately. Microsoft sells refurbished units for $179 currently. This is the cheapest way to get an Xbox One.

See at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

Which console should you buy?

Xbox One

Only you can make that decision, but we can make some handy recommendations. Here goes:

  • If you want to play the latest games like never before, with enhanced graphics (even at 1080p), Ultra HD resolution and general all-around badassery, you might want to hold out for the Xbox One X.
  • If you're keen on 4K video, the Xbox One S or Xbox One X are for you. The Xbox One S is also about the cheapest 4K UHD Blu-ray player on the market right now with the added bonus of being a games console.
  • If space is at a premium, you'll be happier going for the Xbox One S or One X, too. You can stand them up vertically, they're notably smaller, and don't have a gigantic external power supply to also stash somewhere.
  • If you want to spend as little as possible, go for the original console. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's big and lacks any sort of 4K output.

Accessories

Kinect

Now that you've decided to buy an Xbox One, the decision making process doesn't necessarily end. What about accessorizing your new console? The Xbox One has a host of additional bits of hardware available to it that can improve your personal experience. Hard drives, controllers, the Kinect, there's some cool stuff to look at.

The Kinect isn't available bundled with the Xbox One S, and to use one you'll need an adapter (opens in new tab). This is free to current owners who are upgrading, but everyone else will need to pay $40 in addition to the price of a Kinect. Microsoft sells them new (opens in new tab), but they're a lot more expensive than it's probably worth paying right now. Check out places you can find a pre-owned one, and you'll save a whole chunk of change on it.

If you're buying a 500GB console we highly recommend investing in an external hard drive. Xbox One games are getting bigger and bigger, especially with all the downloadable content (DLC) available. Halo 5: Guardians will take up approaching 90GB which is a big chunk of any internal storage, for example. The Xbox One can utilize multiple USB 3.0 hard drives (so long as they're at least 256GB), and if you shop around you'll always find a deal somewhere. With drives readily available in 4TB sizes, too, this is an easy way to make sure you don't have to worry about deleting games to make room for new ones.

Check out our full guide on using USB hard drives for the Xbox One for everything you need to know.

How to choose and use a USB hard drive with the Xbox One

Elite Controller

There's also a world beyond the controller that comes in the box. Check out our roundup of the best Xbox One controllers to see what else is out there.

The best Xbox One controllers

Games

There are far too many games in the Xbox One Store to go through in one post. But if you're looking for something new to play, check out the links below where we should be able to help.

Hopefully this helps you in your decision making, but if you've got any tips to share with prospective buyers be sure to drop them in the comments. And to keep up with all things Xbox, be sure to bookmark our new dedicated gaming page.

Updated September 25, 2017: We removed some older console information, added a specs comparison for the current consoles and included current preorder links for the Xbox One X.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

50 Comments
  • But I love my VCR haha but I'm just getting because of the form factor my dresser is to small haha Posted via the Windows Central App for Android (LG V10 or Nexus 5x)
  • Does anyone know if they'll make an adapter to use Xbox one s controllers with the original Xbox one? I'd like to be able to get one of those controllers so it'd be compatible with my phone as well through continuum (assuming that's still a thing that will happen)
  • You don't need an adapter. They connect right up to the original Xbox One. Go buy it now, you won't regret it. The new One S controllers have the regular connection as the One controllers, but the also have Bluetooth. But it only uses Bluetooth for PCs, phones, not the console.
  • They don't use Bluetooth for the XboxOne S? Are you sure? They talked about a wider range with the new controller and that the regular connection is just for the old controllers so the you can use both on the new Xbox One.
    Will there be a new elite controller too?
  • No the XB1 uses a proprietary wireless protocol between the controller and console. This is exactly the same in the One S as well. The Bluetooth functionality is simply for PCs.
  • Awesome. Good to know. Thanks!
  • If you're thinking of buying an Xbox One and you want Kinect, the Xbox One S w/ Kinect will cost you $90 more than an original Xbox One with Kinect, thanks to the higher MSRP ($50) and the clumsy adapter due to the lack of a Kinect port on the Xbox One S ($40). Really the only people who should buy an Xbox One S are people with 60"+ 4K TVs, and if that's you, then you'd be much better off waiting for Scorpio next year anyway, as that is a console that will actually take advantage of that 4K TV of yours, unlike the Xbox One S. For just about everyone else, the Xbox One S is not worth the surcharge over the original Xbox One.
  • It's still the cheapest 4K bluray player you can buy. So you could buy the original Xbox one and a 4k bluray player, but that would be upwards of $750 making the One S a bargain if you have a 4k TV. Even over a PS4.
  • Well, what about the difference in storage? That may be worth the $90. Or the form factor.
  • Pretty sure I'm in the minority here, but I like the look of the original Xbox One over the Xbox One S.  I love the look of the gloss black on the matte black. The eject button looks more natural, and it looks really good in my entertainment stand.
  • I agree with the eject button. Should be on the side, under the lip, or just not look so cheap.
  • Have you seen it in "real life"? I only got mine to get rid of the power brick and external drives (i had 2). Wasn't bothered about asthetics. But wow, I was really amazed at how cute this thing is. You might be surprised when you see it in real life. I think the more tactile feel of the buttons is much nicer (and no doubt more reliable) and they do not draw your eye at all. Super little machine, I am really chuffed with it.
  • I would just wait for Xbox 2/Project Scorpio at this point. If you don't already have a 1st gen One then the S is the way to go. 
  • Other than the 4K video playback functionality I personally would advise to buy the original Xbox One on the cheap now (used ones are well south of $200) and save up for the Scorpio.
  • HDR games.
  • presumably the new xbox hasn't had its inherent HDMI colour space issue addressed?, requiring the DVI setting "hack" to output the correct black levels to a TV where you cannot select limited or RGB - videophiles need not apply.
  • Don't know, but the SoC has been updated to drive HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 - so advancements might have been made in this area.
  • You missed ONE MAJOR OMISSION. If your 4K TV supports HDR lighting, all of the flagship games that were demoed at E3 have HDR capability. This means you'll have more dynamic color while you're tearing up the Horde, laying waste to Zombies in Willamette, or driving across the continent of Austrailia in Forza Horizons. I've seen BOTH HDR and NON-HDR clips from each of those games.  Believe me.  If you're already on the 4k train,  Xbox One S is literally a No-Brainer.
  • Funny thing that you can notice the difference between HDR and none HDR at a none HDR setup. I really can't see why the can't show us HDR at all TVs. Isn't that just at post-production stuff? HDR images is at least post-production.
  • If you want to just play games...and dont have a fancy tv...the old one would fit best.... Personally, I am thinking about getting the Gears 4 Xbox one S....that blood red console is just sexy...
  • I think Scorpio might be a better investment....better start saving for it
  • After 1 day I am so burnt with my new 2TB console!
    Only had 1.5 TB of space fresh out of the box and an hour to install a game, that is if it doesn't fail 10 times in a row, is unacceptable.
    Add to that the woefully bad UI and I am pi##ed.
  • Who gets mails repeatly? Pls stop it
  • Yeah got like 30+ of the same article
  • I've received this 131 times by email (YES ONE-HUNDRED-AND-THIRTY-ONE EMAILS!!!!), think you might have some gremlins in the system!!
  • @Richard Devine not sure why but iv'e recived 200+ of this same article in my email inbox.
  • Alright, I'll read your damn article. 200 emails is a good way to get my attention. Not sure I would have done the same, but dually noted for the next marketing campaign I run.
  • Also. A One S will last about 3 years more. Whereas One X will be around for 6 years. Games will stop being made for 2013 Xbox One around 2020. Anyone who thinks it won't is fooling themselves. Generations are finished with.
  • There's no reason for anyone to make Xbox 1X escusive games. Any game running at high resolution can easily be scaled back to 720p if need be on the Xbox one S. It's the CPU and the architecture that would be an issue, and the Xbox One X CPU isn't all that more powerful than the Xbox One or the S. At most there maybe a couple of features that are missing from an Xbox One S version like particle effects or something. VR maybe another reason, but VR isn't going to take off in a big way like that. So don't worry. The only difference between the two consoles is the graphical power and effects, A.I, control inputs, amount of NPC's, map size and all that kind of stuff is limited by the RAM and CPU, the extra RAM and CPU in the X will be dealing with the increased textures. The only way they word possibly be needing to only make games for the X would be if it had something like a 12 or 16 core processor with 24 or 32 GB of RAM. If a game was exclusive to scorpio it would have to be maxing out the resources and running sub 1080p, even then the Xbox One S could run it at 480p most likely.
  • Think you miss the point. A life cycle of tech for consoles averages 5 years. Normally when a new console comes out developers no longer continue to put games on the previous system. MS have changed this up making each console now forwards and backwards compatible. There will be a new machine again in 2020/21. One X isn't a mid gen upgrade like PS4 Pro. MS are taking a new approach. By 2020 the Xbox One S tech will be 7 years old. And One X will become the new base line. It's common sense to see that the current One will stop having games made for it from about 2020 onwards. Same way phones do for updates of OS. There is now way when One X 2 releases 2020/21 games will still be made for 2013 Xbox One.
  • Not really with console generations, the consoles are usually orders of magnitude greater than their predecessors. The Xbox One X may have 4-5 times the Teraflops, but all that will enable is the increased resolution and possibly marginally better lighting or shadows. The leap from Xbox 360 and PS3 to Xbox One and PS4 allowed things like 64 player servers in games like Battlefield, many more cars to race against in games like Forza, as well as weather effects in Forza Horizon 2. Basically there was much more that could be added to games aside from just better graphics. Namely because of a much better CPU and a 16x increase in RAM. Much like going from the 8-bit to 16-bit allowed for much larger levels, animations and colours, then going up to 32bit brought 3D, Xbox 360 brought online multiplayer in a big way. Xbox One X brings better Graphics and that is it. There is no new innovation, nothing like that. Hell, there was even no fuss really at E3. If this was a Truly next gen system, there would have been 45 minutes of showing off all that it can do over the Xbox One. The difference between the lowest end PC and the highest end begins and ends way outside of the spectrum where the Xbox One, S and X all reside, yet PC games all have to work across as much of that spectrum as they possibly can. The only time that games will become One X exclusives, is when there are so few Xbox One's left out there that it's just not a viable option. At which point the only people who care will be the ones which want to say "I told you this was going to happen, Phil Spencer if full of it!" Sure, 2021 when the price of an Xbox One X is
  • If you go to DF and actually listen to just how much new tech is included in the One X Terraflops are just 1 part. The increased ram, increased Bandwidth, customs Cpu ( 40% greater than the current one ) and the power control method all make for a console more gaming capable than a £1000 PC. Just the GPU alone easily beats a 1070 GTX Geforce card that costs £400. It has more VRAM available than that card and is 76 gb/sec faster in memory bandwidth. Anthem for example is sporting a massive amount of visual improvements aside from just resolution. Occlusion lighting, more detailed textures, better animation, better effects including cloth movement, haze effects, weather effects, water effects and that's just the start. The 2013 Xbox One version of Anthem will be a MASSIVE downgrade visually from the One X shown. And that's not even considering the resolution. All new consoles only bring better graphics. That's the point. 360 - One is just better graphics. There is no game on the PS4 or Xbox One that wouldn't play on the 360. It would just have a massive downgrade in visuals. The One X has been cleverly thought out. Massively customised by MS Xbox team and developers are already confirming they are massively impressed with it. And devs have only had Dev kits mere months.
  • Is there any difference in using Kinect for the Xbox One X? Do I still need the adapter? Will voice commands work the same way?
  • You would still need an adapter to use Kinect with the One X.
  • Already own an Xbox One S which is in my living room. We have a TV tuner which runs through the Xbox. If I get an Xbox One X then the S will go in my bedroom. I would actually need to buy another TV tuner and a media remote though.
  • Will people who buy an xbox one x get a free Kinect adaptor like others got when the xbox one s was released? The adaptor costs 40 bucks if you have to buy one to use your Kinect with the xbox one x.
  • Microsoft hasn't announced anything on that matter, so I'm guessing not. It seems they're trying to do as much as possible to prevent people from buying a Kinect, so keeping the extra $40 surcharge for the adapter as a disincentive will probably be the norm, which is a shame because the Xbox One with Kinect is far more interesting than without it (at least, it was before Microsoft spent years forcibly stripping away its features).
  • Actually I've bought all the Xbox's I attend to buy. Unless this do something SPECTACULAR and not just look good on the TV Monitor.
  • XBoxOneX.....XBOX
  • "Less attractive".  Seriously?  Are there that many people "showcasing" their flipping console?  ALL of our home entertainment equipment is in an entertainment center.  It's clean, organized and matches the rest of the decor of our living room. Almost all the components are black, except for the amplifier, which is silver, but none of it unattractively stands out.  Unless you have all your equipment sitting out on a table top or something, I don't see how one version would be more or less attractive.  It largely should be unseen.
  • I don't think the original xbox looks unattractive, but the deletion of the power brick really helps in tidying things up.
  • Also... add the integrated ir blasters to that.
  • FYI, the Kinect USB adapter is no longer offered for free to those who have the original One.
  • I'm betting if you buy a One X and own a Kinect you can get the adapter for free.
  • http://support.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/accessories/kinect-adapter "An offer for people with a Kinect Sensor upgrading from Xbox One ended in March 2017."
  • I'm not arguing that the promotion ended, but MS has advertized that all accessories will work without having to buy adapters for the X1X, so they stand to have some issues for people like myself who own a Kinect (accessory for xbox) and can't plug it into an X1X
  • I see your point.  I hope you're right.
  • I mean if they don't send me one, it's not the end of the world, but on Nov 7th I plan on contacting customer service and asking how I can connect my Kinect when they said no adapters needed. I already paid $500, i'm not spending another $40
  • Sounds like a good plan!
  • I went ahead and ordered the adapter in advance. It wasn't too expensive on eBay. It does suck that the promotion ended, but I think you needed a serial number from an Xbox One S to get it anyway. I figure I saved money by skipping the S, so it's not too bad a deal. Maybe they will open up the promotion again, then I will have one to sell on eBay :)