Xbox One S All-Digital Edition vs. Xbox One S: Which should you buy?

Xbox One S
Xbox One S (Image credit: Daniel Rubino | Windows Central)

While the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is built upon an enticing concept of download-only gaming, current Xbox One S discounts undercut Microsoft's latest console while offering more functionality.

Xbox One S All-Digital Edition vs. Xbox One S: What's the difference?

Xbox One S

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft has unveiled the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, its latest entry-level home console under the Xbox family. The new low-cost box aims to cut starting costs for Microsoft's gaming platform, stripped to its essentials at its lowest price ever. The streamlined package drops the disc drive for an exclusively digital experience, primed for the ever-connected online world. The Xbox One S is framed as the "traditional" console experience, while the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is a more progressive, internet-dependent variant.

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is near-identical to the existing Xbox One S, sharing similar hardware, games libraries, performance, and accessories with the 2016 predecessor. Buyers receive a further-refined white and black design, with the optical disc drive and its associated components now absent on the All-Digital. Side-by-side specifications and performance comparisons are pointless, delivering mirrored under-the-hood value, with minor price-reducing tweaks.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryXbox One SXbox One S All-Digital
Processor8-core Jaguar CPU at 1.75GHz8-core Jaguar CPU at 1.75GHz
Storage500GB, 1TB, 2TB1TB
Memory8GB DDR3 RAM8GB DDR3 RAM
Graphics12 CUs (914MHz) 1.23 TF GPU12 CUs (914MHz) 1.23 TF GPU
Optical drive4K Blu-ray driveNone
Dimensions11.6 x 8.9 x 2.5 inches11.6 x 8.9 x 2.5 inches
Weight6.4 pounds5.4 pounds
Price$299 RRP$249 RRP

Games will play the same on Xbox One S and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, retaining 1080p resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) to deliver a sharp image with popping colors. 4K resolution video streaming with HDR is also shared between both devices, while 4K Blu-ray and DVD playback are naturally limited to the standard Xbox One S. All Xbox One controllers, headsets, and other peripherals are fully compatible with both Xbox One S and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition too.

Buy now, pay later with All-Digital

Xbox Store

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition's pricing is Microsoft's main enticement for potential Xbox One buyers, (in theory) introducing the cheapest entry point into the Xbox ecosystem. While the Xbox One S is already a well-priced and recommendable console for most, the All-Digital shaves a further $50 of its retail price. However, retailers rarely offer Xbox One consoles at retail beyond launch, making the standard Xbox One S cheaper in early 2019. The value of the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition hopefully improves over time, eventually putting it among the best budget consoles purely in terms of hardware savings.

However, while the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition reduces that initial retail cost, the disc drive's removal has significant implications moving forward. Purchasing the console removes all ties to physical media, spanning Xbox One games, older disc-based backward-compatible titles, 4K Blu-ray, and DVDs. You'll be required to double down on the digital Microsoft Store for buying Xbox One games, movies, TV, and music. And that's not ideal for your budget.

Physical versus digital is a long-established debate, with both positives and disadvantages associated with each. Going all-in on digital cuts clutter and disc-switching, supported by vital programs like Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Play Anywhere, and EA Access. The Xbox Game Pass subscription is a notably perfect pairing with the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, via a Netflix-style subscription service packing over 100 digital games for a flat $10 monthly fee. Keep in mind all Xbox One S All-Digital Edition bundles ship with Sea of Thieves, Minecraft, and Forza Horizon 3 at launch too.

The Xbox One S is likely best (for now)

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is established upon a promising concept, scaling back hardware to pursue a new low-cost Xbox alternative. However, losing discs isn't beneficial in the long-term, cutting access to third-party sales and second-hand markets. While the initial saving is enticing, there's a long-term cost that comes with the lavish walled-garden, better known as the Microsoft Store.

With the Xbox One S four years old, most third-party retailers offer this console for less than the Xbox One S All-Digital's launch price. It means you'll pay a premium for reduced functionality, making the Xbox One S and the onboard disc drive recommended for the chance you'll use it. There might be times you want to load up a movie or secure disc deals, which isn't possible with the All-Digital setup.

Xbox One S All-Digital Edition pricing is expected to fall in the coming months, bringing the device in-line with the existing Xbox One lineup. This will help deliver improved value and an easily recommendable console for those striving to save. But in the current Xbox One S landscape, the All-Digital doesn't pack the insane benefits you'd expect.

Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.