Xbox One S, the trimmed-down version of Microsoft’s video game system and media streaming box announced at this year’s E3 conference, has finally gone on sale this week.
As of Aug. 2, buyers can snag the 2TB Launch Edition at Microsoft Stores and participating retailers for $399. In the next few weeks, Microsoft plans to start shipping the 1TB and 500GB versions, priced at $349 and $299, respectively.
Outwardly, the differences between the original Xbox One and the new S edition are immediately evident.
The new hardware trades in the Xbox One’s glossy black enclosure with a 40-percent smaller “robot white” casing. Also gone is the external power brick that supplied the system’s components with electricity. In another space-saving move, Microsoft managed to tuck the power supply into the main system.
Eagle-eyed watchers will also notice that Microsoft has repositioned one of its USB ports to the front of the device for easier access and that the dedicated Kinect port is gone. A new USB-based Xbox Kinect Adapter is available for buyers who want to use the motion-sensing peripheral with the new hardware. Also new is an updated controller featuring surfaces that improve grip and more wear-resistant thumbsticks.
Functionally, the Xbox One S is virtually identical to its predecessor, except for slightly beefier main and graphics processors, along with two major new additions: 4K video and HDR support.
The system can currently output 4K video from Netflix and 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. Amazon Video support is on the way, according to Microsoft, along with content from other providers. Gamers hoping to play their games in 4K will have to wait until the next Xbox, codenamed Project Scorpio, launches in time for the 2017 holiday season.
HDR support means that users with compatible TV sets can enjoy more vivid visuals in both games and video content, provided they are produced with HDR in mind.
“HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range,” explained Microsoft senior communications manager Will Tuttle, in a blog post. “With HDR color support on your Xbox One S, your TV can display deeper colors and richer contrast, meaning the picture will appear more vibrant and realistic than on a regular HDTV.”
Meanwhile, owners who plan to stick with their original Xbox One hardware have new features to explore, courtesy of a major update that is currently rolling out.
The Xbox Summer Update includes several new capabilities, including interface tweaks meant to help users better manage their game collections and a Language Region Independence that disassociates a system’s language settings from its home region. The latter allows a user in Spain to set English as his or her language, for instance. Also new is a background music option that supports Pandora and a converged Xbox and Windows Store.
Finally, Cortana is now available on Xbox One in the United States and the U.K. “With Cortana, gamers can expect more from voice commands on Xbox. In addition to more commands and greater accuracy with natural language and text dictation, Cortana provides the ability to use a headset or Kinect,” said Mike Ybarra, Head of Platform Engineering at Microsoft, in a separate blog post.