Xbox One S Impressions - Gaming, Movies & Summary
4K are you sure?
Technically the console’s interface runs at a native 4K UHD resolution (3840 x 2160) and for compatible films-that tap into the Ultra-HD Blu-ray player-you can get native 4K (HDR) content if your TV is up to par.
Additionally the Netflix App supports native 4K with HDR and I believe the YouTube App does also. However for game these are not running in native 4K. Instead they will be up-scaled and the upscale engine was actually better than my TV’s.
For games I only manged to run a handful of titles and these included Forza Horizon 3 (so I could test the HDR capabilities)Doom and Battlefield 1 (which ran like a dream in terms of visuals/performance).
Of course I compared all of the above titles (minus Battlefield 1 because of a store difficulty at the time of testing) to my standard Xbox One and I have to admit visually Forza Horizon 3 did benefit from the HDR visuals.
Mind you with HDR you may not be instantly blown away because the differences are subtle to start with until you realise how HDR is implemented. For example it’s only when you start to play the game and you tweak the HDR brightness slider and look at the environment closely that you will see that the sky, the sun and foliage all appear more natural on-screen.
For me the sun and clouds looked real, whereas on the Xbox One version they looked like illustrated drawings.
For sure with Forza running on the two devices side by side you can certainly see that the colours are more vibrant as a result. Yet the standard game without HDR running on the Xbox One S still offers slightly better visuals than the Xbox One version, mainly because of the 4K up-scaling on the Xbox One S was better than my TV's native upscale engine.
I think the key with HDR is that games are enhanced, but unless you have a standard version of the game running next to it the differences won’t be instantly apparent. In other words it’s up to the developers in how they use HDR to benefit the game and there has to be a way for them to signal to the user that HDR is running.
Sadly I would have liked to have tested Gears of War 4 with the Xbox One S, but for some reason there was a store issue at the time of testing that prevented me from running my copy on the console.
Even so the slight upgrade to the Xbox One S GPU does have an added benefit to existing titles that I ran. For example Doom certainly played smoother in my mind than it did before.
Additionally because of the up-scaling graphics also have a slight boost in visual fidelity. It’s certainly not going to benefit all titles but the Xbox One S will support your 4K screen a lot better than your standard console.
Personally though I would not upgrade the Xbox One just yet as for me the Scorpio would be a better option, unless you needed a cost effective Ultra-HD player that is.
Before I forget one thing that I did notice was that games seemed to load a tad faster on the Xbox One S. Considering I have an External USB 3.0 drive running on the Xbox One (which is faster than the internal drive) it would indicate that the Xbox One S could perhaps feature a new SATA controller, but who knows.
I only noticed this when I was editing the comparison video below. Even though both consoles were started at the same time, in terms of loading Forza 3 the Xbox One S loaded quicker.
The Ultra-HD Blu-ray player at this price point is certainly one of the reasons why the console has been selling well.
Sony really did miss the boat on this and underestimated the amount of people that want physical media still. While 4K streams are great, they are still no match for a physical copy in my opinion and at least with the Xbox One S you have a choice.
Despite this I did run into a slight issue with running standard Blu-ray discs on the console. I don’t know if it was an issue with my TV but 24Hz films would produce a slight stutter when the camera pans across the screen in certain scenes.
However I narrowed down the problem to the Xbox One S cable. Swapping this out for a KabelDirekt 2m High speed cable that I purchased seemed to cure the issue. Yet it’s strange that this only affected Blu-rays and not Ultra-HD films; which played fine through the default cable.
Anyway once again I had the opportunity to test two films on the console i.e. ‘Pan’ and ‘The Martian’ in Ultra-HD and compare these to the Blu-ray versions running on the Xbox One.
To be honest unless you have both versions lined up side-by-side they look equally as good on their own. Yet in the Martian's case you can see in the photos below that the HDR Ultra-HD film edges it slightly.
In my opinion the HDR simply enhances darker and lighter tones, so more detail comes out in background specific scenes. You can also see more detail on the helmet’s, the suits and the colours in general have more of a natural tone.
Netflix however benefits the most from the Xbox One S as this supported HDR. So it eliminated one of the problems I had with the built-in Netflix App running on my TV. So the over-darkness in programs such as Luke Cage was replaced by greater detail and easier to view backgrounds.
As for Amazon I can’t really tell you if this was any good because the App simply wouldn’t’ work!
I’m not sure why, but nothing I did would allow me to view programs on it, so I’m not sure what went wrong here.
I can’t really score the Xbox One S because of the short time I had with it, but from initial impressions it will definitely support your 4K (HDR) enabled screen a lot better than your standard Xbox One would. Especially if you are into your movie content, be it Netflix or via the Ultra-HD player.
The latter Ultra-HD player is the key for the console's success in my opinion. Even if you don’t want the gaming side of things, the Xbox One S is still one of the cheapest options on the market to tap into Ultra-HD films, so it’s a no-brainer really in this regard.
Standard Xbox One games though do get a marginal visual upgrade and a slight boost to performance (more so for unlocked frame-rate titles). HDR enabled titles are still thin on the ground but at least if you get hold of a title the Xbox One S will edge the Xbox One here as well.
Personally I was thinking of buying an Xbox One S at the time of testing, as there were some great deals around Black Friday. Yet, at the end of the day I decided to wait for the Scorpio next year as I believe the prospect of native 4K gaming holds more appeal for me.
I suppose it all depends on price and Microsoft made the right decision giving people the choice of a cheaper console now or wait for the premium product next year.
Thus if you don’t own an Xbox yet the Xbox One S is still a great buy, but if you do own the original Xbox One I would wait until next year for the Scorpio. 4K HDR TV’s at this point will also be cheaper, then again my 4K TV cost just under £300 for a 43” set, but it’s all down to your individual requirements. However it's still good to have the choice in this regards!