The Xbox One is a big slightly overwhelming hunk of tech, especially compared to the streamlined PlayStation 4. Put the two together, and you've got a Hummer sitting next to a Ferrari. But that's all set to change.
It took about three years, but Microsoft is finally ready to address the complaints, with the new Xbox One S. It's a much slimmer version of the console, with a redesigned look and internal power supply (huzzah!), but it also comes with extra tech perks to boot.
Said perks include 4K resolution for Blu-rays and streaming, as well as HDR (high dynamic range) support for games and media alike. You've also got a top-end 2TB storage option for holding onto loads of games and other content, along with a new controller. Someone's been busy.
It's coming quick, so you'd better read up: here's what to expect from the Xbox One S.
Intimidated by the hulking Xbox One hardware? The Xbox One S puts on a friendlier, streamlined facade with a new design that's 40% smaller than the original. And that includes a built-in power supply, which should save you a bit of room (and mess) in the entertainment centre. It's about bloomin' time.
It's not just smaller, but also redesigned, with a new "robot white" paint job, a nice contrast between smooth and speckled halves of the front face, and a big fan opening on the top to keep the console nice and cool. Microsoft also popped a USB port on the front for easier access, and built in an infrared blaster for using other remotes with the console.
Not only that, but this new form can be used either horizontally or vertically, with a handy vertical stand bundled with the 2TB model or sold separately for the less-voluminous versions. All told, the Xbox One S looks cooler and more distinctive – not just like a set-top box with an Xbox logo slapped on.
The newer model is still compatible with Kinect, assuming you still use (or want) Microsoft's largely abandoned motion sensor, but now requires a special adaptor since the port isn't built into the Xbox One S.
Sharper than ever
While the dream of 4K console gaming won't be realised on the Xbox side until next year's Project Scorpio console, the Xbox One S is newly equipped to pump out sharper movies and TV shows. It supports both 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and streaming media via Netflix and other services, letting you take advantage of compatible content if you have the TV for it.
And that's not all: high dynamic range support comes across the board. With HDR, your games and media will look even more beautiful than ever, thanks to a wider contrast between light and dark colours, and some video experts say HDR is an even more meaningful upgrade than 4K in many cases.
We'll leave that for you to decide, but all the same, we can't wait to play games like Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 with HDR lighting, or experience Mad Max: Fury Road all over again, with those stark colours blown out to an incredible degree.
Note, however, that the Xbox One will only support the HDR10 standard at launch (via Polygon), and there's no word yet on whether it will also support Dolby Vision HDR at some point. If it doesn't, and your TV prefers the Dolby flavour of HDR, then you might be out of luck this autumn. We'll update this if we hear any further word on the matter.
More power! (Sort of)
While the Xbox One S uses the same chips as the original model, you might see a very tiny improvement in game performance at times: Microsoft says they've allotted a bit more power for developers to take advantage of HDR, but developers can apparently use it in other ways too.
Gears of War 4 studio The Coalition says it's using some of that power to improve the frame rate during especially intense moments in the upcoming shooter, which means a smoother experience for players rocking the latest console.
That might be disappointing for current Xbox One owners who don't want to buy a new version of essentially the same console, but take solace: any enhancements will probably be very minor, and games won't just "run better" on the Xbox One S without specific work by developers to make it happen.
All that said, however, if you buy the Xbox One S, you can be assured that you're running the best possible version of any Xbox One game. Well, at least until Project Scorpio arrives in late 2017.
Shiny new controller
While the new Xbox Wireless Controller looks spot-on identical to the original at a glance, it comes with some important enhancements that should impact both comfort and its longevity in your living room.
Microsoft says it has a streamlined design, but the bigger perk could be the textured grips found alongside the bottom of the controller. And furthermore, the analog sticks have been redesigned to be much more durable and provide smoother rotations over time, which means less chance of them crumbling after hundreds of hours of blasting aliens in Destiny.
The new controller is also built to work more harmoniously with Windows 10 PCs thanks to built-in Bluetooth support, plus it offers twice the wireless range of the original model when used with the Xbox One S.
The gamepad will be bundled with all versions of the Xbox One S console and will also be sold separately. You can also customise the colour scheme via the new Xbox Design Lab website, and all orders sent in by the time August is up will be shipped in early September.
When's it coming?
Microsoft will release the Xbox One S in August - specifically, only the model with 2TB of storage and the vertical stand at first. It'll sell for $399 in the States, and is deemed a special "launch edition" version of the console.
Sometime soon thereafter, a 1TB version will follow for $349, alongside a 500GB version for $299. Neither comes with the stand, but at least you'll get the swanky new gamepad alongside the console in all versions.
The Xbox One S is a minor revision overall, meant to tide players over until the brand new Xbox One Project Scorpio console releases late next year, as well as offer a more appealing package to anyone who hasn't bought into the current console generation.
However, Sony also has an upgraded PlayStation 4 on the horizon, and it's rumoured to pack a lot more power, allowing developers to deliver significantly enhanced experiences and especially improve PlayStation VR games. If that ends up shipping this year, then Microsoft's 4K/HDR upgrade here might seem comparatively paltry.
We'll have to wait and see on that point. In any case, if you're an Xbox die-hard and you've got a TV ready to highlight 4K and HDR content, it's time to start setting aside cash for the August release, if you can't wait till Scorpio's release next year.