The Xbox One S Has a Killer Hidden Feature

The key benefits of the Xbox One S are pretty clear — the console is a heck of a lot prettier than what came before it, and can now handle 4K streaming and Blu-rays. But, according to some technical tests, the new Xbox has another key feature Microsoft isn't telling you about: the ability to run some games faster.

As they're known to do, the folks at Eurogamer's Digital Foundry put the Xbox One S through its rigorous benchmarks, and discovered some interesting performance perks. It turns out that the new console's GPU actually has a faster clock speed than that of the standard Xbox One (914 MHz vs 853 MHz), which allows for slightly improved frame rates in select titles.

For example, while running the photorealistic driving action of Project Cars, Digital Foundry found that the game runs as much as 9 frames per second better on the Xbox One S. As the testing site points out, Project Cars is one of several games that aims for a smooth 60 fps on console, but doesn't always achieve it during especially hectic scenes.

Other games improved a bit on the new system, but not as dramatically. According to Digital Foundry, Resident Evil 5 Remastered ran about 2.5 percent faster, while the latest Hitman game improved by about 6.1 percent. Games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Batman: Arkham Knight benefitted from more consistent 30 fps frame rates and reduced screen tearing — both subtle changes that result in a smoother overall experience.

So why isn't Microsoft bragging about this in its marketing materials? As Digital Foundry points out, the new GPU can't speed up any tasks that are bound to the processor, which remains unchanged from the previous Xbox One (Fallout 4, for example, saw no benefit). The Xbox One S will provide more dramatic benefits on select games in the form of High Dynamic Range (HDR) support, but we'll have to wait until titles such as Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 come out to see how that holds up.         

The Xbox One S certainly won't dramatically change the way your games run — that's the job of Project Scorpio, Microsoft's 4K gaming and VR-ready powerhouse due late next year — but its better GPU makes the already-excellent console more appealing. In our full review, we gave the Xbox One S major props for its gorgeous design, improved controller and 4K media muscle. The fact that it may run your games better is just icing on the cake.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.