The Xbox One S is the definitive version of Microsoft's game console, featuring a gorgeously slim design, HDR gaming capabilities, and 4K Blu-ray and streaming support. But the older, chunkier Xbox One is far from obsolete; it plays the same great library of Xbox One games, works better with Kinect and can be found for $50 less than the One S.
So, which Xbox One is right for you — at least until Project Scorpio comes out? That all depends on your needs.
Specs: Xbox One vs. Xbox One S
|Xbox One S
|Size and Weight
|13.1 x 10.5 x 3.25 inches, 7 pounds
|11.6 x 9.1 x 2.5 inches, 6.4 pounds
|All Xbox One games
|All Xbox One games
|Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility
|4K Blu-ray Support
|No (adapter required)
The Xbox One S is unquestionably the best looking and most space-conscious version of Microsoft's games machine. Aside from being 40 percent smaller than the big, boxy Xbox One, the One S ditches its predecessor's annoying external power brick, and includes a stand for propping the system up vertically.
If you like to travel with your console, you'll like this system's small size; you barely notice the 6.4-pound One S in your backpack. The newer system even has a built-in IR blaster, which allows your Xbox One S to communicate with your TV and cable box.
There's one thing the Xbox One has that its slim successor doesn't, and that's a dedicated Kinect port. If you're upgrading from an older Xbox One and still want to use Microsoft's motion- and voice-sensing camera, you can sign up to get a free Kinect adapter here. Otherwise, the adapter will cost you a hefty $39.
Gaming and HDR
Regardless of which console you buy, you'll have access to the same great Xbox One game library. That includes exclusives such as Halo 5 and Gears of War 4, third-party blockbusters like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Overwatch, and indie darlings such as Inside and The Witness. Both systems also play hundreds of Xbox 360 games, thanks to the Xbox One's backward compatibility.
However, If you have an HDR-enabled TV and want your games to look as good as possible, go with the Xbox One S. The newer console supports high dynamic range for select titles, meaning you'll enjoy better brightness and color on games such as Resident Evil 7, Forza Horizon 3 and Final Fantasy XV.
The Xbox One S is a 4K entertainment powerhouse, with the ability to play ultra-HD Blu-rays as well as stream 4K content from apps such as Netflix and Amazon Video. If you have a 4K TV, it's a no brainer.
If you're still rocking a 1080p TV, those features won't do much for you. The original Xbox One still has access to Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and just about any other streaming app you could want, and plays standard Blu-ray discs. Both consoles can be connected to your cable box (or, via an adapter, to your HD antenna), allowing you to seamlessly switch between games and TV.
With a retail price of $249, the original 500GB Xbox One is a good pick for those on an extra-tight budget, especially since this system typically comes bundled with a free game. If you do some digging, you can even find 1TB models for around the same price.
However, since the One S is meant to replace the One, Microsoft's older console is becoming increasingly hard to find. The $299 Xbox One S offers a ton of extra perks for just $50 more, and goes on sale so often that you can pretty easily snag one for $249. The One S almost always includes a free game, with current bundles offering such titles as Minecraft, Gears of War 4 or Battlefield 1.
Whether you're looking to retire your old Xbox or you want to join the Xbox family for the first time, there's virtually no reason not to buy an Xbox One S over the older Xbox One. Folks with 4K and HDR-enabled TVs will reap the benefits of ultra-HD Blu-ray support, 4K streaming and HDR gaming, while everyone else will enjoy a streamlined design that'll look great under your TV. And considering how often the $299 Xbox One S drops in price, it likely won't cost you significantly more than the older model.
If you don't plan on getting a 4K TV and happen to find an extra-sweet deal on an older Xbox One bundle, that console will still serve you well for a while. Otherwise, the Xbox One S is the way to go. Of course, you could also hold out for Microsoft's powerhouse Project Scorpio console, which is expected to deliver true 4K gaming and virtual reality capabilities when it launches in late 2017.
Photo credit: Sam Rutherford/Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
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.