Both systems sport sleek designs, can play varying degrees of 4K content and have oddly similar names that are one letter apart from causing Christmas morning disasters all over the country. So why is one system $499 and the other $249?
Image: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide
To help you avoid heartbreak this holiday, we've broken down the key differences between the Xbox One X and Xbox One S so that you can snag the Xbox that's right for you — or your 4K-obsessed loved one.
Xbox One X
Xbox One S
Size and Weight
11.8 x 9.4 x 2.3 inches, 8.4 pounds
11.6 x 9.1 x 2.5 inches, 6.4 pounds
4K Gameplay Capture
4K Streaming and Blu-rays
Microsoft calls the One X the smallest Xbox ever made, and while it is in fact a tiny bit slimmer than the One S, it's slightly larger in other areas. The 8.4-pound One X is also notably heavier than the 6.4-pound One S.
Xbox One X (left) and Xbox One S (right). Image: Microsoft
Still, both consoles look virtually identical in the flesh, with strikingly sleek designs that will have no problem sliding into your entertainment center. The One X sports a dark gray finish while the One S ships in white, though there are a handful of limited-edition One S models that come in other colors.
4K Gaming and HDR
The Xbox One X is the only Xbox that delivers true 4K gaming, meaning folks with a 4K TV can enjoy titles such as Forza Motorsport 7 and Assassin's Creed: Origins in beautiful Ultra HD. When testing games such as Gears of War 4 and Killer Instinct on the Xbox One X, we found the jump from 1080p to 4K to be significant.
Even if you're still rocking a standard 1080p TV, the One X delivers supersampled HD images that are sharper than what you'd get on an Xbox One S. It's also the only Xbox that supports built-in 4K video capture.
While 4K gaming is exclusive to the One X, both models utilize High Dynamic Range (HDR) to make your favorite games look brighter and more colorful. The current list of HDR-supported Xbox One games includes Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, Resident Evil 7 and Final Fantasy XV. Of course, you'll need an HDR-enabled TV to take advantage of the added vibrancy.
The Xbox One X and Xbox One S are pretty much identical when it comes to 4K entertainment. Both consoles can play 4K Blu-rays, and can both stream Ultra HD content from supported apps such as Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube.
Games and Accessories
Both the Xbox One X and Xbox One S work with every game and accessory in the Xbox One family. That means you can fire up some Halo 5, play hundreds of backwards compatible Xbox 360 games and connect your external hard drive, gaming headset or fancy Elite Wireless Controller regardless of which model you choose.
Assassin's Creed: Origins is one of several games that will play in 4K on Xbox One X. Image: Ubisoft
Naturally, Xbox One X is be the only place to play many of these games in 4K or with other graphical benefits. The list of Xbox One X enhanced games already includes over 100 titles, including Gears of War 4, Halo 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Forza Motorsport 7.
Deciding between the $499 Xbox One X and $249 Xbox One S comes down to one simple question: are you willing to pay twice as much for 4K gaming? That's the key selling point of the One X, which is aimed at gamers with 4K TVs who want the best console experience possible.
The One S boasts many of the One X's best features for half the price, including 4K Blu-ray and streaming support, HDR gaming and an attractively slim design. And while titles such as Star Wars Battlefront 2, Forza Motorsport 7 and Super Lucky's Tale will look best on Xbox One X, you'll be able to enjoy them just fine on a One S.
Folks willing to shell out for the most powerful console out there will find plenty to like about the One X. For everyone else, the One S is a tremendous value.
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