The Xbox One S might be the latest iteration of Microsoft’s powerful gaming platform, but it won’t be for long: it’ll soon be supplanted by the Xbox One X, a souped-up version of the console due later in 2017 – essentially Microsoft’s equivalent of the powerful PS4 Pro.
That leaves potential purchasers in a prickly predicament though. Should you buy an Xbox One S now, or wait a few months for the more powerful offering? A lot hinges on the differences between the two devices, and while we haven’t had our hands on the One X yet, we know enough to make a pretty good assessment.
We’ve done our best to break down the differences in price, specs, features, and games between the two, to help you decide which Xbox is the One for you.
Pricing and availability
Unsurprisingly, the Xbox One X costs more than the One S – but what might be surprising is just how much more it costs.
When it launches on 7 November 2017 the Xbox One X will sell for £449.99/$499.99, which gets you the console along with one controller and a 1TB hard drive.
Microsoft is planning to announce the opening of pre-orders during its Gamescom live stream, which takes place on Sunday 20 August 2017 at 9pm BST, though we don’t know yet if that will be when pre-orders open, or just when Microsoft announces the first pre-order dates.
By contrast the Xbox One S is sold by Microsoft in the UK for £249.99 (500GB) or £299.99 (1TB), while in the US it starts from $249.99 (500GB) or $349.99 (1TB) – though the US prices include a bundled game.
Prices are even cheaper if you don’t buy direct from Microsoft, with Amazon UK listing 500GB consoles with a bundled game from just £213, and bundled 1TB consoles from £230. US gamers can get similar deals, with some 1TB bundles from just $298.
That means that the One X is just about double the price of the base Xbox One S, so you’ll have to be pretty committed to the enhanced specs and features to justify the price bump.
This is an area where there’s not too much in it – and it mostly comes down to whether you’d prefer your console in black or white.
The Xbox One X boasts a very similar form factor to the One S, though is in fact just slightly smaller – despite packing in considerably more power. It has the same rough dimensions, including the lip to accommodate a beefier top half, though it’s all black, in contrast to the black and white finish on the One S. It has one USB 3.0 port on the front, with two more on the back along with the HDMI, audio, and ethernet ports.
The One S is actually already a redesigned version of the original Xbox One – sleeker, simplified, and with ever so slightly improved internal specs. It comes in a slim white design with a black base and a dotted grille effect on half of the body. The front has a disc drive and USB port, and just about every other port is kept to the back of the box.
We know the full specs of both the Xbox One S and the One X, and they confirm one thing: the new console will be very, very powerful.
The One X boasts a custom-built eight-core CPU, with each core clocked at 2.3GHz. That’s miles ahead of the 1.75GHz CPU in the One S.
That’s backed up by the biggest improvement, the GPU: a custom AMD chip that boasts 40 compute units each running at 1172MHz – a huge upgrade on the 12 compute units running at 914MHz in the Xbox One S (itself a small upgrade on the original Xbox One).
Elsewhere, the One X has 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, compared to 8GB of slower DDR3 RAM in the One S, and a memory bandwidth of 326GB/s, up from 219GB/s supported by ESRAM in the One S.
Finally, the One X will come with a 1TB hard drive as default, while the One S offers a choice between 500GB and 1TB. Both consoles come with a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive.
The end result of all that power is that the One X should run games with better graphics, at higher resolutions, and with better framerates, with the aim to hit 4K graphics at 60fps for the majority of titles – something the One S just can’t handle.
It’s worth bearing in mind though that you won’t really be able to take full advantage of that horsepower unless you have a 4K TV to play it on. If your TV is just HD you’ll enjoy better framerates, but won’t make the most of the new resolutions, which will severely limit the benefit of the extra power.
The other point worth mentioning is that the beefed up specs could allow superior support for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). We know Microsoft is working in both areas, especially AR with its HoloLens tech, but we don’t yet know what plans it has for Xbox – but it’s a safe bet that whatever they are, they’ll run better on the One X, and may not be compatible with the One S at all.
Games are always one of the biggest factors in any console purchase, but here there’s not much in it. Because the One X is a mid-generation console, not a full replacement to the One S, it should play exactly the same games – we’re not expecting any new releases to be One X-exclusive.
That means all the existing best Xbox One games like Halo 5, Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, and Forza Horizon 3 will run on both devices, as will any future releases on the Xbox platform.
In terms of games then, the only difference between the two is how well they run. Future titles will be developed with the One X in mind, to take full advantage of the potential 4K resolution and higher framerates, so it’s likely we’ll see bigger and bigger gaps develop in terms of performance and graphics.
But there’ll be a difference even in terms of older titles, as the One X is fully backwards compatible, and will run every existing Xbox One game with some sort of performance boost. That means games will be smoother and faster on the new console, with better load times and sometimes improved graphics too.
Of course, how much that matters will vary from person to person. The Xbox One S will still be able to play exactly the same games, and they’ll still look great – they’ll just be HD rather than 4K, and closer to 30fps than 60. But for the average player that really won’t be an issue, so the Xbox One S should do just fine.