In tech, bigger and better usually means smaller and better. I sat the new Xbox One S next to my Xbox One and the difference was clear. The One S is smaller and sleeker than its hulking predecessor.

This is good because, in most cases, it’ll be sitting in a visible spot. Which brings me to the next point: it’s quieter. The previous Xbox makes a racket when it’s on.

Oh, and you can stand it up. This seems minor but having two orientations makes it easier to place in your home entertainment area.

The controllers have been subtly redesigned with a slightly smaller size and a nice grip. The controllers also pair easier with your Windows PC, so you can use them with the Xbox streaming app.

While setting it up I noticed two things. First, it doesn’t need the large power supply box the previous versions had. Second, I couldn’t plug in my Kinect camera. I have a love/hate relationship with the Kinect but it is useful for automatically detecting your face and logging you in.

The smaller body holds much more than the previous version. Storage has increased to a 2TB maximum (there are also 1TB and 500GB models). This means you can download more content before having to delete anything.

Importantly, the One S has 4K and HDR capability. This makes everything looks considerably better.

Being able to play games in upscaled 4K and watch Ultra HD movies is fantastic. Using the game controller for movies is still unintuitive and the app required to play Blu-ray movies isn’t native to the system, but these were minor inconveniences.

Everything was incredibly sharp and vibrant. I watched films with high contrast and the results were amazing. The blacks were deeper and the colours were brighter. It instantly made me disappointed in all my non-4K devices.

Our research shows consumers are mostly buying larger TVs, with a large chunk being 4K. People are also increasingly signing up for ultra-fast broadband. The Xbox One S is a device built for this future. It’s more than just a machine for gaming.

There are apps for streaming services such as Netflix, as well as the Xbox movie rental service. Having an Xbox Gold subscription gives you access to more content including free games each month. None of this is new. But the One S means it’s all going to look much better.

It still has its flaws. Despite shrinking, it’s still larger than the PlayStation 4 (and new versions of the PS4 have just been released). If you don’t have a 4K TV, there’s little reason to consider upgrading to a One S because, other than the extra storage, you won’t see a difference.

But for a console that is future-proofed and ready for the next five years, the Xbox One S is it.

Xbox One S

  • $499 for 500GB
  • $599 for 1TB
  • $649 for 2TB

Available in various bundles with games.

Our writer received this Xbox One S on loan for this First Look. First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

by Hadyn Green