In just a couple of months, Microsoft will be launching a new Xbox One console. No, not the suped-up Project Scorpio; that's coming in 2017. First up, we're getting the stop-gap Xbox One S which is essentially the same console in a much smaller package. To some, this hardware release might seem like a complete waste of time — who's going to buy an Xbox One S when the Scorpio is just around the corner? Well, for starters it will be the first Xbox console ever to come without a brick-sized PSU. It also supports 4K Blu-rays, boasts a new and improved controller and is pretty cheap into the bargain.
Officially announced today at Microsoft's E3 2016 press conference, the Xbox One S will be available from August for a wallet-friendly $US299. We've since learned that the 2TB version will cost a significantly steeper $549.95 in Australia — but that's for the top end version. Hopefully, a cheaper 500GB/1TB offering will also make it over here.
The new model is a whopping 40 percent smaller than the current Xbox One. The original is a goliath piece of hardware — to the point that it was difficult to fit into entertainment cabinets — so this size downgrade is definitely appreciated. The new console is capable of supporting 4K video as well as HDR output, and will come with a 2TB hard drive. The 4K extends to the Blu-ray player, so you're not just stuck with Netflix and the like. Hurrah!
Crucially, it also features an integrated power supply. This is a bigger deal than you might think. Microsoft's inability to fit the PSU inside its consoles has always been a personal annoyance: they were always too big to tuck behind the TV and made transporting your console a real nuisance. It will be interesting to see whether this has any affect on operational noise. Like the PlayStation 4, it can be placed either horizontally or vertically with an optional stand.
Interestingly, Microsoft has removed the dedicated Kinect port from the back of the new console. To use Kinect, you'll need to connect to a Xbox Kinect Adapter via USB. (This will be offered free of charge to current Xbox One Kinect owners.) It seems that Microsoft is finally backing away from its aggressive Kinnect sales pitch. Will the Scorpio also be sold without the Kinect sensor? Time will tell.
Other hardware differences include shifting one of the three USB ports and the pairing button to the front of the console and the addition of an IR blaster. It will also ship with a newly designed Xbox Wireless Controller with textured grip, sturdier thumbsticks and improved wireless signal performance with up to twice the wireless range. It also has inbuilt Bluetooth for use with Windows 10 games.
The only thing we're not entirely sure about is the “robot white” color scheme. With the exception of Nintendo, it's been a long while since a console manufacturer has offered anything other than basic black as the default finish. If everything else in your entertainment unit is black, this console is going to stick out in a bad way. Nevertheless, I'm going to be snapping one up; if only for the improved controller and portability factor.
Mind you, most serious gamers will be much better off waiting for Xbox's Project Scorpio which is set to come with a cavalcade of improvements including high-fidelity VR, six teraflops of computing power, 8 CPU cores and true 4K gaming. But we can still see a market for this thing: it will suit anyone who needs a secondary Xbox for the bedroom, a console for the kids or an affordable entry into next-gen gaming.
Gizmodo attended E3 at the invitation of Microsoft.