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A giant in the gaming industry, Microsoft’s gift to the gaming world was the good old Xbox. It was large, clunky, and people loved it. The selection of games was fun at the time, and that’s all that mattered because that’s all consoles were made to do. As our technology improved, we demanded more from our gaming consoles. They had to be better, faster, and have more features, all the while being affordable for the everyday household.
Admittedly, I haven’t owned a console since the PlayStation 2 because I haven’t seen the need for one. The PC covered it all—schoolwork, Internet, and entertainment. It was the all-in-one package and a very logical choice. Why spend money on things when what I had did a great job? (Ok sorry, back to the Xbox.)
Many years later, or rather just a few weeks ago, as I sat at home playing Halo: The Master Chief Collection with my roommate, the answer came to me. I missed split-screen multiplayer, A.K.A. couch co-op. I missed the days when I would head to a friend’s house after class and spend hours playing Super Smash Bros., Halo, Mario Kart, and whatever. I missed the laughing, the screen-looking, the controller-unplugging, and all the cursing. This is what console gaming was to me and what it always will be—a good time with good friends. So, after having an Xbox One S for a few weeks, here’s why I think it’s one of the best home entertainment consoles.
The Xbox One’s offering of games is exactly as you expect, and that’s great. It’s got driving, fighting, first-person shooters, role-playing, some more shooters, and sports. (Did I mention it has shooters?) From Overwatch to Battlefield 1 and the game-changing Halo series, the Xbox has got it. It’s also backward compatible, allowing you to play older Xbox 360 games. So where does it fall short? The answer is the lacking number of exclusive games, compared to the PlayStation 4. While not every title is a homerun, you’ll miss out due to sheer numbers. (And big games you’ll want to play, like Horizon Zero Dawn and Nioh). Don’t get so down, because E3 is right around the corner and there are sure to be more games coming (along with the announcement of Microsoft’s Project Scorpio.)
If that doesn’t bother you and you’re satisfied with playing the usual AAA games and shooters, you’ll be fine. Moreover, stepping up to bat against PlayStation Now is the recently announced Netflix-like Xbox Game Pass, a subscription-based service for $9.99 a month that gives players access to more than one hundred Xbox One and Xbox 360 games, which will expand and change over time. As the games cycle, you’ll have the option of purchasing them directly at a discounted price. Combined with EA Access, another subscription based service (but this time for EA games), you’ll have an almost never-ending catalogue of games to play.
Chances are that you’ve already got a computer and, it’s cool, whether it’s a desktop or a laptop. With Xbox Play Anywhere, eligible digital titles can be played on your Xbox One and Windows 10 PC—at no additional cost. Yes, that means console gaming has somewhat finally arrived on PCs and it comes with your saves, add-ons, and achievements. So, if your computer isn’t up to par yet, make sure to check out our list of computer components or gaming laptops.
4K and HDR (High Dynamic Range) have been trending. Seriously, take my word for it. You’ve got 4K HDR TVs, 4K HDR monitors, and even smartphones with 4K HDR displays. If you have an Xbox One S, then you’re set, because it’s got both. Supporting 4K Blu-ray and video streaming right out of the box means a lot, and mostly because the PlayStation 4 doesn’t support 4K UHD Blu-ray. If you love collecting physical copies of movies and don’t want to buy a separate Blu-ray player, then the Xbox One is for you. Regarding 4K video streaming, however, that’s nothing new. Almost every 4K Smart TV nowadays supports it and features built-in apps, such as Netflix, for content. While it’s not super special, in my opinion, it’s still great to have, thanks to the ease of switching through apps on the Xbox interface.
What takes the spotlight though, is that it supports HDR—and that doesn’t mean just videos and movies, because HDR is now available in games. If you haven’t experienced HDR yet, I’d suggest you give it a shot. Google it if you need to. Succinctly stated, HDR displays are super bright, allowing for clear differences in contrast and a wider color palette that feels more vibrant and realistic. Games that feature HDR include titles such as Battlefield 1, Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, Final Fantasy XV, Forza Horizon 3, the upcoming Mass Effect Andromeda, and many more. Most of these are top-notch games so be on the lookout.
The Xbox One gives you access to plenty of apps, such as Netflix, Sling, YouTube, and more. With access to popular content, whether it be for watching videos or keeping up with the news, the Xbox connects your gaming life with the rest of your life. For more avid gamers, Twitch is available on the app store so you can watch or even host live gaming sessions of your own. On the other hand, you can try out Beam, Microsoft’s own livestreaming platform. If you need help, be sure to check out our upcoming article on how and what you need to start livestreaming.
If those apps don’t cover it, then you’ll also have access to Microsoft Music and Video. Stream music from Microsoft’s catalogue, make playlists, create radio stations, and do that across all devices including your PC, tablet, the Web, and smartphone. For video, you can rent or buy movies and TV shows right from your Xbox and play them on a computer, web browser, or Windows phone.
Once you buy a system, you’re going to want in on its online services and ecosystem. Playing single-player games by yourself is fun, but not when the Xbox experience is heavily rooted online. To play online, you’ll need a subscription to Xbox Live Gold. Don’t start sighing yet, because it’s not all that bad. With a sub to Gold status, you’ll also get access to free games every month, exclusive discounts and deals on games, add-ons, and more, as well as parties with party chat. Because Xbox and Windows are both from Microsoft, you’re going to see a lot of cross-platform features. Some games feature PC versus Xbox One multiplayer, so you can really expand your horizons.
While it seemed silly and not worth mentioning at first (mostly because I had to look it up), the Xbox One S features an IR Blaster that can be set to turn on other devices. That includes your TV, audio/video receiver, and cable/satellite receiver. Simple-sounding feature, great thing to have. What took me by surprise was the updated controller. Its shape was familiar because I own the previous version to use with my desktop. The 3.5mm jack is still there, great for games that require a headset for 3D positional audio or for watching Netflix quietly at night. It was the textured grip. This addition makes the controller more comfortable and easier to hold, because I’ve had to stop myself from throwing it down in frustration as I die in Halo 5 multiplayer. (I’m new, but some people are good. Like, scary good.)
So, those are my thoughts about the Xbox One S. I can’t say I was sold initially, most likely because I’ve been complacent with a PC for so long, but it’s turning out to be quite fun. Playing with friends on the couch again was a blast. Changing out discs sucked. Setup was cake. Installing games took forever. Pairing a controller took some Googling. You know, like a kid with a new toy, it was a new experience. What are your favorite features about the Xbox One or One S? Or if you don’t have one, think about it. (And then wait for Project Scorpio.)