Xbox One X vs Xbox One S: What's The Difference?

Both Xbox One consoles are worth a look but which one is right for you?

Xbox One X and Xbox One S consoles, Xbox Controllers, Xbox 1, XB1
Black Xbox One X and white Xbox One S video game consoles. Microsoft

Microsoft released the Xbox One S in late-2016 and followed it up with the Xbox One X a year later. Each video game console comes packed with a range of media features such as a 4K Blu-ray player, 4K video streaming, and support for the entire library of Xbox One games but which Xbox is right for you and your family?

Here's what you need to know before deciding an Xbox One S or an Xbox One X.

Which Video Games Can Each Console Play?

Microsoft has created three distinct generations of Xbox video games.

The first was for the original Xbox console (2001 to 2005); then the Xbox 360 console series came along (2005 through 2013); and next was the Xbox One family of consoles (2013 to present).

The Xbox One S and Xbox One X are both within the Xbox One generation and can play all Xbox One-branded video games in addition to a growing number of Xbox 360 and original Xbox backwards compatible titles. There is no game disparity between the two consoles. The Xbox One S and the Xbox One X share the same library of video games and apps and can play digital and physical disk versions of titles.

Tip: All Xbox One consoles and video games are completely region-free which means that an American Xbox One console can play an Xbox One game bought in Australia or another region and vice-versa.

Xbox One Consoles, HDR, & 4K Blu-ray

Both the Xbox One S and Xbox One X support HDR (High Dynamic Range) for enabled video games.

This technology optimizes the presentation of the image's color, brightness, and contrast which allows it to more closely resemble real-life.

Each console comes with a built-in 4K Blu-ray disk drive which can play CDs, DVDs, and 4K HDR Blu-rays. Only the Xbox One X can render 4K-enabled video games though so while the Xbox One S can still play those games at a lower resolution, they will look significantly better on the Xbox One X.

The latter console can also load games and apps significantly faster than the former.

Due to their 4K output capability, the Xbox One S and X are also able to stream 4K movies and TV series via services such as Microsoft's own Movies & TV, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

A 4K television set isn't necessarily required to use either console as a regular widescreen TV will automatically resize the video for its display resolution. Viewers will still experience visual improvements when viewing 4K footage on a non-4K TV.

Note: While the Xbox One games are region-free, the physical disk drive isn't. That makes a difference when playing DVDs and Blu-rays. An American Xbox One will only be able to play Region 1 DVDs and Zone A Blu-rays.

Xbox One's Kinect Sensor & Controllers

All Xbox One-branded controllers work perfectly fine with the Xbox One S and Xbox One X. The Kinect sensor, the special camera used for games and voice commands on the Xbox One, also works with both consoles. However, a special Kinect Adapter (sold separately) is required to connect it properly. Only the original Xbox One console (not the Xbox One S or X) can connect to the Kinect directly without the need for additional cables.

Is The Special Minecraft Xbox One S Different?

The special Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition console is practically the same as a regular Xbox One S console but features a unique Minecraft-themed design that lights up and plays sounds when turned on. It can do everything a regular Xbox One S can; it's designed to appeal to fans of the Minecraft video game franchise. It is not limited to playing only Minecraft video games, though.

It's common practice for companies to release specially-themed versions of their consoles either as collectible items or simply to promote a new video game. These consoles function exactly the same as the regular versions and just look different on the outside.

All special versions will feature the base console label in their title. As long as they are referred to as an Xbox One S or an Xbox One X on the box or in the store product listing, you know what you're getting. 

What About The Original Xbox One Console?

Before the Xbox One S and X, Microsoft released the original Xbox One console in 2013. Simply named the Xbox One, this device was the first in the Xbox One generation of consoles and supports the same controllers, accessories, and games as the Xbox One S and X.

The original Xbox One is no longer being made, however, (it has essentially been replaced by the Xbox One S) so it can be hard to find. Stores that still have some stock available usually sell it for a lower price than the Xbox One S and X so it can be a good alternative for those on a tight budget. Keep this in mind if you go that route: The original Xbox One console only has a basic, non-4K, Blu-ray drive and doesn't support HDR or 4K output for apps or games. If these features are important to you, or you think they might be in the near future, an Xbox One S or Xbox One X might be the better purchase in the long run.

Which Xbox One Console is the Cheapest?

With regard to the Xbox One S and Xbox One X consoles, the S model is undoubtedly the cheaper of the two. It will likely remain the more affordable option for consumers. The Xbox One X is targeted more toward the hardcore gamer who values high framerates and textures. As a result, it is significantly more expensive due to the additional hardware needed to reach certain technological benchmarks.

The Xbox One X is essentially a powerful, expensive, gaming PC crammed into a console form-factor.

Best Long-Term Gaming Investment

Microsoft has confirmed that both the Xbox One S and Xbox One X consoles will continue to support the same video games and that there won't be any titles made for one device over the other. Because of this, both consoles are equally solid investments when it comes to video game selection for this generation of gaming.

If media is an important factor to consider in your household, each Xbox One console is equally future-proof as well due to the built-in 4K UHD Blu-ray players. The deciding factor between buying an Xbox One S or an Xbox One X really does come down to your personal budget (the Xbox One S is cheaper) and how important graphics and framerate are to your gaming preferences (many games look and play better on the Xbox One X).