It’s already not an easy choice, but it’s one that will soon become more difficult when Microsoft released its next piece of hardware, Project Scorpio.
Whether you’re trying to choose which console should be your first step into the latest generation or you’re trying to decide whether to upgrade and to what extend you should do so, we’re here to help by weighing up the features of all three consoles and breaking them down to tell you which is best for your gaming needs.
Project Scorpio vs Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Design
Out of Microsoft’s two currently available consoles, the Xbox One S is definitely the smaller option. It measures 11.6 x 9.0 x 2.5 inches which makes it around 40% smaller than the original Xbox One which measures 17 x 14 x 5 inches. Its smaller size is also helped by the fact that it’s a console that can be lain horizontally or slotted into a tighter space vertically.
Really, this is just down to a more efficient use of space as despite its much smaller casing, the console’s exterior still has the same HDMI In and Out ports, the same two USB ports and the same Ethernet ports as its predecessor.
Now, as we haven’t seen it yet we can’t be sure whether or not Microsoft plans to continue to go smaller with Project Scorpio or whether it will beef things up again in order to visually emphasize the newest console’s power upgrade.
According to a recent report from Windows Central, Microsoft has given the console a more compact design thanks to advances in cooling systems which leaves us to imagine that as far as physical size is concerned, Project Scorpio may not take up much more room than the Xbox One S.
Another advantage the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio will both have in terms of design is that neither have that bulky external power brick that takes up so much room alongside the Xbox One.
Despite the fact that we’re going to get a good look at the console’s specs later this week we’re not sure we’ll get a full look at Project Scorpio's exterior until E3 2017 in June so it could be a while before we see the final form of Scorpio.
Project Scorpio vs Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Graphics
While form factor is important, it’s the power and features offered by these different consoles which is likely to play a larger role in whether or not you upgrade.
One of the biggest changes between each of these consoles is in how they handle 4K and HDR content. If you have a 4K TV and you want to experience your games in 4K with HDR color, the original Xbox One is not for you.
The Xbox One S on the other hand very well could be. The Xbox One S isn’t able to run 4K content natively, however, it does output 4K through a process known as upscaling. The games themselves are rendered at a maximum resolution of 1080p (otherwise known as ‘Full HD’) and then stretched to have it fill the entirety of a 4K screen.
Since 4K is four times the resolution of Full HD this means that with the One S each one of the game's pixels is being stretched across four of your television's pixels. This form of upscaling does therefore result in an image that’s much less crisp and detailed than what 4K is truly capable of.
Select games are also available with HDR functionality on the Xbox One S, however at present the total number pales in comparison to the total Xbox One library.
This will take a further step up with Project Scorpio, the console that’s being hailed by Microsoft as offering true 4K. As you’d expect, Project Scorpio will be capable of outputting 4K.
Microsoft has previously claimed that the console would offer native 4K, however in a leaked Microsoft whitepaper it was hinted that Project Scorpio would also include upscaling functionality similar to the PS4 Pro. Things can very quickly get complicated when discussing this process, known as checkerboard rendering, but suffice it to say that it results in images that are much closer to native 4K than the upscaling process used by the Xbox One S.
4K support isn’t limited to games, either, with the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio both offering 4K Blu-ray players and 4K streaming support for services such as Netflix and Amazon.
Project Scorpio vs Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Performance
Aside from the visuals, there are also some other performance differences that should be taken into account. When moving from the Xbox One to the Xbox One S, Microsoft added a smaller and more efficient CPU as well as a slightly faster GPU which gives the Xbox One S a slight edge performance-wise.
For example, games with unlocked frame rates were reported by Digital Foundry to perform 7-11% better on the Xbox One S than they do on the original Xbox One. Depending on what your priorities are, the difference between 40 and 46 frames per second could be purchase-altering or eyeroll-provoking.
We’re looking at a much more significant performance boost when Project Scorpio is released. We don’t know the exact hardware specs just yet, but Microsoft is promising that this is going to be a noticeably more powerful console and considering it’s confirmed six teraflops of power and 320GB/s of memory bandwidth we’re inclined to agree.
These specs alone make the console around four times more powerful than the Xbox One which has an output of 1.3 teraflops with around 200GB/s of memory bandwidth.
Just as there was a performance improvement between the Xbox One and Xbox One S, the same will happen here and thanks to its more powerful CPU and GPU Project Scorpio is likely to be able to run games more smoothly than either of its predecessors.
Project Scorpio Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Games
Despite differences in performance, all three consoles will offer the same games. Microsoft has promised that there will be no Project Scorpio exclusives so whether you own the original Xbox, an Xbox One S or you buy the new Scorpio console, you’ll still be able to play all the latest Xbox titles.
It’ll just be the the case that the newer consoles will be capable of providing higher-quality visuals and more stable frame rates.
When you install a game on your Xbox console, the game will detect what hardware you're using and then utilise the appropriate visuals and features.
4K enhancement won't necessarily be available in every game it's worth noting – developers will have to enable the experience and many of them might not want to do so.
We already know that Fallout 4 and Battlefield 1 will both be equipped for Project Scorpio and Microsoft has said that it's aiming to make most if not all of its first party titles compatible with Scorpio. that means Gears of War, Forza and Halo will all be supported. If rumors are true, Red Dead Redemption 2 will also support the console.
This cross-console peace also extends to backwards compatibility. Despite being the newest console, Project Scorpio will still be able to access the same backwards compatible library as the original Xbox and Xbox One S.
There will, however, be a difference in content when it comes to virtual reality. Project Scorpio will offer support for virtual and mixed reality headsets which the Xbox One S and Xbox One don’t. If you’re interested in joining the virtual reality revolution via your console, you’re likely to want to pick up Project Scorpio rather than its predecessors. However, since this support won't come right
Project Scorpio Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Controller
It’s worth noting that Microsoft made some improvements to the Xbox controller between Xbox One and Xbox One S. They’re not major changes, but the addition of true Bluetooth means that you don’t require a wireless dongle to connect your Xbox One S controller to a Bluetooth compatible device as you did with the Xbox One controller.
Further minor changes were that the controller became slightly lighter with more ergonomically-minded features that would make it more comfortable to play for longer periods.
It’s not clear whether or not we’ll see improvements made to Project Scorpio’s controller but considering Microsoft does consider the controller design as an integral part of the overall console experience it’s possible we could see some more minor changes that will improve appearance if not performance.
Project Scorpio vs Xbox One S vs Xbox One: Price
If you’re not swayed by hardware changes, we’re willing to bet that price will play a large part in which console you decide to go for in the end. If price wasn’t an issue we’d just buy every console out there, let’s face it.
Naturally, the Xbox One S is more expensive than the Xbox One but there are some great bundle deals to be picked up for the Xbox One S as that’s the console Microsoft is pushing most at the moment. The Xbox One S 1TB version currently retails in bundles for around $349 (£299 / AU$499) and the 500GB model sells for around $299 (£249 / AU$399).
This actually isn’t a huge jump from the Xbox One which you can pick up for around £230 ($285/ AU $380).
The final price for Project Scorpio hasn’t been revealed yet, but it’s safe to assume it’s going to be a fair bit higher than either of the other consoles. Microsoft has said that it won’t be any more than we’ve seen a console cost before but that could make its price as high as £400 to £500 ($500/ AU$ 660 to $600/ AU $760).
Should you upgrade?
Well, that depends on a few things. If you own a 4K UHD TV with HDR capabilities then you’ll definitely want to go for the Xbox One S or Project Scorpio.
It’s likely to be dependent on your budget but if you’re looking for native 4K and improved upscaling, Project Scorpio will be worth its higher sticker price. It’ll also be the go-to console for the latest virtual and mixed reality experiences as well as the smoothest performance in gameplay.
If you’d be happy with 4K upscaling as well as a nice Ultra HD Blu-ray player, you could very well be happy with the Xbox One S. The Xbox One S is also likely your best option if you don’t own a UHD TV but would still like to enjoy smoother gameplay.
Of course, we don’t know everything about Project Scorpio at the moment which makes it difficult to advise whether or not you should hold off. If we're honest, though, at this point things aren't looking great for the original Xbox One at the moment, particularly as the Xbox One S is so competitive in terms of pricing.