Xbox One S vs. Xbox One X: Which Console Really Offers 4K Gaming?
Stephan Jukic – July 24, 2019
Both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X touted their ability to handle 4K ultra HD gaming and HDR when they were released on their respective dates (the One X came out months after the Xbox One S). However, their specs are definitely different from each other in many ways and as a result, each one’s promotional claims to 4K support have to be taken with a bit of consideration for what each console really offers. Here’s our guide to exactly what you need to know, in one simple post.
Xbox One S: 4K and no 4K
The Xbox One S was built around the original 2013 Xbox One. Its basic design and much of its internals are the same as those of the original and this means pretty limited dynamic graphics output of the type needed for real 4K gaming. You can probably imagine where we’re going with this: The One S basically does not support 4K gaming. It’s maximum output sits at around 1.4 teraflops of GPU/CPU power and this means that for dynamic, action-packed gameplay, you’re going to be stuck at 1080p resolution at best. In the case of some games and their graphics, the Xbox One S is designed to tamp things down even further by reducing you to visuals at 900p or as low as 720p in some cases. This sucks but games played on the One S can still look great even if they don’t quite reach their maximum potential. The reason why is partly due to HDR.
The HDR aspect of games played with the Xbox One S might be able to pass through and render on the right kind of 4K TV (an HDR TV in other words) because HDR itself doesn’t require nearly as much processing power as native 4K resolution would. Thus, while your Xbox One S console’s resolution won’t quite match what that beautiful 4K HDR TV you’re using it with can deliver at its best, the console will still at least let you enjoy awesome color vibrancy and contrast.
On the other hand, like we said above, “4K but no 4K”. What this means is that the Xbox One S does actually support 4K resolution when it comes to content media -movies and TV shows and such in other words. So, if you use the console to play your favorite 4K UHD movies from the Microsoft store itself or through streaming 4K content apps like Netflix and YouTube, then you’re good to go for full, native ultra HD resolution and HDR color performance so long as you have a 4K TV to connect the One S console to (and we assume you do if you want to know about its 4K chops).
What’s more, the Xbox One S also comes with an internal 4K UHD Blu-ray disc drive, making it a 4K Blu-ray player as well as a streaming media platform and pretty robust game console. In addition to these sources of content, the One S comes with its own internal storage, with 500GB, 1 TB and since recently, 2 TB versions of the console available. These can be used to store downloaded 4K movies from any source or for storing all those rich games that the console won’t let you enjoy in native 4K.
With all of these things packed together into one single device, what the Xbox One S offers is a very powerful home theater/gaming package despite its lack of 4K UHD chops for gaming. It also manages to do this at a fairly reasonable price of $274 for the 1 TB edition and even less for the 500GB version. If you consider that it includes both a 4K Blu-ray player (which normally sell for $200 or more each) and a fully fleshed out gaming platform, this is not such a bad deal. In other words, it’s a useful choice if you’re: A. looking for decent gaming on a budget and B. looking for a really put-together all-in-one entertainment platform that combines games with streaming with UHD HDR Blu-ray.
The Xbox One X: 4K Through and Through (but with some limits)
Now if you’re dead-set on console (as opposed to PC) gaming in actual 4K resolution at least some of the time, the device you really need is the Xbox One S’s big brother, the One X console. This robust beast does indeed support full-blown native 4K gameplay and it comes with the beefed up hardware specs to make sure it works.
The One X console isn’t just a bit of an improvement from the One S. Instead it’s an entirely new device with over FOUR times the power of the Xbox One S edition. Its internals, GPU, processing power and its entire external design have all been updated from those that the One S and Xbox One console offer and the resulting device is the game console on today’s market that comes closest to offering heavy-duty UHD gaming of the kind that only PC rigs with heavy-duty Nvidia or AMD GPUs could handle before the arrival of the One X.
The One X console not only offers support for resolutions above 1080p, it also delivers the processing kick necessary for specially enhanced in-game environment and texture details. This means that games played on the One X at 4K or even at 1440p and 1080p resolution will look more detailed and dynamic in addition to whatever resolution bump they get.
On the other hand, the Xbox One X isn’t perfect either. Its support for 4K gaming is sometimes limited depending on what kind of game you play and it frequently falls far short of approaching higher 50fps+ frame rates if pushed with detailed, HDR-laden graphics at native 4K resolution. In other words, it’s still not quite up to par with what a well-made 4K PC gaming rig could pull off much more easily and consistently.
The Xbox One X of course also supports all the same HDR, streaming media, connectivity and storage options that the Xbox One S offered but with better computation power backing them all up. Naturally enough, this console costs quite a bit more than its older cousin, with a price tag of about $390 for the 1 TB model. We however would say it’s worth that price if you have a 4K HDR TV and want to enjoy at least some gaming in native 4K resolution. The more robust alternative, which is a full-blown 4K UHD PC with 4K-capable Nvidia or AMD GPUs would cost you much, much more than any Xbox One X edition.