What is the Xbox One S?
We're reviewing the 1TB version of the Xbox One S, which will set you back about £240, but both versions represent among the cheapest methods of getting a UHD BD player into your home. In fact it's an almost identical situation to the PlayStation 3 during the early days of Blu-ray and consumers have taken a similar approach, not even using the Xbox One S as a gaming console, but instead treating it as a standalone player. In this review we're going to do the same and specifically look at the Xbox One S as an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and decide whether this feature-packed games console succeeds as a standalone machine.
The Xbox One S that we tested for this review was bought from Scan and is a genuine retail unit, rather than a review sample provided by Microsoft. As such our experiences with this Xbox One S should be the same as any other unit bought from a retailer.
Connections & Control
Features & Specs
In the Blu-ray sub-menu you can turn Dolby Digital Dynamic Range Control on and off and you can select a bitstream output to let your receiver decode the audio for Atmos and DTS:X. There's also the option to select your preferred menu, audio and subtitle languages. In the Disc sub-menu you can select to play a disc automatically and resume playback, although as we mentioned the console didn't seem to do that properly. Finally in the Display menu you can select different resolutions from 720p to 4K UHD and also select 8-, 10- or 12-bit and the colour space. Finally under Advanced Video Settings you can set the console to automatically detect your TV and allow 50Hz and 24Hz frame rates, HDR, 4K, YCC 4:2:2 and 3D if applicable.
Xbox One S Video Review
The Xbox One S is actually fairly simple in its setup, unintuitive menus aside, so in reality there's less opportunity for it to be manipulating the signal in any unwanted fashion. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to discover that the Xbox One S is an excellent Ultra HD Blu-ray player that delivered an image performance that was the equal of the standalone players we have reviewed. Whilst we can complain about little niggles like noisier playback, slower loading and using a game controller as a remote, when it comes to image quality the Xbox One S is superb. We ran through a host of UHD Blu-ray discs and the console handled them all with ease, delivering perfect playback. We have read of people experiencing problems loading certain discs but we didn't find any issues, even with Planet Earth II, with which we know others have had problems. We may not like using a slot loading system but we had no complaints about the images on screen.
The same was true when it came to Full HD Blu-rays like Rogue One and 3D Blu-rays like Moana, which the Xbox One S handled extremely well. If there was one area where the console could have struggled it was scaling these Blu-rays to a 4K resolution but it actually proved very adept in this area. The same was true of the DVD test discs we tried and overall we were impressed with the Xbox One S's performance, which reaffirmed its bargain status. The playback of video streaming was also excellent and the console handled the input from our set top box equally as effectively. The console's native frame rate is 60Hz but just make sure you have ticked the boxes for 50Hz and 24Hz and you won't have any problems with different frames rates, the console will automatically switch to the correct one.
As we mentioned earlier in the review the Xbox One S is a digital transport, that means it has no analogue outputs, but we have also read reports of the audio sounding 'thin'. Well once again we're talking about ones and zeros and we can assure you there was nothing 'thin' about the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Pacific Rim, which nearly blew the doors off the home cinema. The same goes for The Rock's dulcet tones in Moana, with the musical numbers sounding great. We ran through all of our favourite test discs and the Xbox One S handled Dolby True HD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS: X and even Auro-3D without any problems and the audio sounded superb through our 7.2.4 system. All-in-all the Xbox One S didn't put a foot wrong as a playback device for discs and video streaming services, making it a genuine contender as an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
- Superb 4K playback
- Decent build quality
- It's also a games console
- Great price
- Noisy and slow in playback
- Game controller not ideal remote
- Only one HDMI output
- No Dolby Vision support
- No analogue audio
- No display
Microsoft Xbox One S UHD Blu-ray Player Review
Should I buy one?If you're in the market for a games console but also want Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, it's a bit of a no-brainer, in fact the Xbox One S is currently your only option. However even if you're not interested in the gaming aspect, it's still worth considering because the Xbox One S is an excellent 4K disc player in its own right with a superb video and audio performance. Yes it isn't perfect, it's fairly noisy, the disc loading and navigation is a bit slow, the operating system feels slightly confusing and we'd definitely buy a media remote to use instead of the gaming controller but in pure performance terms we had absolutely no complaints. The Xbox One S is also well made and we like it's understated appearance, which means it won't look out of place in an equipment rack. There's a lot more choice these days when it comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray players but at £200 for the 500GB version, it's hard to see how the Xbox One S can be anything other than a Best Buy.
What are my alternatives?This is an interesting question and it really depends on your priorities. If absolute cost is your main criteria then the Panasonic DMP-UB300 is hard to resist at just under £190. Aside from the gaming aspect, the only advantage the Xbox One S has is built-in WiFi but otherwise the two are very similar in terms of performance. If you need a second HDMI output because your soundbar or receiver doesn't support HDR or HDCP 2.2. then the Xbox One S isn't for you. In that case you're looking at the Samsung UBD-K8500 which currently costs around £220 and the Panasonic DMP-UB400 which you can pick up for around £240. If you think that Dolby Vision support will be important, then you're looking at the LG UP970 which currently retails for around £280, whilst those who want analogue outputs should consider the Panasonic DMP-UB900 which will set you back about £370. One thing is for certain, whatever your criteria and whatever your budget, there's never been a better time to buy an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
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Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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