If you’re not sure whether the Xbox One S is right for you, you may want to consider it as part of a wider range of upgrades. Because unlike its predecessor, Xbox One S is 4K Ultra HD compatible. And 4K changes everything.
Remember the first time you saw HD? It was like getting an upgrade for your eyes. Well, 4K Ultra HD has the same impact, as it offers four times the resolution of standard HD, or 3840 x 2160. And modern 4K sets are so good that everything looks better, even regular HD programming and games.
To test this, I connected my Xbox One S to a new Samsung SUHD TV, a 55-inch set with 4K Ultra HD and HDR support that currently retails for about $1400. The impact is immediate and obvious: The picture is astonishing, and even the sound is amazing.
Connecting the Xbox One S to a 4K set requires no special cables: You just use the HDMI cable that shipped with the console (or any other standard HDMI cable). Like many modern sets, this Samsung has game mode settings and other tweeks, but I left everything on the stock configuration to start.
When you fire up Xbox One S, it will prompt you to switch the Dashboard from its normal 1080p display to 4K, and on subsequent wake up events, the resolution overlay that the TV displays when it fires up confirms that the Xbox One S is outputting at 4K. You can also navigate to Settings, Display, Video Output to further configure the display, with the available resolutions now listed as 1080p, 720p, and 4K UHD.
(My video capture device tops out at 1080p, so I had to remove it from the chain to access the Xbox One S’s 4K features.)
I know from experimenting with the TV that the built-in Netflix app supports 4K/HDR content—and yes, it’s stunning, and includes Netflix originals like House of Cards as well as movies; I watched part of The Da Vinci Code as well, for example, and there are lots of 4K demoreel-type videos as well.
So I was curious whether the Xbox One’s Netflix and Amazon Video apps would support 4K video as well, given that Microsoft has been touting this fact. And sure enough, they do.
For Netflix, the 4K content appears in an “UltraHD 4K” list that only appears when you’re using a compatible app and TV.
I didn’t see a similar list in Amazon Video, but searching the web, I found a list of 4K UHD videos they offer and just used search. Looking at the Amazon Originals show Bosch and the movie Interstellar, both of which I’d previously watched, I didn’t see any indication that either was in 4K on-screen. But the TV told me they were displaying at 3840 x 2160, and both certainly look incredible. (To find 4K content on Amazon, simply search for 4K.)
I haven’t yet tested Ultra HD Blu-ray movies, but the Xbox One S optical drive can of course play such titles.
Xbox One S can’t play games in 4K, and of course critics will race to point out that it usually can’t play them in 1080p either. But as previously mentioned, existing titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops III, which I’ve been basically playing daily since last November, take on new life on a 4K set, both graphically and sonically. I was most curious about the little musical bits I’d never noticed before, but the richer, punchier color presentation and crispness of the graphics really made the game feel new again. And of course I’m looking forward to HDR-enable games like Gears of War 4, which should be even richer looking.
In any event, Xbox One S is the perfect accompaniment to your 4K Ultra HD TV set. And a great excuse for upgrading and jumping into the Xbox One lineup for the first time.