Microsoft Xbox One S vs Microsoft Xbox One S All-Digital full review

The Xbox One S All-Digital is Microsoft’s new entry-level console that offers the core Xbox experience with a budget-friendly price tag. While the Xbox One S is a traditional console, supporting both physical and digital media, the newer console ditches the disc drive for an exclusively digital experience.

What impact does this have on the overall Xbox One experience? We break it down for you right here.

A budget console that costs more than the standard Xbox One S

The main aim of the Xbox One S All-Digital is to offer the core Xbox experience at a discount – hence the removal of the optical drive. But while that sounds great in theory, in practice, it isn’t the case – not right now, anyway. The Xbox One S All-Digital costs £189.99 in the UK and $249.99 in the US, which seems pretty competitive until you take Xbox One S deals into consideration.

While the All-Digital edition is new, the Xbox One S has been around since 2016 and deals are pretty competitive. In fact, it’s cheaper for UK readers to buy the Xbox One S, complete with an optical drive, from GAME at £169.99, so why wouldn’t you? It’s a similar story with US readers, who can buy the Xbox One S Battlefield V bundle for $224 on Amazon.

We’re sure that the price of the Xbox One S All-Digital will drop down to match the budget offering in the coming months, but right now, it’s cheaper to buy the standard Xbox One S.

The same, but different

Apart from the removal of the disc drive and related components, the Xbox One S and Xbox One S All-Digital are identical. You’ll be able to access the same games, use the same accessories and expect the same graphical performance from both consoles, and the design is near-identical too.

We’ve broken down the specs of both consoles below, so you can get a better idea of the (lack of) differences:

 

Xbox One S

Xbox One S All-Digital

Dimensions

295 x 230 x 64mm

295 x 230 x 64mm

Weight

2.9kg

2.2kg

Processor

Eight-core Jaguar CPU at 1.75GHz

Eight-core Jaguar CPU at 1.75GHz

Graphics

12 CUs (914MHz) 1.23 TF GPU

12 CUs (914MHz) 1.23 TF GPU

Memory

8GB DDR3 RAM

8GB DDR3 RAM

Storage

500GB, 1TB, 2TB

1TB

Optical drive

4K Blu-ray drive

None

As mentioned, the graphical performance is identical, with both the Xbox One S and Xbox One S All-Digital offering 1080p output and HDR support, delivering a sharp, well-lit and vibrant gameplay experience. That means that you’ll be able to access the full catalogue of Xbox games on the newer console, although exclusively in digital form.

You might not be able to play 4K Blu-Rays or your favourite DVDs like you can with the One S, but you’ll still be able to access 4K video content via the likes of Netflix and other streaming services on the All-Digital. It should also come as no surprise that all Xbox One controllers, headsets and other accessories are fully compatible with the Xbox One S All-Digital.

Physical vs digital media

While the core gameplay experience is identical across the Xbox One S and Xbox One S All-Digital, the key difference is that you’re limited to digital downloads on the newer console. You’re cutting ties not only to physical Xbox One games, but older Xbox 360 backwards-compatible games, DVDs and Blu-ray too.

While that makes the console cheaper initially, it may work out more expensive down the line as you’re forced to rely solely on the Microsoft Store – and that’s not always the cheapest place to buy games. Games, even at launch, are cheaper to buy physically than digitally, with differences of up to £15/$20 depending on the retailer and game.

The battle of physical vs digital media isn’t new, and there are pros and cons to each. While physical discs can be cheaper, they also create a lot of clutter in the home – especially as your library increases over time. That’s not an issue with digital games, which are all neat and tidy in your digital game library awaiting a download.

You’ve also got a range of subscription services including Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Games with Gold and EA Access that provide a wide range of games for a relatively trivial amount each month, negating the costly need to buy each game individually. You’ll also get a copy of Sea of Thieves, Minecraft and Forza Horizon 3 with every All-Digital console to get your library started.

It’s also worth considering your home broadband speeds, as the lack of a disc drive means you’ll have to download or stream everything on the All-Digital. That’s not too much of an issue if you’re in a city where you can access 300Mbps+ speeds, but it’s not ideal for those in the country that barely hit 5Mbps. If your internet speeds aren’t up to scratch, the combination of a standard Xbox One S and physical games should provide a speedier install experience.

Verdict

The Xbox One S All-Digital sounds great on the surface – who doesn’t want a cheaper Xbox? But cutting the disc drive could prove more costly in the long-term as you won’t be able to buy discounted physical games from third-party retailers, or second-hand games from friends. You’ve also got to sacrifice the Blu-Ray and DVD support, which even with the likes of Netflix available, weakens the All-Digital’s capability to be an all-in-one media centre.

It’s not helped by the fact that discounted Xbox One S bundles from third-party retailers are cheaper than the Xbox One S All-Digital, so right now, you’re paying the same (if not more) for reduced functionality. That’ll likely change in the coming months as more Xbox One S All-Digital deals pop up, but right now, we think the standard Xbox One S is the better option for savvy consumers.

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