September 24, 2021

Xbox One X

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How Xbox One S is falling behind – but also defining the future

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What does the future hold for the Xbox One S? At Digital Foundry, we’ve noted something of a concerning trend for Microsoft’s base console – while system exclusives continue to hold up well from a quality perspective, top-end third-party titles are pushing the system to its limits – with sometimes disappointing results. The question is this: if the S is losing pace with the competition, how well can it hold up in the years to come? After all, its successor is not likely to arrive until 2020.

Let’s put all of this into context. The Xbox One has always had a less capable GPU than the PlayStation 4, so the generation has typically seen the PS4 deliver resolution or frame-rate advantages over its Microsoft counterpart – this is nothing new, and the 1080p/900p divide has been in place for much of the generation. By and large, 720p vs 1080p comparisons aside, the differences only really become evident if compared both consoles directly side – so what’s changed?

There’s a combination of factors in play here, but mostly, I suspect it’s down to several factors – firstly, the fact is that the vanilla PlayStation 4 is effectively the base platform owing to its ginormous installed userbase. Secondly, developers are pushing that platform harder than they ever have before – so compromises in resolution in favour of features on a PS4 build have a more profound impact for the Xbox One S build. Then there’s the arrival of Xbox One X – in terms of its basic nuts and bolts design, its architecture has a crucial commonality with PS4 and Pro, something the S doesn’t have – a fully unified memory structure.

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