Microsoft’s Xbox One S isn’t just an awesome games console, it can also replace your home cinema system. Here’s how to stream 4K UHD video, watch HDR movies and TV shows and more, with a detailed break-down of the Xbox One S’ video connections, media features and how it compares to other 4K Blu-ray players.
Microsoft’s Xbox One hasn’t been out a ridiculous amount of time, but the upgraded next-gen Xbox One S is already hitting UK shelves. Of course it can play the biggest new games, but it’s also designed to be an up-to-date home media centre.
From playing 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs to streaming 4K Netflix shows with HDR, this is the ultimate complimentary gadget to partner with your 4K TV. Sadly the Xbox One S can’t handle 4K gaming, but should be a great way to get more 4K video content in your home while also proving more affordable than dedicated Ultra HD Blu-ray players.
Here’s everything you can do with the Xbox One S to set it up as your home cinema centre.
Microsoft Xbox One S as a 4K home cinema system: What ports does it have and can it connect to a 4K HDR TV?
One of the most important upgrades in this system over the previous Xbox console is connectors. While the Xbox One S can’t manage 4K gaming, it’ll be able to play native 4K video content with High Dynamic Range, where the current Xbox One’s physical connections limit it to 1080p Full HD.
Read next: What is HDR video and why is it so good?
On the back of the Xbox One S you’ll find an HDMI 2.0 output that, crucially, is good for HDCP 2.2. That essentially means you’ll be able to connect the console to a television or projector with the same ports and 4K video can flow freely at glorious UHD quality, with HDR support.
Microsoft has also upgraded the graphics chips and processors for the Xbox One S, meaning the playback of these high quality videos should be buttery smooth.
A front-mounted IR blaster and USB 3.0 port mean that access is easy without the need to move the Xbox One S. You can use a remote or plug in a flash drive to access content easily, probably easier than on a dedicated Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
On the rear of the Xbox One S are even more ports, including two USB 3.0, HDMI in and out, IR out for control via an IR blaster, optical audio and Ethernet. For anyone who wants to use voice controls via the Xbox Kinect, there is an adapter available that will allow it to connect via USB – since Microsoft no longer ships the console with that microphone packed extra.
Microsoft Xbox One S as a 4K home cinema system: How does it compare to other Ultra HD Blu-ray players?
At the time of publishing, the Xbox One S is priced lower than all the Ultra HD Blu-ray player boxes on the market. Considering this is also a fully fledged games console, that makes the One S a very attractive offering indeed.
The base model Xbox One S with 500GB storage will be £249 at launch. A 1TB version will cost £299 while the 2TV model comes in at £350.
Ultra HD Blu-rays offer one of the most high quality versions of 4K content available in the home right now. The console also supports HDR so those discs with High Dynamic Range will offer those greater ranges of bright and dark and more enhanced colours on an HDR-ready 4K TV.
This new Xbox model is also smaller than the last (40 percent smaller to be exact), meaning it’ll take up even less space in your TV stand. Plus the large power brick of old is gone, so keeping cables tidy should be easier too. On top of all that the Xbox One S will also stand upright, so varied placement options are there should you need them – something most Blu-ray players don’t offer.
Microsoft Xbox One S as a 4K home cinema system: 4K streaming services
The Xbox One S comes with Netflix UHD support, meaning you can stream all of Netflix’s 4K and HDR content directly to your 4K HDR TV. This will pop up as you sign in, so you can see what movies and shows are available now – a very tempting pull away from a planned gaming session.
Amazon Prime Video and YouTube should offer 4K streaming on the Xbox One S with future updates. And expect even more apps to support 4K in the near future. You can also run your Sky box through the Xbox for control of everything in one place, so this will likely get 4K support when Sky Q Silver Ultra HD rolls out fully.
Microsoft Xbox One S as a 4K home cinema system: Should I buy one?
If you’ve not got a current games console or an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, then buying an Xbox One S is a must. Of course, there are other factors to take into account.
Microsoft has already announced that its next console, dubbed Project Scorpio, is coming soon and will also be able to support 4K gaming – which the Xbox One S won’t. Sony will also be bringing its 4K offering to the table soon (announcement expected September 2016), for those with PlayStation loyalty.
Buying the Xbox One S console for 4K apps is a bit of a waste, since pretty much all 4K TVs will have 4K apps like Netflix and Amazon Video already available.
However, even for those that already own an Xbox One, the Xbox One S is an upgrade that will get you an Ultra HD Blu-ray player for cheaper than anything else out there – plus a console upgrade.