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Xbox One X or S? That is the question.
There is no shortage of reasons to recommend an Xbox One. The Xbox One X is still the most powerful game console on the market--and the standard S version is no slouch, either. It has a growing library of games you can't play on competitors like the PS4 or Nintendo Switch. It's a gateway to subscription services like Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass that offer fantastic bang for your buck in games to play on it. And if you have friends who own an Xbox One, you have a built-in network of online gaming partners.
But like all video game platforms these days, getting started can be a daunting experience. With this Xbox One buying guide, we'll give you all the information you need to make an educated buying decision. Plus, we'll help you out with what games, services, and accessories someone new to the platform might want to know about as well.
The big question when it comes to buying an Xbox One is whether you should get the Xbox One S or X. As we move further into the 4K HDR era of televisions, this question is fairly easy to answer. If you have a 4K TV or plan on getting one soon, you should almost certainly go with the Xbox One X. It's more expensive, but it's powerful enough to push gorgeous 4K graphics for games, as long as they're Xbox One X Enhanced.
If you're happy with your non-4K TV and don't plan to upgrade anytime soon, go ahead and buy the less-expensive Xbox One S. It's still a powerful gaming machine, and it's perfectly suited for non-4K entertainment setups. For additional details, you can read our Xbox One X review and Xbox One S review.
The Xbox One is capable of doing all sorts of things online, including playing games, broadcasting play sessions on services like Twitch and Mixer, and streaming movies, TV shows, and music. Unfortunately, it can't do many of those things without an Xbox Live Gold subscription. This service is a must-have for anyone who wants to take their machine online, which is nearly everyone these days. Subscriptions range from monthly ($10) to yearly ($60), but you can find occasional deals if you look around.
An Xbox Live Gold subscription has more benefits than just getting you online. It offers added benefits like free games each month through Games With Gold and special discounts during the weekly Deals With Gold sales at the Microsoft Store.
Another service to consider is Xbox Game Pass. Sort of like a Netflix for games, it gives you access to a selection of over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games--including Microsoft-published games the day they come out. But instead of streaming the games to your system, it has you download them to your machine. After a free two-week trial, Xbox Game Pass subscriptions cost $10 per month.
Alternatively, publisher Electronic Arts has a similar service for Xbox One called EA Access. It allows you to download and play select EA-published games.
You're not going to get the full Xbox One experience without picking up some games. Now that the system has been around for several years, it's built up an incredible library of top-notch titles. Here are some of the best.
Halo 5: Guardians -- 8/10
"Halo 5: Guardians is fueled by new ideas and propelled by some of the boldest changes to this storied franchise yet. Some of these changes fail, but others succeed, and although Halo 5 falters at times, it whisks us through black holes and across war torn tropical islands at a rapid pace. We can only surrender to its velocity." [Read the full review]
Monster Hunter World -- 8/10
"Ever since the title was first announced last year, it was clear that Capcom was gunning for something grander than Monster Hunter Generations. It has succeeded, and this is likely the biggest and best that the franchise has ever been. It's not just the comparative depth of the narrative; it also boasts almost seamless integration between combat systems that were previously incomprehensible for amateurs. The Monster Hunter formula has definitely honed its claws, and all the above factors play their part in making Monster Hunter World a meaningful evolution for the series at large." [Read the full review]
Overwatch -- 9/10
"Overwatch is an exercise in refined chaos. There are multitudes of layers hiding beneath the hectic surface, and they emerge, one after another, the more you play. This is a shooter that knows how to surprise, one that unfolds at a frantic pace, one that takes a handful of great ideas, and combines them into something spectacular." [Read the full review]
Forza Horizon 3 -- 9/10
"With Forza Horizon 3, Turn 10 and Playground Games affirm the series' status as the driving game for everyone. The new emphasis on off-road options isn't at the expense of traditional races, thanks to the sheer volume of activities. All the while, Playground Games' calculated kitchen-sink design philosophy and rich reward system persistently tempt you to explore beyond your comfort zone, whether it's gifting your first Ariel Nomad buggy or reminding you that stunt races can impress thousands of fans." [Read the full review]
Cuphead -- 8/10
"Everything you've heard about Cuphead is true. It is a difficult side-scrolling shooter with relentless boss battles that demand rapid-fire actions and reactions. Think for too long, and you won't stand a chance against the game's toughest enemies.... When you are navigating your way around bullets, smaller enemies, and pitfalls, while simultaneously trying to damage your primary target, toppling Cuphead's imposing bosses is both a monumental and rewarding task." [Read the full review]
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt -- 10/10
"Where the Witcher 2 sputtered to a halt, The Witcher 3 is always in a crescendo, crafting battle scenarios that constantly one-up the last, until you reach the explosive finale and recover in the glow of the game's quiet denouement. But while the grand clashes are captivating, it is the moments between conflicts, when you drink with the local clans and bask in a trobairitz's song, that are truly inspiring." [Read the full review]
Games and services are all well and good, but optional hardware add-ons can go a long way toward improving your Xbox One experience. Here are some suggestions.
Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller - If you're a serious gamer who demands pro-level precision, this customizable controller is the one for you.
Xbox Wireless Controller - The console itself only comes with one controller, so if you want to play couch co-op, you'll need at least one extra.
Xbox One Play and Charge Kit - Free yourself from the tyranny of disposable batteries with this rechargeable lithium-ion battery kit that lets you plug your controller into your console to recharge it.
Seagate Game Drive - 2TB - Games can be enormous these days, which means onboard disc space can fill up fast. Connect an external hard drive for instant extra space.
Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Wireless Gaming Headset - This headset lets you chat with friends while playing online and keeps the sound from waking anyone up when you're playing late into the night. It also connects wirelessly to the console, meaning no tangled cords.
Xbox One Media Remote - As silly as it sounds, it can get annoying having to turn on your controller every time you need to pause Netflix or rewind an Ultra HD Blu-ray movie. This handy media remote solves that problem.
Xbox Gift Card - Whether it's games, movies, music, or TV shows, you're going to want to buy something from the digital Microsoft Store eventually. Having credit on your account is always nice.