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Should You Buy the New Disc-Free Xbox One?

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A Xbox One S next to an Xbox One S All-Digital with Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon, Ori and the Blind Forest background
Microsoft

Microsoft just announced the Xbox One S All-Digital Version, an Xbox without a disc drive. They’re priced at $250 and include three games to start, so the question is: Should you buy it? Surprisingly the answer isn’t “no, not ever.”

Look Ma! No Discs!

Microsoft’s latest Xbox is a bit of curiosity. Imagine an Xbox One S. Now remove the disc drive and cover up the hole with a plastic face. And you have the Xbox One S All-Digital Version. Why not retool the console to account for removal of the drive? In an interview with Ars Technica, Microsoft’s Platform and Devices GM Jeff Gattis explained that even though it looked like a ten-minute design job they did in fact run through a new testing cycle and opted to go with the same form factor to keep costs down.

The change is more than just a redesign or lack thereof, however. Over at our sister site How-To Geek, we’ve detailed how this new Xbox fulfills Microsoft’s original vision for this console generation. But to get into whether or not you should buy it, really we need to dig into what you’re giving up and what you’re gaining.

Say Goodbye To Buying Physical Games And Movies

About 15 Xbox One Games
Just a few of the games I own and couldn’t play on the new Xbox Josh Hendrickson

Buying the Xbox One S All-Digital Version (which has a name so terrible it’s a strike against purchasing the thing) means giving up the ability to use any physical media. And that’s something to think through on multiple levels.

Do you ever buy used games? You can’t do that with this system. Do you trade or borrow discs with a friend? Also a no-go. Do you care about best price? Physical media is often on sale cheaper than the digital version, but that won’t help you with this Xbox.

Do you prefer the absolute best possible picture and sound from your movies that only physical media can provide? Well, you’re going to have to buy a Blu-ray player to go with this thing. Do you already own Xbox One and Xbox 360 games on discs? You can’t play those on this console.

Do you have multiple Xbox consoles in your house? We made a strong argument in our article about whether or not you should buy physical Switch games based on whether or not you have multiple consoles and players in your home. While the Xbox has way better cross-console sharing than the Switch, you still need to download the data to multiple consoles which raises our final consideration.

While maybe none of the previous points apply to you—perhaps this is your first Xbox ever and you only buy movies in digital format, or you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and other services instead—you still need to ask yourself an important question: “Do I have a Data cap?”

Unfortunately, many ISPs enforce data caps now. And it’s not uncommon for a game to be 80 gigs or more. Buying a disc won’t cover that entirely, but it will offset a large chunk of it. And streaming a 4K HDR movie isn’t going to help matters either. If you have a data cap and you’re an avid gamer and media consumer, giving up your disc drive is something you’ll genuinely want to think through.

Like the Name Says, Your Game Library Goes Digital

A list of 293 Xbox digital games
My digital library far outstrips my physical games.

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