The Xbox One S is not only Microsoft’s attempt to address some of the more common issues that plagued the system’s original model (such as its bulky design) and help the Xbox One get a second chance at retail success, but it is also supposed to be the console that finally allows Xbox fans to experience true 4K video playback.
We say “supposed to” because recent reports have revealed that the Xbox One S is not quite as 4K capable as we were lead to believe.
As it turns out, the Xbox One S does not support 4K pass-through. Typically, when a 4K receiver supports pass-through, that means that you are able to plug in a third-party 4K streaming device such as an Amazon Fire TV into it and export the signal into 4K. In other words, pass-through is what allows the content you are streaming from such a device to ultimately appear on your television in 4K resolution.
This is not possible to do with the Xbox One S. If you try to plug a 4K streaming device into it, you won’t actually be able to view any content coming from that device in 4K. While the HDMI export used to hook your Xbox One up to your 4K TV works just fine, its import slot will not transfer that 4K signal.
How will this affect you as a user? That depends on your personal needs. As the Xbox One S is a self-contained streaming device that supports many apps such as Netflix and Hulu (as well as Ultra 4K Blu-Ray discs via the built-in drive) you may not actually need to use a separate streaming device in the first place to get most of your content.
This is more of an issue for anyone that wants to take advantage fo any exclusive content offered by these devices, or those who own a 4K streaming device through their satellite provider (such as DIRECTV) and want to be able to use the Xbox One S as the central hub for their entertainment center as it has previously been advertised to be. Indeed, the biggest drawback to this design is that it makes watching certain 4K TV broadcasts on the Xbox One S essentially impossible.
Microsoft has commented that they are able to add 4K pass-through functionality to the Xbox One S via a firmware update, but currently, do not plan to do so until 4K broadcasts become more widespread and the demand for this feature grows.