Microsoft’s aspirations to take over the living room didn’t appear out of thin air. The Xbox 360 — which launched as a dedicated game console back in 2005 — has morphed considerably over its eight year lifespan. The addition of apps, music and streaming services like Netflix, transformed the once game-centric console into something much more.
The Xbox One is a continuation of that evolution. Much like the Xbox 360, the new console is still very much a gaming device, but it’s also more than that. Designed to integrate with your existing home entertainment system Microsoft hopes the console will become the centerpiece of your living room. With the ability to stream live television, juggle multiple applications and built-in voice functionality the Xbox One provides an impressive amount of utility.
But it also comes a much steeper price point than Sony’s competing PlayStation 4. With such a strong focus on entertainment and apps, many game enthusiasts have questioned the integrity of the Xbox One as a dedicated game console.
Can Microsoft walk the fine line between offering new compelling entertainment features, while remaining true to the console’s gaming origins? Read the full review to find out.
The Xbox One is noticeably larger than its predecessor and the competing Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4). While the console doesn’t boast the same sleek angular form as its competitor, it provides a clean aesthetic that imbues a sense of power. The black set-top box offers a smooth glossy finish with a disk tray situated along the left side of the console’s face and a capacitive power button sensor along the right-hand edge. Unfortunately the Xbox One sports a sizeable power brick, and unlike the PS4 it cannot be situated vertically, making it difficult to find the surface area needed to store the device.
While the added girth can be troublesome, it’s a welcomed design change considering the numerous heating issues that plagued the Xbox 360. With its sizeable vents and added dimensions the Xbox One remains comfortably cool and quiet, even after running for extended periods of time. The ability to run efficiently for long intervals is vital for the Xbox One as it will likely be on when utilizing other parts of the home entertainment system (i.e. the cable box).
The Xbox One designates the majority of its ports towards the rear portion of the chassis. The device features an HDMI in port that allows you to connect your cable/satellite box to the console; though it can technically be used for any additional device such as Xbox 360 or even a PS4. The console also offers an HDMI out port to connect to the television, an Ethernet connector, an infrared (IR) port and a Pair of USB 3.0 ports. The Xbox One houses another USB 3.0 port on the left side of the device, which will be especially useful for those looking to connect a wired controller or a high-end gaming headset.
The Xbox One houses an eight-core AMD CPU, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB internal HDD and a Blu-ray player. In terms of raw performance the Xbox One’s specs are slightly weaker than that of the competing PS4’s; however, this was the case with the last generation too. Considering that most game titles are developed as multi-platform — or designed to run across both systems — the technical gap will likely have little influence on actual gameplay experiences.
Similar to the PS4, the Xbox One offers a 500GB HDD. Technically you can replace the console’s HDD with a larger faster variant, but doing so will void your warranty (unlike the PS4). Additionally, the console does not offer external HDD support at launch, but Microsoft has stated that it plans to address this issue going forward. More problematic is the inability to manage the current HDD. With 500GB it’s unlikely that you will find yourself short on storage anytime soon, but with digital downloads such as Call of Duty: Ghostsrequiring nearly 40GB of memory, it’s vital that they add the means to manage storage in the coming months.
The Xbox One controller doesn’t deviate drastically from the Xbox 360’s design — and considering that it’s widely held to be the most comfortable controller ever made — that’s probably a good thing. The Xbox One controller retains a similar dual analog design, but it’s condensed thanks to its built-in battery slot, as opposed to the extruding design on the Xbox 360.
The controller still offers the familiar X, Y, B, A button layout along with a drastically improved cross-style D-pad. The Home button (previously known as the Xbox Guide button) has been moved north to make room for repurposed View and Menu buttons, formerly known as Start and Select. The right and left bumpers protrude a bit more than they did on the Xbox 360 controller and the triggers have been equipped with rumble motors.
While the layout remains largely the same, the controller boasts noticeable improvements to its tactile feedback. Each button quickly snaps back into place after being struck, this is especially noticeable with the dual-analog and trigger controls. The result is a tight control scheme that feels more precise. After using the Xbox One’s controller for an extended period of time the Xbox 360’s dual-analog controls felt loose and unwieldy by comparison.
While the console does not offer a rechargeable controller out of the box, you can expect exceptionable battery life from a single pair of double AAs. Notebook Review was unable to deplete the batteries after using the device heavily for a week and half. This is because the controller communicates with the console’s Kinect 2.0, to enter a powered down state whenever the controller is not being fully utilized (i.e. when watching television).
The most controversial addition the Xbox One is the bundled inclusion of the Kinect 2.0. It’s the reason that the Xbox One sports a hefty $500 price tag — $100 more than Sony’s PlayStation 4 — but it’s also one of the console’s most promising elements. While it’s possible to run the Xbox One without the Kinect, it’s not recommended. The motion-control apparatus is tightly ingrained into the device’s operating system. Simply put, many of the Xbox One’s most impressive features are highly dependent on the Kinect.
In fact, the Kinect is the key that allows the Xbox One to become the heart (or at least to attempt to become the heart) of your home entertainment center. The Kinect houses three IR blasting beacons that allow the device to connect and control (to a degree) a large array of electronic devices; including most cable/satellite boxes, televisions, sound bars and even universal remotes. The device also offers a cornucopia of small quality of life features, such as the ability to automatically sign in to your account through facial recognition (when holding an Xbox One controller) or bypass inputting QR codes by simply scanning it via the Kinect’s camera.
In terms of a gaming device, the Kinect 2.0 does boast noticeable improvements; including the ability to detect up to six individuals simultaneously, with a greater attention to detail, improved voice recognition and increased consistency. But the more pressing challenge for the device will be how it’s implemented in game design; and in that regard, the Kinect remains unproven.
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