Xbox One Review: More Than A Game Console, Less Than A Living Room Revolution

Xbox One Review: Microsoft's Mission To Take Over Your Living Room Is Here

The first thing many people will notice about the One is how quiet it is when running. That silence is a substantial improvement over the loud whirring of the Xbox 360's fan, an uninvited noise that interrupted quieter gaming or binge-watching sessions. And in a welcome departure from the white of the original Xbox 360, which made any dirt or dust glaringly noticeable, the One machine sports a sexy black look. It's still quite large compared to the PlayStation 4, which was also released this month , and it lacks the portability of its smaller and lighter rival. But at least Microsoft finally caught up to Sony and added a BluRay player, completely leaving the Xbox 360's HD-DVD disaster in the dust. The One's controller features mostly small but welcome changes. The D-Pad is more responsive, and the textured analog stick has thicker edges to give gamers a real grip -- especially important in fast-paced games. Two new impulse triggers offer precise vibrations to match gameplay action, adding an immersive layer to the experience. The Xbox 360 controller (left) and the Xbox One controller (right). For Windows 8 users, the Xbox One's interface will look strikingly familiar. The console's dashboard is now both simpler and more customizable, with three tabs functioning as the main points of navigation. The first tab features "pinned" apps that essentially serves as a list of favorites. The center tab is made up of your most recently used apps. And the third tab gives access to the store, where users can buy games, music, movies and other programs. The pins have a nice flexibility to them, allowing individuals to save specific musicians on Xbox Music or TV shows on Netflix to their front screens.

Xbox One review: For gamers, yes, but you'll like it too

The worst part of the original Xbox 360 controllerthe awful, squishy, circular d-padhas been replaced with a tight, clicking plus-sign that is very responsive to quick double-taps. The clearance on the face buttons also seems lower this time around, requiring less total movement to register a push. And the central Xbox button on the controller now glows with a gentle white background rather than the green semicircles of the Xbox 360 controller. This means that there's no more easy indication of "player 1" and "player 2" on the controller itself, but all players are supposed to log in with at least a Guest username for identification anyway. For all these improvements, I wish Microsoft kept going and changed just a couple more things on its new controller. The first would be the addition of a rechargeable battery pack. In 2013, requiring two AA batteries for a consumer device that's going to get hundreds or thousands of hours of use seems downright silly. Yet Microsoft is still charging $25 extra for a battery pack that you can charge from inside the controller. Sure, it's nice to be able to transform any controller from wired to wireless with a standard USB cable if you run out of batteries. And to be fair, the two AAs that came with my Xbox One controller show no signs of dying after probably 15 to 20 hours of solid use over the last week or so (Microsoft tells me there is currently no way to measure controller battery levels through the system, but that such a feature will be coming in a future update). Still, recharging a controller in this day and age should be an included feature and not an optional upgrade. Enlarge / Just hanging out and having a chat. The one other big, continuing con in Microsoft's controller line is the proprietary port for headsets. Not only does this port lock out the dozens of standardized single-plug and USB gaming headsets on the market, but it also locks out any headsets designed for the Xbox 360.

Xbox One Review: Absolutely Amazing (When It Works)

That's the idea, anyway. And it works! Mostly. Especially if you have cable. Xbox One's TV features come in two flavors. If you don't have cable, the functionality is limited but still awesome in its own subtle way. Thanks to a built-in IR blaster, the Xbox One will control your TV, and the setup is a dream. All you have to do is tell the 'box what make your TV iswith a little bit of trial and errorand BOOM, you're good to go. From there, your Xbox can do most of the most basic stuff your remote would; turning your TV on, turning it off, changing the volume, muting, unmuting, etc. And you can do all that from your controller or with your voice. Saying "volume down" is handy but not life-changing, but things like waking your TV with an "Xbox on" command or muting at a moment's notice with no remote in sight is.

Xbox One: Gaming, Streaming and Live TV in 1 Powerful Package

Launch lineups are never a reliable indication of a console's gaming future, as launch games are rarely as well thought-out or polished as what you'll see on the console a year or two down the line. In this tradition, the Xbox One has some games that are decently enjoyable, and then a few wild misses. Keep in mind many of the Xbox One's exclusive titles aren't out yet, and some third-party games weren't available at time of writing. When games on the Xbox One look beautiful, it's something to sing praises about. Cinematic cut scenes can look amazing, and general gameplay looks like what we only see on high-end PCs. The Xbox One's ability to handle a lot at once was clear when you see how many AI zombies it was able to process while playing Dead Rising 3. But not all games look the part of "next-generation." Fighting game Killer Instinct, remade for the Xbox One, features graphics that only look passable for current generation consoles. The game also has excruciating load times; I had to wait almost 20 seconds for my character to appear on the character select screen. The on-rails dragon riding shooter Crimson Dragon featured glaring texture problems, with overexposed, blurry lakes of fire. An important thing to know about Xbox One games is that the load times are still as long as what you'd see on the current generation, or even longer. The first time you load a disc, you'll spend a couple minutes waiting for the game to install enough to play.

The console cant access all the on-demand menus and content. So you cant ditch your remote; you can only use it less often. For someone like me, who never watches live TV, the real benefit of this TV integration is quickly and easily switching from watching TV to doing something else (like viewing Netflix or gaming) without changing inputs and turning on other devices. Its a real timesaver. I also ran the PlayStation 4 into the HDMI input, and it works just fine. I didnt play much, but passing the PlayStation 4s video signal through the Xbox One didnt produce any extra latency. You can run a PS4 into the HDMI input of the Xbox One, if you want. It doesnt do anything special, though. Kinect is a vast improvement The new Kinect is leagues beyond the Xbox 360s Kinect. Its smaller, it works far better in dim light, and it has a much easier time tracking a tall guy like me in a tiny San Francisco living room. For the most part, the camera is a great addition to the system, and its probably a good gamble on Microsofts part to force the Kinect on everyone, even if that decision makes the Xbox One cost $100 more than its primary competitor. But the device still needs refinement. Whats that saying again? Eighty percent of the time, it works every time. Image: Michael Homnick The new Kinect is a vast improvement over the old one.