Review

Review: Xbox One

When Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 eight years ago, it was "just" a game console that could also connect to the Internet to play online and download smaller games along with DLC packs. Oh, and it could also play DVDs (or HD DVD discs if you bought the short lived add-on hardware). That was pretty much all we expected from a game console back in 2005.

It's now 2013, and things have changed enormously in terms of what we want out of a game console. Thanks to both software updates and additional hardware add-ons, the Xbox 360 can now stream videos from Netflix, Hulu and a ton of other content providers; cable companies can use it to let consumers watch regular television channels through the console. More so, independent developers can publish their own games on the console directly. There are Xbox Live avatars that people can outfit with special clothes and items for a price. Gamers can even use their hand and arm movements to control games via the first generation Kinect add-on.

Yes, the era of just being able to sit on the couch and play games on a "game console" is truly over. While purists might not care for these changes, Microsoft clearly sees the newly released Xbox One as their next step in that evolution that will offer not just games but a ton of other entertainment options, including plans for original television programming made by Microsoft itself. But the question remains: should you get an Xbox One or wait until even more features are added?

The standard Xbox One, which is the subject of this review, comes in a lime green box. In the package comes the console itself, along with the Kinect add-on, a headset, a controller with two AA batteries, a power cord, a power brick and a HDMI cord, along with a setup manual and a code good for 14 free days on Xbox Live Gold if you don't have an active subscription already. If you are lucky enough to get an Xbox One Day One edition, it will arrive in a black box. Inside there's an Xbox One controller with a Day One label, an Xbox logo sticker and a code for a Day One Xbox Live achievement, in addition to all of the other things in the standard version.

If you are going to get an Xbox One console, there's one other thing we strongly suggest you purchase; an Xbox Live Gold subscription. When the Xbox 360 first launched, you could get away with not paying for the Gold service if you were not into playing online multiplayer games. However, the Xbox One has so many features that require Xbox Live Gold that your experience with the console will be highly curtailed if you don't sign up for it.

Setting up the Xbox One is pretty straightforward. Plugging in the console to a power strip or outlet is combined with connecting the Kinect to the Xbox One. The HDMI cord can be connected to a cable or satellite box that's already connected to the TV and then the HDMI cable is then connected to the Xbox One's HDMI In port to enable viewing of television through the console's UI.

Once you turn the console on you should see an Xbox One logo on a green background that just sits there for a few minutes. It fact, it takes so long you might think something might be wrong with the console. However, it does finally ask you to download the 500 MB Day One update which is required for the Xbox One to do, well, anything. Depending on the speed of your Internet connection it may take around 10 to 15 minutes to download and install the update. Once that's done, you get to see the Xbox One logo again for a few minutes before completing the rest of the set up process, including adding in your Microsoft Account information. You have to type this information with the controller and on-screen keyboard which is always a pain but there's nothing you can do to avoid it.

The Xbox One's case is a big "2001" monolith-like box in a "liquid black" color that, aside from a 45 degree cut on the bottom and a glowing Xbox logo on the right, is about as stylish as a yellow bus. It does come with a slot loading disc player which is a big plus compared to the tray on the original Xbox 360 that was prone to breaking. We also appreciate the fact that the console runs pretty quiet for the most part, even while playing games, which is definitely something we could not say about the Xbox 360.

With the exception of one USB port on the left side of the Xbox One, all of the other ports are on the back of the console. That includes two more USB 3.0 ports, the power socket, the Ethernet connection, the HDMI Out port, the HDMI In port for connecting a cable box to the console, the Kinect connection, and an optical audio port.

While it's great that the Xbox One has three USB ports, they currently don't do a lot, since Microsoft decided to ship the console without the promised external hard drive support via those USB connections. Microsoft says that extra storage support is coming in a software update but has not given a specific date. You can't even connect a Flash drive to play MP3 files on the console; the Xbox One doesn't support it. If you own a Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 PC or tablet, you can stream any video or music file to the Xbox One and it will run them via their included Xbox Video or Xbox Music, respectively.

Inside the Xbox One there's a custom APU from AMD that includes a CPU and Radeon-based GPU. There's 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive inside. Much has been said about how Sony's PlayStation 4 has more powerful hardware in its case but the truth is that both consoles are closer in performance than what may be indicated on a stats sheet. I won't get into the whole "Resolutiongate" debate again; all I will say is that a 1080p bad game is still a bad game and we will take a great 720p game like Dead Rising 3 over the 1080p looks of Killzone: Shadow Fall any day.

The Xbox One dashboard brings the owner the familiar Metro/Modern style that was introduced with the Xbox 360's 2011 dashboard update. One of the biggest new features is one that's familiar to Windows 8 and Windows Phone owners; the ability to "pin" games, apps and more to the Xbox One's home screen so that users can quickly access the content they want to use most.

One of the icons at the top left corner of the screen looks like a globe. When you click it, you can see all of your recent notifications (your newest achievements, which games and apps you have downloaded, etc). The other icons allows you to either sign into your own Xbox Live account or change it to another user's account.

Going "home" is as simple as saying "Xbox, go home" via the Kinect add-on or by pressing the Home button on the Xbox One controller. Your pinned items are on the left side of the Home screen. In the center is your Xbox Live profile, a screen with whatever game, app or TV show you are currently using, and surrounding it are all of your recently accessed games and apps.

Clicking on your profile allows users to view their friends and followers on Xbox Live. Xbox One owners can have up to 1,000 friends but an infinite number of followers. The basic difference between "friend" and "follower" corresponds to the amount of personal information you give out. You can also check your activity feed along with those of your friends, change your gamerpic, check messages, and check out your Xbox Live avatar that has been imported from your Xbox 360.

On the right side of the screen is the Store, which is broken down into four sections: Games, Movies/TV, Music and Apps. Searching for items in the store is the job of Microsoft's own Bing service. Combined with the Kinect voice commands, searching for online content in the store and from streaming apps is pretty easy when the Kinect features actually work; I will get to that in a moment.

Some things that were first shown during the Xbox One's pre-launch period are gone from the final dashboard, including a "Trending" option that was supposed to show which TV shows were popular on social networking services at that moment in time.

One thing we did notice in the Xbox One dashboard is the occasional ad. The Xbox 360 had lots of these interactive advertisements in its dashboard but the Xbox One doesn't appear to have as many of them and they don't take up as much space in the interface. Hopefully this will remain the same and we won't be subject to an increase of this activity in the future.

Microsoft decided to bundle the Kinect 2.0 hardware with every Xbox One, and that's likely the reason why I paid $500 for the console instead of $400. Microsoft clearly sees the Kinect motion capture and voice command hardware to be the future of interaction with electronic devices. While that may be true, we are currently living in 2013 and at the moment, the Kinect 2.0 support in the Xbox One isn't perfect, not by a long shot.

In terms of gesture commands, the Xbox One, at least for now, doesn't feel like much of an improvement over the version of the Xbox 360. While the field of view for the Kinect camera has increased, there were many times that my hands and arm movements were simply not detected in games like Zoo Tycoon when we tried to feed the animals, or in the free demo of Kinect Sports Rivals. It worked better when we used Xbox Fitness, however (more on that cool application later).

Gesture commands for the Xbox One's dashboard are supported but in practice getting the Kinect sensor to work in this area is a massive chore. You are better off using the controller or even the voice command option in order to navigate the UI.

The voice commands for Kinect on the Xbox One are very cool indeed, if you live in a market that supports it. Being able to say "Xbox On" to turn on both your console and your TV is something that we think will never get old. Other voice commands in order to use apps, record gameplay and some of the TV features have been well executed.

However, even the Kinect voice command features on the Xbox One only work some of the time. In my experience with the console, there were many situations where it simply stopped responding to my commands. Also, the fact that we had to say "Xbox" before nearly every command doesn't feel natural when you are asking it to, say, launch the NFL app. You should definitely enunciate clearly if you want the voice commands to work at all.

Unlike the Xbox 360's version of Kinect, which was based on technology from PrimeSense (recently acquired by Apple) Microsoft made the Xbox One's version of Kinect in-house. Hopefully that means there will be frequent updates to improve the functionality of the device. At the moment, Kinect 2.0 is cool when it works, but it's not up to its full potential yet.

The controller made for the Xbox 360 has been labeled by some people as the best gamepad ever made, and for good reason. It was comfortable to hold for hours at a time and all of the buttons and triggers were within easy reach. The controller Microsoft has created for the Xbox One (and reportedly spent $100 million to design) is very similar on the surface to the Xbox 360. The only thing a person might notice right off the bat is that it's a tad smaller than the older version and that annoying battery bulge on the bottom is now gone.

A few more minutes with the controller offers up some more differences, such as the Start and Back buttons, which have been replaced by the Menu and View buttons, but in most cases they offer much of the same functionality. I noticed that many games use the "A" button now to start, while others use the "Menu" button. There doesn't appear to be any reason for games to use different buttons to start but this may be due to the fact that launch game development teams were unable to agree on a consistent method in this case.

The controller's home button has been altered from a raised Xbox logo for the 360 version to a button that lights up on the Xbox One and goes down into the controller when pressed. The D-pad now is a full four-way design on the controller, as opposed to the circular D-pad on the Xbox 360 gamepad. The two analog sticks on the controller seem to be a little smaller compared to the 360 version and the trigger and shoulder buttons feel like they are better integrated with the overall design of the gamepad.

Holding the controller feels very comfortable and that's good because if you are playing a game that you really like for a long time, you need a gamepad that's easy on the hands. Even with the design changes, the Xbox One controller feels about as natural to hold as the Xbox 360's gamepad and it should work well for most games.

Microsoft has promoted its "impulse triggers" which offer a rumble in the triggers themselves but so far I have yet to feel any such reactions from the Xbox One games we have played. There is also a port for the included headset on top of the gamepad. So far, Microsoft's headset is the only one that's compatible with the Xbox One audio connection but an adapter for older Xbox 360 headsets is in the works for release later in 2014.

While the controller will run on two AA batteries, many hardcore gamers will likely want to get the $24.99 Xbox One Play and Charge Kit, which offers a USB cable and a battery pack that lets users recharge their controller via the Xbox One, even when the console is in standby mode.

Overall, the Xbox One controller is a refinement of the great 360 gamepad. It doesn't really have any huge new features like the touchpad on Sony's DualShock 4 but then again, it really didn't need it. Gamers who like the 360 gamepad will likely enjoy the new design of the Xbox One controller. I don't know if it was really worth spending $100 million for the few changes that were put in place, but we won't pretend to know all about what goes on inside Microsoft's design shop.

It's very odd that a hardware devices that bills itself as an entertainment center has to download apps to handle what would appear to be basic functionsThe Xbox 360 didn't have any non-gaming apps when it launched eight years ago but slowly added to its library starting with the Netflix app a few years later. For the launch of the Xbox One in the US, Microsoft has put in a few apps right off the bat, including popular ones such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Crackle and more. For some reason, you also have to download apps to enable the playing of audio CDs and video from DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. The automatic ability to play these kinds of discs on the older generation of consoles is now gone for the Xbox One and I do think it's odd that a hardware devices that bills itself as an entertainment center has to download apps to handle what would appear to be basic functions.

Perhaps the biggest new addition to the app family is Skype. Microsoft's purchase of the VoIP service in 2011 has now led them to include Skype support in the Xbox One, meaning you can have video, audio or text chats in your living room with any other Skype user for free. Using Skype on a big screen TV might not be for everyone (we are certain that some people would not like to have their living room viewed by strangers they just met online while playing FIFA 14) but if you have trust in who you speak with on Skype, it can be a fun experience.

Skype is also supposed to work in Snap mode while playing games, but at the moment you can't take a video call while playing a game. It only works as a audio call in the background. Indeed, snap mode only works well with a few app combinations. For example, snapping the NFL app while watching a game onscreen in the TV feature works well but snapping Internet Explorer while watching the game just looks ugly.

Most of the apps stick with the Modern UI for the Xbox One's dashboard. One exception is the YouTube app which looks pretty similar to the app that Google made for the PS3. That's not a criticism; it still works well but it also shows that apps don't have to use the Modern interface in order to be released for the console.

The Xbox 360 pioneered the idea of achievements in games, and while Xbox One games have achievements as well that increase a person's Gamerscore, you can also gain separate achievements by using the media apps as well. Microsoft chose not to include app achievements in a person's Gamerscore, but for so-called achievement hunters it adds yet another layer of stuff they can unlock.

The fact that you still need a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription to enjoy watching Netflix or other apps on the console is still a major pet peeve with meWhile you can stream video from many third party apps, Microsoft also provides users with its own Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps. When you buy the Xbox One, you can try out Xbox Music for free for 30 days; after that Microsoft charges you $9.99 a month, Yes, that's on top of the Xbox Live Gold fee that's required to access any of the apps on the console. Currently, Xbox Music is the only music streaming app for the Xbox One, although as we mentioned earlier you can stream music files from your Windows 8/8.1 PC to the console.

Users who want to watch a movie via Xbox Video could purchase one that has some extra Xbox One SmartGlass features that can be accessed via a Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS or Android device. Speaking of which, the Xbox One SmartGlass app also works with some games such as Dead Rising 3, offering a way to unlock some extra missions and content.

The fact that you still need a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription to enjoy watching Netflix or other apps on the console is still a major pet peeve with me. While it makes sense for Microsoft to require people to pay extra to use some services such as calling landlines on Skype or playing online multiplayer games, the fact is that the PS4 and other set-top boxes such as Apple TV and Roku don't stick their consumers with an extra fee on top of the ones needed to use Hulu and other apps. It's not fair to Xbox One owners and I think Microsoft needs to stop this practice ASAP. We don't think they will but it's an issue that keeps me from giving a 100 percent thumbs up to the Xbox One's app lineup.

As we said, you can connect your Xbox One to your cable or satellite TV box via the HDMI in port. As a result, you can watch TV from within the Xbox One's dashboard. If nothing else, this is a huge help just due to the fact that it will assist owners of older TVs that have just one HDMI port to connect two devices to the same port.

While you can connect the cable box to the Xbox One in any country, some set top boxes in Europe are set up at a 50 Hz output, while the Xbox One dashboard has a 60 Hz output. This can cause frame drops when viewing TV content from inside the UI. There are workarounds for this issue but the ideal situation is for Microsoft to release a patch that will offer an option to set the Xbox One dashboard at a 50 Hz output. So far there's no word on when that might happen.

The OneGuide feature is designed to take over the TV guide features from your regular set top box. For this review, I connected the Xbox One to a box from Charter Communications. The good news is that the OneGuide did appear as advertised. The bad news is that the OneGuide offered an inaccurate guide to Charter's channels in the region, most likely due to the fact that Charter updated their channel lineup just a few days before the launch of  the Xbox One. Hopefully, this will be fixed in a software update.

It should also be noted that the OneGuide feature is just for U.S. Xbox One owners for now. Other markets are supposed to get access to it sometime in 2014 but no specific dates have been announced.

The Kinect technology is supposed to allow people to actually navigate though your TV channel lineup with just your voice, by saying, for example, "Watch NBC." I found that each time we switched over to the TV inside the UI and said those commands, it worked once or twice. After that, it never worked again, no matter how many times I tried.

While I wished the Kinect voice commands worked as advertised with our TV, there's still a lot of potential in the Xbox One's TV integration and I think that will improve over time. At the moment, it just feels half-baked.

It should be noted that the HDMI port on the Xbox One allows for people to connect a Windows Media Center PC or even a game console like the PS4 to the console in order to view content from inside the Xbox One dashboard.

The Xbox One launched with 22 full games (23 if you count the port of the original Killer Instinct that's included if you buy the Killer Instinct Ultra Edition). Microsoft sent over all of their first party Xbox One launch games to play with as part of this review.  Other games have been released for the console from third party publishers Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive and Majesco and include major releases like Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assassin's Creed 4 and more.

The Xbox One game lineup that have been directly published by Microsoft doesn't include anything quite as memorable as Halo was for the original Xbox launch, which also means that there are not any games that on their own will help to really push sales of the Xbox One. However, the games are still a lot better overall than what Microsoft came up with for the Xbox 360's initial release and it went on to sell over 80 million copies. Here are some quick impressions of all of the first party Xbox One launch titles.

Dead Rising 3

The graphics found in this latest installment of the zombie open world action series are not exactly next-gen looking, but developer Capcom Vancouver has used the Xbox One's hardware to put a ton of them on screen at once. Yes, the frame rate can dip a bit when there's a lot of undead action on screen, but who cares when you get to shoot, pound, slice, saw or mow down crowds of them at once?

The game supports Kinect voice commands; you can actually say things to the screen and the zombies will react as if you are there in the game. It comes in handy when you want them to fall mindlessly into a handy pit. Overall, Dead Rising 3 is highly addictive and quite frankly I can't wait to play some more.

Ryse: Son of Rome

I knew developer Crytek would make this game great looking thanks to its own CryEngine that has been used in games like the Crysis series. However, the hack and slash gameplay in Ryse, where you are a soldier in the Ancient Roman Empire, can become a bit repetitive at times. The combo fighting style resembles the one that people who have played the God of War series on the Playstation consoles are familiar with. There's also some RPG aspects to the game that let players buff up their character with experience points and better stats.

Overall, Ryse plays like a game that needed a bit of fine tuning in terms of gameplay design before it shipped. However, there's no denying that the CryEngine-based graphics show just what the Xbox One's hardware are capable of even at this early stage.

Forza Motorsport 5

If you are a fan of racing simulations, Forza Motorsport 5 is a must, as it offers what may be the most realistic looking and driving experience you can have in a game up to this point. If you are not a racing sim fan, Forza Motorsport 5 won't likely change that opinion as players looking for a bit more in terms of visceral driving thrills will have to settle for EA's Need for Speed Rivals.

The graphics in the game are pretty incredible as you get behind the wheel of some highly expensive and good looking sports cars as you race around in tracks all over the world. You can even see flakes coming off the car's paint job and rubber. We love the idea of the Drivatar, which takes information from your driving style in single player and uploads it to the cloud where it can compete with other real racers.

Killer Instinct

You have to have a good fighting game for a console launch and developer Double Helix delivers it for the Xbox One, and in an affordable package of $19.99. We wish there were more than six fighters to choose from (two more are coming in 2014) and there's not a proper Arcade single player mode,  but the fighting gameplay itself is tons of fun and it also offers a lot of tutorials that should help players really hone their button mashing and combo skills.

Multiplayer offers both ranked and unranked matches as the game tries to find players that are up to your own skill level and it mostly succeeds. If you play for the $39.99 Ultra version you get some additional character costumes and the original Rare-developed Killer Instinct game from the 1990s, which holds up quite nicely 20 or so years later.

Crimson Dragon

If this game feels like it was made for the Xbox 360, that's because it originally was meant to be a Kinect exclusive for Microsoft's older console. Like other launch games such as Ryse or LocoCycle, Microsoft made the decision to push back its release so it can be an Xbox One launch title.

As it stands, this rail shooter where you are in command of a dragon-like creature in a sci-fi world just doesn't work. It's both dull looking and a bore to play. It's a shame because this game was developed by some of the same folks behind the classic Panzer Dragoon games from Sega. No one will be saying Crimson Dragon is a classic game, ever.

Powerstar Golf

It's not a golf simulation and it's not meant to be one. Developer Zoe Mode has instead crafted a fun way to pass the time by playing a game where both the golfers and their caddies can have "special powers" in order to perform golf shots that would never be able to happen in the real world. As you play the game you unlock new characters, gold courses and more content.

The graphics look OK, but as with Crimson Dragon Powerstar Golf looks like a game that was made for last generation's console hardware. However, it does use the Xbox One's cloud server features in interesting ways, including showing players what the current records are directly in the game itself.

Zoo Tycoon

Could the best first party Xbox One game really be a zoo sim? I haven't played this game long enough to give it that verdict yet but developer Frontier Developments has made a revival of Microsoft's zoo building sim game that's great looking, easy to pick up and play and ultimately addictive as you try to make the best zoo you can for both your animals and your customers.

The animals in the game are highly detailed and you can even feed them in your virtual zoo with the Kinect gesture commands. This is definitely the best game for the Xbox One launch for younger kids to enjoy and we wish that the launch lineup had more games that the whole family could play.

LocoCycle

Developer Twisted Pixel has made good games in the past like 'Splosion Man. That makes the disaster that is LocoCycle even harder to understand, because it's just bad. This game, where you control a sentient motorcycle in what is supposed to be a series of adventures, is not just poorly designed, but the graphics make it look like it was made for the original Xbox over 12 years ago. There's even some live action footage that looks straight out of those FMV games that were all the rage in the 1990s.

I don't know what happened but I do know that both Twisted Pixel and Microsoft should have known better than to release this game as an Xbox One launch title. Maybe they just didn't have enough games ready and felt they needed to pad their launch lineup. They should have just kept this game under wraps.

Other game features

Unfortunately, there's only a few free game demos for the Xbox One launch game lineup available for download at the moment. There's one for Zoo Tycoon and the Killer Instinct demo lets players access one character for all of the game's single and multiplayer modes. There's also a free demo for the upcoming Kinect Sports Rivals, where players can participate in a jetski race. Microsoft promises to add more content to the Kinect Sports Rivals demo before the full game is released this spring. Two third party games from EA, FIFA 14 and NBA Live 14, have demos as well.

One thing I noticed every time we put in a disc-based Xbox One game is that it required a one time Internet update, which again shows how much this console needs a net connection to even function. The days of just putting in a disc in order to start playing a game don't apply to the Xbox One.

All of the games designed for the Xbox One allow for automatic recording of gameplay content to the console's hard drive. Users can save that footage and then go into the Upload Studio app to make some quick editing choices before uploading the final clip to a SkyDrive account in MP4 format and at 720p resolution. The clip is then free to be uploaded to other web based sites like SkyDrive and Vimeo.

Here is a very quick example of a clip I made in Upload Studio from Dead Rising 3, and yes, that is my voice in the background at the beginning of the clip. You can insert your own voice over in any clip via the editing tool

While the Xbox One's Twitch.tv app allows users to view streaming game footage, the Xbox One version cannot currently handle live gameplay broadcasts on its own, like the PS4 can with both Twitch.tv and Ustream. Microsoft plans to add Twitch.tv game streaming sometime in 2014.

Sadly, the Xbox One has no backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games. That means if you want to play titles like Grand Theft Auto V, you should hang onto your older console, at least until there's word that Rockstar might port the game to the Xbox One. Microsoft has hinted that streaming games to the Xbox One may be in the works, but it looks like that's at least a couple of years down the road.

If you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription (and you pretty much have to for the Xbox One) you can look forward to getting some free games from Microsoft sometime in 2014 like you can on the Xbox 360, although details have not yet been announced.

A feature of the Xbox One that hasn't gotten a lot of attention from many reviewers is Xbox Fitness. It's a series of video exercises, including clips from well known routines that you may have seen promoted in late night infomercials like Insanity and P90X. Xbox Fitness is currently free with an Xbox Live Gold subscription, although some of the video segments do cost an extra fee to download.

Basically, Xbox Fitness offers Xbox One owners a way to get their heart racing and their body moving without having to buy a dancing game like Just Dance. It uses the Kinect technology to read your heart rate, tracks how many calories you've burned as you go through each exercise, and provides muscle mapping and an energy meter.

Like all Xbox One games and apps, there are achievements to be collected and special challenges available while using Xbox Fitness. It's also designed to add even more video workouts in the future just in case you go through all of the videos that are available (which will take a while). That makes the console not only a gaming or streaming video box but also a way to work off the pounds after a long night sitting and playing Killer Instinct.

Of all of the apps that are available on the Xbox One, Xbox Fitness may be the one that really shows how Microsoft can stretch a game console into a more mainstream entertainment set-top box. I can see people who could buy the console with this feature in mind who wouldn't know a Call of Duty game if they saw one on screen. Combining video workouts with the Xbox One's Kinect functionally and special achievements makes Microsoft's console a better value for the $500.

The Xbox One is, without a doubt, a power gaming machine, and anyone who is looking to play some cool games on their big screen TV will do just fine with this $500 purchase. However, Microsoft's hardware has been made to do much more with features like apps that can work side by side on screen via snapping, along with the TV and OneGuide functionality and Xbox Fitness, where you can get a workout in before watching a football game or streaming the latest from Netflix.

Because Microsoft has jammed so much inside the Xbox One, the console does feel a little disorganized at times in terms of accessing features from the dashboard, at least until you customize it. There are also a number of missing features that will be put into the Xbox One at some point, such as external storage support, streaming of live gameplay and video Skype chats while playing games. Even with its post-launch issues, it should not deter anyone from buying the Xbox One. For the price of an iPad Air, you get a game system, a TV set-top box, a Skype communication device and a workout system, among other things, in one package.

The nice thing about the Xbox One is that it won't just add the features it is currently lacking via software updates. Microsoft will also be putting in additional support for things like turning your Xbox One retail unit into a game development kit. There's also the promise of Project Spark, which just launched as a beta for Windows 8.1, that will become available for Xbox One in early 2014 and will allow people to quickly make games that they can let others play.

That's the ultimate kicker when it comes to the Xbox One, its future expansion potential is massive. We suspect that Microsoft has a multi-year plan for upgrades and improvements to the Xbox One and that's perhaps the most exciting thing about it. It's already worth the money you will pay for its launch right now but there's no telling what it will be capable of in 2018.

Disclaimer: While Microsoft did send over review discs and download codes for its Xbox One launch titles for this review, the Xbox One console itself, plus the purchase of Xbox Live Gold, was handled by this reviewer.

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71 Comments

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Spicoli said,
You'll have to wait until games written for the new consoles start coming out.

What, like Forza 5, Ryse, Dead Rising 3, Zoo Tycoon, etc ? All of these were written for the new console, though granted they were all developed on beta, unfinished, and no doubt un-finalised hardware (spec wise).

It's a very much noticeable improvement; but they're still room for improvement. Better anti-aliasing while racing for example. But Forza 5/Ryse: Son Of Rome are really showcasing the graphics jump. (these are first-hand experiences)

PmRd said,
Ugly box design? That's you're opinion and it sucks. I find the box quite nice, a lot nicer than previous Xboxes and definitely better than anything Sony ever did.

I find it frustrating when blind fanboys will not find fault with their products even when it is obvious. I am a Microsoft fanboy who uses Windows Phones and defend Windows Vista and 8. At the same time, I am not blind when my Emperor is not wearing any clothes. My few rants below -

1. Yes, The XBOX One design and the huge Powerbrick are not pleasant to the eyes (even if the XBOX One blends in with the rest of the boxes under your TV and the Brick is hidden in the back).
2. What is it with the controller still needing AA Batteries. Kinect has to be bundled but a rechargeable Li Ion Battery pack cannot? And no, replacable Batteries are not a good thing.
3. HDMI Passthrough and TV Integration were tried by Google in Google TV which turned out a flop. XBone's TV Integration has its share of problems and while Firmware updates can improve this, I am skeptical about Microsoft's approach. Reminds me of the time when XBOX 360 had facebook and twitter which were later dropped by Microsoft.
4. Needing Live for Netflix is not a good thing even if Live Subscriptions are cheap.
5. I believe Microsoft has been focusing heavily on Multiplayer games at the expense of Single Player, I am older now and am no longer interested in Multiplayer. XBOX badly needs some memorable Single Player games (I am indeed waiting for the release of Remedy's Quantum Break and not for Titanfall)

1. I don't agree
2. Proprietary rechargeable batteries are HUGE minus. It's much easier to just swap in AA rechargeable and continue playing
3. The HDMI passthrough has been the best new feature so far. I've been using it constantly since I got it. The correlation with Google TV being lame does not imply causation.
4. You don't think the added services have value? I LOVE being able to just say a show name and it finds it among Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, whatever and tells me if it's part of the subscription or an extra cost item. Then I just say the service and pop the show up.
5. That's an issue with game developers and what they think will sell.

Spicoli said,
1. I don't agree
2. Proprietary rechargeable batteries are HUGE minus. It's much easier to just swap in AA rechargeable and continue playing
3. The HDMI passthrough has been the best new feature so far. I've been using it constantly since I got it. The correlation with Google TV being lame does not imply causation.
4. You don't think the added services have value? I LOVE being able to just say a show name and it finds it among Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, whatever and tells me if it's part of the subscription or an extra cost item. Then I just say the service and pop the show up.
5. That's an issue with game developers and what they think will sell.

2. You are so remarkably, intensely, staggeringly, unbelievably, thoroughly wrong.

So your claim is having to stop using the controller and wait for it to recharge is better than just being able to pop in some new batteries and go? Or is it paying more for proprietary batteries and chargers that is the benefit?

Spicoli said,
So your claim is having to stop using the controller and wait for it to recharge is better than just being able to pop in some new batteries and go? Or is it paying more for proprietary batteries and chargers that is the benefit?

Or... plug in the USB cable and carry on playing while it charges. Play and charge kit is superior to AA batteries, that's just a fact.

TCLN Ryster said,

Or... plug in the USB cable and carry on playing while it charges. Play and charge kit is superior to AA batteries, that's just a fact.

Absolutely.

Waiting? I don't really understand this concept. I just plug 'n' go!

Sorry, but the TV integration is laughable...HDMI pass-through? CableCard integration, or Windows MCE support should have been what they worked on! THIS is just a bad joke! The IR codes are limited, with NO ability to learn codes not in the database (one other reviewer couldnt get it to control his Elite brand TV). Also, it is PAINFULLY obvious that no one at Microsoft has any experience with A/V products, as they are not using discrete "on" and "off" codes, but using simple power "toggle" commands! If you happen to be using your AV system for something else (say, playing a Wii or a 360), and then say "Xbox On", guess what? It turns your TV and AVR OFF! GREAT THINKING GUYS! They also don't seem to realize that a LOT of cable customers have DVRs...the complete lack of DVR commands is a huge fail in and of itself!

This is not to mention the degradation of your picture and sound quality! Tivos in particular look HORRIBLE when using them through the Xbox! Again, all of this could have been fixed if they actually made the Xbox One integrate DIRECTLY with cable, instead of trying to cobble together some frankensystem with IR blasters and HDMI passthrough!

Additionally, the hardware is just not powerful enough. South Park nailed it when they said "the graphics are at least 10% better than the 360"! I about wet myself hearing that. Sadly, it's not far from the truth, as most of their games run at 720p (and then are upscaled to 1080p). Worse, some games (Xbox One exclusives no less!) like Dead Rising 3, are not only limited to 720p, they are limited to 30fps! WTF guys? Couldn't you have spent the extra $10 and gotten the better GPU?

Aside from all of that (which alone was enough to steer me away from an Xbox One for now), the UI is terrible, the party chat system is flat out BROKEN, Achievements are a pain in the ass to see, and if you don't jump on a game invitation from a friend? Too bad, it's gone for good! It again is PAINFULLY obvious (especially after Major Nelson's post the other day) that the console's OS is still in beta!

I am waiting to see if any of these issues get resolved in "six months" (Major Nelson's plea is for us to tolerate this crap for six months, so that is how long I am giving them). If they patch this thing to work AS ADVERTISED, I might get one...but all of the patches in the world aren't going to fix the hardware deficiencies. We will see...but right now, I see a box that isn't even worth $200, let alone $500.

I can accept a couple of your points, but your really way off in most of your claims. I would know, I have been using the X1 since launch.

I could go into more detail regarding the tv features that are useful and things like Kinect's usefulness and of course the idea that it cant support games running at 1080p, but something tells me your not interesting in hearing anything other than that the X1 sucks in all ways possible.

There are plenty of sources of real info you care to look, along with all sorts of reviews say on youtube that cover this stuff in depth.

Its not a perfect system sure, but it really doesn't suck and it really does have useful things that work well NOW. Again, I actually agree with some of your points because there are fixes they could do, or features they could add to improve the system over time. Its just this whole 'overreacting' thing that gets tiresome to me.

You mean it doesn't even use standard HDMI CEC? I agree about the lack of DVR integration, this is how most people watch TV nowadays.

No, I don't think it uses CEC yet. Supposedly, that is coming in an update.

Right now, it just uses the IR blaster to control whatever device you setup with the console.

I think a DVR system will come at some point, but I also think MS is more interested in slowly transitioning users away from using a cable box or cable service at all. Instead they would prefer you move to the streaming on demand services.

Adding the pass through support was something they had to do for now since most people still use a cable box to receive their tv content.

I think trying to add support for all cable boxes via the X1 is tough enough, trying to also fully support all dvr functions as well would have probably required a lot more time than they had. The testing alone would be quite ambitious.

iTunes got popular by being superior to the competition and supporting competing devices as well (I'm talking very early on here) and when the timing was right they just stopped adding new devices other than new iPods. They could do better to attract people and ease them into the new situation, and using metrics data, even determine what shows/movies are popular (i.e. which are frequently recorded/played) and promote those heavily on their streaming services to further attract their consumer base. I think this is a huge missed opportunity. Using metrics they could also track how much consumers use their DVR, and use that to tell if they are succeeding, and then maybe stop supporting new DVRs at that point. If that's their strategy they're missing some important vectors.

Oh I'm not saying MS isn't going to pursue better TV support via cable boxes such as being able to interact with dvr content on a box.

I actually think they will add that support. They have made several statements to that affect. More support and features such as DVR control will be coming.

I'm just saying that the long term goal is to not have to rely on working with the cable companies. For MS, it would mean a lot less headache support wise if they didn't have to work around all this different hardware just to support tv content.

No one really knows their strategy, but they have made enough comments publicy to get the idea that what we have now is the barebones of what they plan to roll out over time. as long as they aggressively pursue that support and roll out updates on a regular basis, I think it could do well.

Right now, its a 1.0 product with a strong base, but missing features that would make it perfect.

Exactly, MS would prefer to deal with the content providers directly and just offer customers access to all the tv shows you want without going through the cable company. They have been working on a deal like that for years, along with many other companies.

Right now, content providers have little interest in working with MS or anyone else without asking for absurd amounts of money to circumvent the cable/satellite system we have now.

So MS has done about all it can, start building in features that take advantage of what you can do now (I.e. working with cable boxes for live tv), while a the same time continue to work hard to bring the content to the X1 without that feature (i.e. developing original tv-like content that is not tied to cable, and keep trying to convince existing providers that they should join in).

Who knows when the big change might happen and we suddenly see content providers move in masse to a system like this.

We can only hope. I wonder if it would get close when it's time to release a One Slim, they could get away with omitting the HDMI-in to bring costs down.

If you read up you'd see we were talking about a post-set top world where the majority would have switched over to streaming services, in which case HDMI input would be useless. In this scenario, removing the input may reduce costs of a future Xbox One model.

Ugliest thing ever. Wouldn't want that 'brick' sitting in any room, hell, we just got rid of the VHS recorder days Brings back memories though

Sad to see that there's no indication of how non-techies like mom & dad would get along with the console. Clearly it's designed to be a living room centerpiece, and will be used by more than just the gamers of the household.

Yeah, they didn't even cover how it can be used with a universal remote and the ir blaster can allow it to be used to control a lot of devices.

I think the voice commands are a possible boom for the non-techie users as well. Being able to just come in a room and turn everything on with a single command is pretty darn simple.

There is certainly more that could be covered regarding the X1.

Yes although it would be nice to be able to configure the order that the One starts your various devices in. Some audio receivers like to be turned on last. It would also be nice to have the option to set your audio receiver to a certain mode automatically, as sometimes they would detect the speaker setting wrong (7.1 when you wish to have 5.1 or stereo).

I agree, if they can flesh out the remote control settings to work more like Logitech Harmony remote software, that would be great.

Now they already do allow you to set delays into when a command is sent, so maybe you could leverage that to make the behavior more like you would want. I'll have to double check to see if it you can set that for each device you setup with the X1 though.

Still, if they add the right level of software control, it could be a big bonus.

Yet another review that gives points for "future potential" and takes little-to-no points away for bad Kinect functionality, clunky UI, and awful usability. (including install/load times)

Maybe they didn't take points away from it being 'clunky' or have 'awful usability' because they don't think those points are true.

I certainly agree there are parts of the UI they can improve and add features to, but to call the whole thing clunky or unusable just doesn't jive with everyone's opinion.

Just because they had a positive overall experience doesn't mean they were ignoring some issues.

trooper11 said,
Maybe they didn't take points away from it being 'clunky' or have 'awful usability' because they don't think those points are true.

To be fair, the reviewer did say they had a lot of trouble with motion controls in zoo tycoon and the sports motion control game, as well as saying "I found that each time we switched over to the TV inside the UI and said those commands, it worked once or twice. After that, it never worked again, no matter how many times I tried."

Maybe the reviewer thought it shouldn't affect the score because those features, if working, wouldn't have added much to the experience?

That is true, they did say that. You could be right and they just didn't give much value to the features in the first place, working or not.

Once again, you are left with different reviewers having different experiences with both gesture and voice controls.

I mean just read several reviews and you will get different first hand impressions. Then if you go to user reviews, a clear majority of users are having the opposite experiences in those two areas.

Heck, my own experience has been much better. My wife was using the gesture controls in Zoo Tycoon without complaints, along with a few voice commands.

Its just strange that they would have so much trouble. Whatever is causing it, it would frustrate me to hear others having little to no issues while I couldn't even use it.

John Nemesh said,

Same crap I heard every time someone criticized Windows 8.

Or a genuine question you could choose to answer like a mature grown up?

Geezy said,

To be fair, the reviewer did say they had a lot of trouble with motion controls in zoo tycoon and the sports motion control game

That's a problem with the game though. Remember that horrible Ubisoft MotionSports that came out when the Kinect first came out?

trooper11 said,
Its just strange that they would have so much trouble. Whatever is causing it, it would frustrate me to hear others having little to no issues while I couldn't even use it.

What would be nice if we could actually have forums to talk how to use things and what works. If you go to any Xbox One forums, they're all full of the same pointless fanboy battles.

Either way, the reviewer seemed to think it shouldn't affect the score, so they probably don't really care about it.

Its interesting that the reviewer had such trouble with voice commands. I have seen this mentioned a few times in some reviews, but not all.

I wonder if its a calibration issue. In my own time with the system, I very rarely have to repeat myself now.

Could it be that the reviewer or others that have had serious problems did not turn up the volume of their speakers high enough during calibration? I noticed that if I did not raise that volume up a bit high, then it was possible for the X1 to miss more of my commands, especially while playing a movie, playing a game, or listening to music. It probably also helps the 'Xbox On' command. Most that noted an issue in the forums just went back and recalibrated at higher volume and boom, it was working as expected.

Another small note. It was mentioned that you have to say 'Xbox' far too often, but in my daily usage, that has dropped a lot. The reason that has happened is because I realized that you only need to say 'Xbox' once to get the system to listen to you. As long as the 'listening' bubble in the top right corner of the screen is still there, you can leave off the 'Xbox' part and just speak the commands such as 'Go to...', etc, etc. Now if you pause for a while and the bubble goes away, you do have to say 'Xbox again to get its attention.

Maybe a nice option to have is for MS to allow us to control how long Kinect keeps listening, to increase the timeout setting. That would mean you can stay quite for longer and it would still be listening. As it is now, it feels like enough time for me personally to say things at a natural pace.


Yea, they work close to 100% for me. Usually when they don't I'm mumbling or there's some other background noise like the neighbor running their mower or me opening a bag of Funyuns. I believe you still have to say "xbox" in listen mode if you're using a shortcut. Only the green words on the screen work in select mode. I'll have to test that when I get home. As far as I know it's the first purely voice activated system on the market so it will require people get accustomed to it.

I agree the timeout should be adjustable and should especially be longer when you're fast forwarding or rewinding. Maybe not timeout at all. Another change I would make is do not timeout if it's hearing a voice. Sometimes it times out right as you begin to speak which is a bit annoying.

The problem with the PS4 and the Xbox 1 is the launch title graphics, while looking better than last gen games, don't look THAT much better, especially not next gen.

This is true of all launch consoles. Look at any launch 360 title versus any game released this year for that system. BIG difference. The X1's graphics will improve as the console ages.

How's that a problem? All consoles have that same "problem" when they first come out. It's simply par for the course given the fact that launch titles had to be developed on early beta hardware, sometimes before the specs were even finalised.

Just to be clear on Lococycle (which is pretty dreadful actually) - Twisted Pixel made The Gunstringer last year or 2011 and it had pretty awful FMV in it as well as a tribute to those awful FMV games of the past. They wanted to continue that process with Lococycle. And sadly, those FMV segments are the best part of Lococycle (which is why you can just access them as a separate menu itself.

They seem very drawn out, it's like they didn't hire an editor. The parts that have stuff going on in them are sometimes humorous. It's the game itself that stinks!

The case design is hit or miss with me, more of a meh than a wow. Same mixed opinion bag with all my friends. Honestly, this and the PS4 are more like meh on the design. I've never been one to really give a rat's butt about the overall look, as long as it doesn't interfere with the functionality.

It's perfect for me. I want to put in my rack and have it vanish among my other components. I don't want some toy looking thing that sticks out. It's also extremely quiet with no noticeable fan noise when a game is running. Certainly a big difference from the original 360.

Ugly box design? That's you're opinion and it sucks. I find the box quite nice, a lot nicer than previous Xboxes and definitely better than anything Sony ever did.

PmRd said,
Ugly box design? That's you're opinion and it sucks. I find the box quite nice, a lot nicer than previous Xboxes and definitely better than anything Sony ever did.

I agree, would of been even nicer if they made the full width of a conventional stereo rack device, yes might of been even bigger but it looks a bit small right now compared with my other devices like the Amplifier. Would of been a killer with a metal face plate.

I dig the console design too minus the external power brick but its a bit harsh to tell someone their opinion sucks. Hopefully the power supply will be integrated into a Xbox One refresh but I'm okay with it at launch.

JohnCz said,
I dig the console design too minus the external power brick but its a bit harsh to tell someone their opinion sucks. Hopefully the power supply will be integrated into a Xbox One refresh but I'm okay with it at launch.

Integrating the power brick would make the XBOX even larger. Why laptops/devices like that all have external bricks. Would also increase the temp of the device. External power bricks dont bother me because they sit behind my TV and I never seen them.

PmRd said,
Ugly box design? That's you're opinion and it sucks. I find the box quite nice, a lot nicer than previous Xboxes and definitely better than anything Sony ever did.

I often disagree with others but this does not mean that their opinions sucks....

bdsams said,
In 6 minutes, you read 6k words and had time to comment. Well done.

I agree with PmRd. The review implies it's not stylish as if that were a matter of fact, when in reality style is in the eye of the beholder and is pure opinion.

PmRd said,
Ugly box design? That's you're opinion and it sucks. I find the box quite nice, a lot nicer than previous Xboxes and definitely better than anything Sony ever did.

You're just mad because you're wrong.

bdsams said,
In 6 minutes, you read 6k words and had time to comment. Well done.

I don't care about the review, I had one since day one and find it quite amazing, I just looked at the score and found it ridiculous that he put ugly box desing as a negative

Timan said,
A review is the opinion of the editor.. if he thinks its ugly, its ugly... Some people I swear.

A good review takes account for things that are 'in the eye of the beholder' marking it down for aesthetics isn't very professional.

Not that i thought it was a bad review though. Unlike the haters, I always like John;s writing.

techbeck said,

Integrating the power brick would make the XBOX even larger. Why laptops/devices like that all have external bricks. Would also increase the temp of the device. External power bricks dont bother me because they sit behind my TV and I never seen them.

Why PS4 doesn't have external brick?

benthebear said,

You act as if he was calling you ugly...

Maybe his head looks like an Xbox One and he took offense to it? lol