Some quick first impressions of the Xbox One

The big black box that is the Xbox One isn't exactly stylish.

As I posted earlier today, I got extremely lucky and managed to get an Xbox One console on launch day, without a traditional pre-order. So what's it like having Microsoft's third generation game console in my home? Glad you asked.

The following article is a hypersonic skim of my impressions of the Xbox One, after just a few hours of setting it up, playing games, and watching movies and TV using the product. I will say up front that I am not experiencing the issues with disc drives or scratched cases that a few Xbox One owners have reported.

While the Xbox One will eventually make its way to my main living room, for the purposes of this article I set up the console first in my bedroom because it was faster to do so than the rather more difficult task of rearranging my living room TV set up. After plugging in, I turned on the unit and my TV screen showed the Xbox One logo ... and it kept showing it, and showing it and showing it.

"Oh crap", I said out loud. Thoughts ran in my head like, "Is the console stuck in setup mode? Is the Xbox One that I paid over $530 (price + taxes) for not going to work out of the gate?" As it turned out, things were fine, After about three minutes, the screen finally changed, showing me that I needed to download install the "Day One" update of about 503 MB.

Downloading and installing the patch went without a hitch and after another extremely long period of seeing the Xbox One logo on screen again, I finally got to the proper set up page where I could get my Xbox Live account plugged in and my Kinect sensor working, among other things.

After that, I got to see a quick montage video of games and services for the Xbox One before it took me to the main Home screen. I was all set. So what to do first? Play a game? Download some apps? Watch TV inside my Xbox One? Why not do all three for this first impression article.

The Xbox One does have an external power brick but at least it's not as huge as the one for the first Xbox 360, shown above it.

Here are, again, some quick thought on the console. This is not a proper review ... that will come in the near future:

  • The look of the console itself celebrates function over form. It's basically a big black box with a slight cut on the bottom so that it's not a total rectangle. The PS4 does have an angular design that is a bit more stylish. However, the Xbox One ran quietly compared to my old Xbox 360 and doesn't seem to generate as much heat. The console does have an external power brick but, as shown above, it's not nearly as massive as what the original Xbox 360 came with.
  • The Kinect functionality is pretty neat. Being about to turn on the TV and console just by saying "Xbox on" may never get old for me. The ability to say, "Watch Syfy" so that the TV turns automatically to the Syfy channel is especially sweet. However, I can't help but feel that camera on the Kinect is a little creepy looking. I know it's just a camera and there is nothing to really fear, but maybe Microsoft could have made some changes to make the sensor look less than a prying eye in my room.

"Good morning Dave ... I mean John"

  • So far, I have only played a few CPU rounds in the free version of Killer Instinct but it seems to be a solid fighting game. I have yet to try out the free demo of Kinect Sports Rivals. I am pretty shocked that Angry Birds Star Wars is priced at $49.99 for the Xbox One; that seems excessive.
  • The Xbox Fitness service looks pretty interesting if you want to work out at home; it offers a number of free downloadable video workouts combined with several paid add-ons that are priced up to $29.99
  • You actually have to download apps so that the Xbox One can play Blu-ray and audio discs. The Day One update doesn't even enable these basic functions on default.
  • The design of the dashboard is pretty familiar stuff, if you have installed the most recent UI changes on the Xbox 360. The Snap functionality is perhaps the biggest change. Being about to watch TV and snap in Internet Explorer is pretty cool so far.

The overall design of the Xbox One controller does not deviate much from that of the Xbox 360.

  • Microsoft might have spent a lot of money to design the Xbox One controller, but in my hands the only major change is that the battery bump on the Xbox 360 gamepad is gone. I would have liked for Microsoft to have also done away with the AA batteries set-up in favor of the battery built into the controller like the DualShock 3 and 4 from Sony but that's a minor quibble.
  • Every Xbox One comes with a code for 14 free days of Xbox Live Gold, which is good news. The bad news is that if you are already an Xbox Live Gold subscriber, you can't add those 14 free days to your account until your subscription expires.

Again, these are very fast impressions; two of our editors, Chris White and Anthony Tosie, did the very sensible thing and pre-ordered their Xbox One consoles months ago. Expect a full review from Neowin soon.

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86 Comments

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First impressions with the NFL app on a Sunday - VERY cool. You do have to pull out the controller as I couldn't find how to use everything with the voice commands. My team starts at 4:30, so I'll see how the alerts work.

Ads on the dashboard again? That really sucks. It's your space, in your living room, no less. Not some public billboard.

Geezy said,
Ads on the dashboard again? That really sucks. It's your space, in your living room, no less.

...where your TV is, which never shows ads.

Are you talking about the store, that the only ad I see? I'm glad it there, has lots of free stuff to download, plus info on the available games. I'd really miss it if it wasn't there.

My TV never shows ads... I haven't seen an ad on my TV for over 8 years. PVR + ad stripping filter on my HTPC, which serves the rest of the house on raspberry XBMC boxes.

Geezy said,
My TV never shows ads... I haven't seen an ad on my TV for over 8 years. PVR + ad stripping filter on my HTPC, which serves the rest of the house on raspberry XBMC boxes.

Get back to me once the unwashed masses are set up in the same way.

I don't care about them. For me, I don't want to see ads, especially on such an expensive system that loves paywalls, and charges for one of its major selling points, the oneguide.

I don't want to see ads on my PC desktop, tablet, or my console. Or anything else if I can help it. I leave them on for web browsing though, since those aren't services I pay for directly, it seems only fair.

Maybe they are ignoring the millionth repeat of the tired and dead topic? It's like the millionth repeat of, "derr...I'm not buying a day because I'll let other people beta test it..der...I'm so smart."

PC gamers enjoy playing on PC, and console gamers enjoy playing on console. Also, people can own and enjoy both. I don't see how this needs addressing, it seems to be a perfectly fine situation.

I have both a gaming PC and an Xbox One, they don't fight or call each other names. It's people that make gaming ugly, they try to make everything a dispute, the platform, the brand, the controller. In "The Art of War" Sun Tzu advises us to carefully chose the battles that you will fight, considering the situation of the world, fighting over games is a pretty poor choice.

Has anyone had any problem getting it to respond to "xbox on"? It works but not always.

I did find if you favorite channels on the onguide, they get priority with the voice. I kept saying "watch science" and would get Starz. I put science on the favorites and now it always come up.

There work good for me overall except turning it on. I think it's something to do with how the lower power mode works, because I've found if I give a larger pause between "xbox" and "on" it works better.

Yeah, it doesn't really seem to respond to a conversational cadence, you have to be very deliberate when giving it commands, and even then it has trouble understanding things like channel names (TBS = CBS, AMC = A&E, FX = EPIX, CNN = TSN, etc)

That's to be expected. When we design telephone systems with voice, we try to pick prompts that don't sound similar. I think pretty much everyone uses Nuance for this stuff. The computer doesn't actually recognize speech but returns probabilities for certain words, and you have to narrow it by context. Computers just aren't good at the pattern recognition that human brains do so easily.

The real challenge I see with this one is it's the first one cued purely by voice that I can think of. Usually you hit a button to tell it to start listening or figure it out by call progress.

I thought taxes to online purchases have gone through for the US on the whole? At least, I'm used to it already being in Texas where sales tax is already applied.

Taxes on online purchases have always been everywhere. You're just required to pay it yourself if they don't collect. If you haven't been then you can be prosecuted for tax evasion.

I disagree about the controller. It feels lighter and the sticks feel more solid. And it is comfortable too.

Spicoli said,
I thought it felt lighter too. I put in on my scale, and the new one is actually 14 grams heavier.

Seriously!? I definitely think it feels lighter as well! Maybe the 360 controller is heavier with the rechargeable battery pack??

The Xbox One controller feels a little cheaper overall to me -- like it's more hollow or something. I also do miss the easy battery access -- I don't like how there's nothing in the back middle of the controller but I suppose I'll get used to it...

Fezmid said,

The Xbox One controller feels a little cheaper overall to me -- like it's more hollow or something. I also do miss the easy battery access -- I don't like how there's nothing in the back middle of the controller but I suppose I'll get used to it...

Yeah, I'm actually noticing a few saying this. Still, it's a pretty awesome controller even then. I really like the thumb sticks...

Spicoli said,
I thought it felt lighter too. I put in on my scale, and the new one is actually 14 grams heavier.

WHAT?! Thanks for the info, but I still find it hard to believe.

To me the bumpers are difficult to access and the sticks feel loose, it's harder to be more accurate because there is no resistance on the sticks. This is just from spending 15minutes here and there at various kiosks. I thought it was a problem with the one I was using at first but it feels the same no matter which setup I try.

Got my console today, had it all working and about 10 minutes later the Kinect stopped working. It is telling me its unplugged when it's not. I know this stuff happens but it sucks when it is your console.

Just getting mine hooked up. I thought it was broken too initially but it turns out I hadn't quite pushed the HDMI cable into the receiver far enough. It just started the update.

Looks like 19 minutes from boot to get it updated, Kinect configured, and logged in.

If you have a Kinect 1 wall mount, it won't work. The new Kinect has a standard camera type screw mount. I actually have it on a laser level tripod until I can get a new mount. That tripod is short enough to get a level line on outlet boxes so fits right under the TV.

"You actually have to download apps so that the Xbox One can play Blu-ray and audio discs. The Day One update doesn't even enable these basic functions on default."

Yeah, but on Parallel Earth there's this guy: "I don't care about playing Blu-ray on audio on my Xbox One, but they install that crap by default anyway. BLOAT!"

So, they made it optional. Some will disagree, but it's defensible.

I'm disappointed there is no passive HDMI passthrough. My Sky signal looks very processed when viewing it through the XBONE and I have to have it switched on if I want to watch TV.

Spicoli said,
What do you mean by processed? Is it scaling?

It's not scaled but the frame rate looks different, like it's adding in frames and the Sky TV guide doesn't look as crisp. I am using the exact same settings on the TV.

I have different audio/picture settings for watching TV compared to playing games. Deblocking and frame rate smoothing is also turned on for TV. It would be a pain to watch TV on an Xbox One because I would have to switch in and out of game mode and the other audio/video settings to fully enjoy what I'm doing at the time. Very annoyinn and destroys the advantage of having everything come through the same input.

As long as it isn't a bold pastel color who cares. Honestly. It blends in fine with my A/V Rack and can stand alone outside of it and works perfectly as well.

I like the bold Black Square faced look. It's not mean to be designed to be out of place with your A/V System. If we think about it are TV sets that much different from one another when placed on the wall?

Of all things to complain about is Microsoft's lack of innovation in design? Really? Sony is that much better? Or the Wii? I didn't know it was a fashion statement.

The streaming download and play is just like the promised. Same for when I first installed Office365 and started using it pretty quickly and it was downloading in the background.

Created a cheat sheet of all the voice commands and will go through them this weekend. I am using it more of a Entertainment piece than a gaming console. I had Roku, Tivo, Apple TV and now the XBOX1. I will move the Apple Tv's to other rooms now. I kept my Zune Music Pass with the 10 free downloads per month subscription too. So that's another bonus for me.

duh. I think it looks ok. Will look good under my New ugly big black Sony A/V Receiver.
Both look like they are designed in the 90's. Neither are worth their price..... IMO

MikeChipshop said,

Yeah, that's the point of my post...

Yeah but you stated that like we didn't already know it was his personal opinion, which was already oblivious that is why we pointed it out, because we thought it was odd that you pointed it out.... instead of just saying you like the console.

tytytucke said,

Yeah but you stated that like we didn't already know it was his personal opinion, which was already oblivious that is why we pointed it out, because we thought it was odd that you pointed it out.... instead of just saying you like the console.

Sorry was unaware my every move was being watched by the Neowin police...

"I like the look of the console" better?

There is nothing wrong with the X1 still using AA batteries, it is easy to buy rechargeable ones and they last far longer on 1 charge than the PS4 does with only several hours in my opinion.

Shape wise it reminds me of the NES, but with a shorter angled base. After setting one up with a friend this morning, the overall design is better in person and a lot better than I originally thought.

I'm glad they didn't get rid of the AA batteries. It's much more convenient to just swap out the batteries and pop them into my AA charger than having to drop the whole controller into a charger.

I got mine a few hours ago, and bought Ryse as a digital download. I went to get a pop and call a friend to tell them some first impressions, came back to a 3% download (a few minutes), and amazingly, I could load it up to play. If other games are like that, buh-bye discs for me. I must retract everything I said in that "being able to run to the store faster" than a digital download. I mean, I couldn't even go to my fridge faster than the game being ready to start.

I'm glad to hear that works as they claimed. It's supposed to be almost instant you can begin a game even if nothing is cached locally yet. That's why the local disk size is kind of irrelevant and only serves as a cache.

Talys said,
I got mine a few hours ago, and bought Ryse as a digital download. I went to get a pop and call a friend to tell them some first impressions, came back to a 3% download (a few minutes), and amazingly, I could load it up to play. If other games are like that, buh-bye discs for me. I must retract everything I said in that "being able to run to the store faster" than a digital download. I mean, I couldn't even go to my fridge faster than the game being ready to start.

I too might go digital only. No discs! You can switch between games without ever leaving your couch. It really is nice after a long day at work and you just want to plop down and play a game.

The design was supposed to blend in with your other equipment, that's why it's not flashy. Just think about trying to fit a Super Nintendo into your rack, would that blend in? It sure was pretty back in the day with the smooth curves but the original Boxy NES fits better even today.

Standardized user replaceable batteries that last up to 30 hours, compared to non user replaceable batteries that last 8 hours...

Edited by bjorndori, Nov 22 2013, 9:27pm :

Get an sd2snes and organize your collection on there. Did this for my genesis and nes as well and I couldn't be happier. Genesis is especially an issue considering how tall it is with the 32X and Sega CD.

I feel MS was just lazy with the design. Quibble about which looks better, but the fact that Sony has the same power (or better depending on who you talk to) in a Smaller box AND NO Power brick speaks to a better hardware design. (From size point, not necessarily if PS CPU is better than Xbox CPU, etc)

greensabath said,
I feel MS was just lazy with the design. Quibble about which looks better, but the fact that Sony has the same power (or better depending on who you talk to) in a Smaller box AND NO Power brick speaks to a better hardware design. (From size point, not necessarily if PS CPU is better than Xbox CPU, etc)

The PS4 is also subject to overheating and being more sensitive to being squished in with other heat generating devices. I'd be worried about putting a PS4 in my cabinet and closing the door. I wouldn't be so worried with the Xbox One.

greensabath said,
I feel MS was just lazy with the design. Quibble about which looks better, but the fact that Sony has the same power (or better depending on who you talk to) in a Smaller box AND NO Power brick speaks to a better hardware design. (From size point, not necessarily if PS CPU is better than Xbox CPU, etc)

The louder fan sound coming from the PS4 indicates the larger airflow case of the XB1 is a better design.

When designing a device that is part of a home entertainment configuration, cute lines and shoving everything into a smaller package is not the main design goal. Handling its own heat and heat from other boxes is important.

It isn't like MS is incapable of designing a small light device, go look at the Surface Pro, it is actually faster per CPU core than the PS4/XB1 and is rather compact.

mnl1121 said,

The PS4 is also subject to overheating and being more sensitive to being squished in with other heat generating devices. I'd be worried about putting a PS4 in my cabinet and closing the door. I wouldn't be so worried with the Xbox One.

I got rid of doors, and sides for that matter, on my rack because of the thermal problems with game consoles. Even the DVR gets pretty warm these days. The one I have now is an open steel frame with glass shelves.

" It isn't like MS is incapable of designing a small light device, go look at the Surface Pro, it is actually faster per CPU core than the PS4/XB1 and is rather compact."

Totally agree w/ you there. The Surface Pro is a marvel of how all that power that is housed in a small form factor. I just feel the Xbox team didn't take that into account at all when designing the X1. I think though, they played it safe, so as not to have another Overheating issue like the 360.

Mobius Enigma said,
It isn't like MS is incapable of designing a small light device, go look at the Surface Pro, it is actually faster per CPU core than the PS4/XB1 and is rather compact.

The Surface Pro or Pro 2? The original Pro ran quite warm just idling, while the Pro 2 runs a lot better between heat generated, performance, and how much battery is sucks up.

What loud fan noise? My ps4 is quieter than my ps3 slim and 360 slim. It vibrates less on disc access and is cool to the touch even during long playtimes. I'm glad I don't have to wait for a system revision to have such optimized hardware this generation. The fat ps3 was quiet but the fans would spin up during certain games. The ps4 is silent. Even my whisper quiet air purifier is louder, it's amazing. Turned it off and I still couldn't hear the ps4.

The style of it is sexy. A lot of people are trippin' on that part. You guys call it a VCR while the PS4 looks like a Jenga set. Whatever, dude.

I would have liked for Microsoft to have also done away with the AA batteries set-up in favor of the battery built into the controller like the DualShock 3 and 4 from Sony but that's a minor quibble.

Built-in batteries suck. If you forget to charge the battery or power runs out you can't play. And the PS4 controller only lasts for 7 hours. Not to mention the batteries eventually stop holding a charge and you have to buy a new controller. If you want something like this you can get the play and charge kit for the XB1.

Everyone with an Xbox controller should buy Eneloop rechargeable batteries. Eneloops unlike all other rechargeable batteries don't lose their charge when the batteries aren't being used. When your batteries do run out of juice you can just pop in a fresh pair and not have to wait for batteries to recharge. You also never have to worry about ugly unsightly cables coming out of your entertainment center.

Avatar Roku said,

Built-in batteries suck. If you forget to charge the battery or power runs out you can't play. And the PS4 controller only lasts for 7 hours. Not to mention the batteries eventually stop holding a charge and you have to buy a new controller. If you want something like this you can get the play and charge kit for the XB1.

Everyone with an Xbox controller should buy Eneloop rechargeable batteries. Eneloops unlike all other rechargeable batteries don't lose their charge when the batteries aren't being used. When your batteries do run out of juice you can just pop in a fresh pair and not have to wait for batteries to recharge. You also never have to worry about ugly unsightly cables coming out of your entertainment center.

I'll think about that suggestion for the Xbox One. I have Energizer's charger bay and I'm always ready to switch. But I wanna know if the batteries can be recharged while I'm playing the Xbox.

I haven't tried eneloop, but really I find the self discharge rate on Duracell 2000mah NIMH slow enough I don't notice. I did buy some 2500mah thinking they would last longer, but they self discharged in a week.

Mr.XXIV said,

I'll think about that suggestion for the Xbox One. I have Energizer's charger bay and I'm always ready to switch. But I wanna know if the batteries can be recharged while I'm playing the Xbox.

They can.

Avatar Roku said,

Built-in batteries suck. If you forget to charge the battery or power runs out you can't play. And the PS4 controller only lasts for 7 hours. Not to mention the batteries eventually stop holding a charge and you have to buy a new controller. If you want something like this you can get the play and charge kit for the XB1.

Everyone with an Xbox controller should buy Eneloop rechargeable batteries. Eneloops unlike all other rechargeable batteries don't lose their charge when the batteries aren't being used. When your batteries do run out of juice you can just pop in a fresh pair and not have to wait for batteries to recharge. You also never have to worry about ugly unsightly cables coming out of your entertainment center.

Agreed that's why I like they don't have a rechargeable battery pack in it. Although I wish they included one. I'll be getting the play and charge kit, but I appreciate the ability to swap them out for batteries when needed or few a new pack when the old one decides to stop holding a charge (4 of my 360 packs stopped holding a charge. A new pack is better than buying a whole new controller!).

Avatar Roku said,

Built-in batteries suck. If you forget to charge the battery or power runs out you can't play. And the PS4 controller only lasts for 7 hours. Not to mention the batteries eventually stop holding a charge and you have to buy a new controller. If you want something like this you can get the play and charge kit for the XB1.

Everyone with an Xbox controller should buy Eneloop rechargeable batteries. Eneloops unlike all other rechargeable batteries don't lose their charge when the batteries aren't being used. When your batteries do run out of juice you can just pop in a fresh pair and not have to wait for batteries to recharge. You also never have to worry about ugly unsightly cables coming out of your entertainment center.


I think you quoted and replied to the wrong comment

Avatar Roku said,

Built-in batteries suck. If you forget to charge the battery or power runs out you can't play. And the PS4 controller only lasts for 7 hours. Not to mention the batteries eventually stop holding a charge and you have to buy a new controller. If you want something like this you can get the play and charge kit for the XB1.

Everyone with an Xbox controller should buy Eneloop rechargeable batteries. Eneloops unlike all other rechargeable batteries don't lose their charge when the batteries aren't being used. When your batteries do run out of juice you can just pop in a fresh pair and not have to wait for batteries to recharge. You also never have to worry about ugly unsightly cables coming out of your entertainment center.

Mini Rant on Xbox 360 batteries:
Since late 2007 I've been through 5x official Xbox 360 recharge packs (Original black Play & Charge & LTD Edition Silver transformable) - all have now failed or recharge too quickly then last 1-3hrs maximum total constant use.
Sony, Energizer & Duracell 2400-3000ma/h as well with a delta battery charger - all are breaking down but are fairing a lot longer than the official Microsoft packs. I'm currently on a combination of unofficial ebay 4,800ma/h packs and a pair of Duracell Stay Charged AA rechargeable - still bloody expensive but the best performing so far and cheaper than the Sony AA rechargeable .
I've noticed that distance drastically affects the amount of battery drain, especially if I play on my TV in the front room with my console sat across the hall in the study. If I play at the desk, the Stay Charged lasts 4-5 evenings (3hrs average a go, 15hrs av. total) but just about gets through one evening in the front room.
I can't stress however how much of a difference (for worse) using it on a PC makes though via the dongle - It barely gets through an evening of Batman: AA before needing a full charge, Stay Charged and all.

Mini Rant about the Sony Battery packs:
I'm on two second hand controllers, one DS3 launch model and the other being what is sold with the current Slim. The original lasts about two evenings max in the front room and about the same at the desk. From what I understand this is pretty good going for the original DS3 but I have a £3.99 inc P&P replacement 3.7v battery pack in the drawer ready to swap out as needed (5 screws, 2 clips, battery clip ~4mins). Anyone who throws out their DS3 because the battery is breaking down is seriously misinformed.
The current DS3 lasts a lot, lot longer. I typically charge it once every 5-6 days and have been playing AC4 nearly every evening since launch.

Too bad you can't bing your TiVo. I rarely watch live TV, everything's on my DVR, and if I can't use voice commands to access my favorite shows, that sucks. Can't search my dlna videos either.