Xbox One review: A console that’s future-proof than ever
- more powerful hardware
- better gaming performance
- integrates your cable TV
- supports voice commands with Kinect
- has some flaws in the user interface
- voice recognition isn't perfect
Microsoft has been hugely successful with the Xbox console franchise. In fact, its Xbox 360 proved itself to be the living room’s best all-in-one entertainment device. But with the technologies today, the 360 is on paving its way to legacy as the 10-year-old console has a fairly weak set of components than is expected for the future. Microsoft has took the big leap in the advancement of the Xbox with its release of the Xbox One – a gaming console that doesn’t just serve its purpose in gaming, but also to be the go-to all-in-one general entertainment device that centers your living space. This is the review of the Xbox One, Microsoft’s leap forward to the future of console gaming.
Design and Hardware
At a glance, Xbox One won’t turn heads: it isn’t that really attractive. In the aesthetic department, the PlayStation 4 wins. Yet somehow, it has a distinct elegance that exudes within its attractive piano black plastic exterior and a set of blade-like air vents. But it’s bulky. It’s very bulky, you’ll reminisce the old VCR from its voluminous chassis. Yet this bulkiness serves a purpose: with all the space inside the console, the powerful components can have so much breathing room when the need arises.
Those stealthy-looking air vents aren’t there for elegance’s sake. The huge air vents serve as the most efficient cooling system of any Xbox to date – even better than the 360’s cooling management system. When the console runs in full power, you won’t notice anything until you put your ears beside the vents. You can barely feel the heat coming out of the vents as the Xbox One is very efficient in the cooling department.
The Xbox One is more powerful than ever. It comes with an octa-core x86 desktop-class processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a huge 500 GB of hard drive storage for all your content. Along the back of the console is a set of ports: there’s the proprietary Xbox power cable, two USB ports, HDMI out port for displaying content from the Xbox to your HDTV, HDMI in port for connecting your cable set-top box, a digital audio port (Toslink), an Ethernet port, and the proprietary Kinect connector. On the front side is the slot-loading Blu-Ray drive and the Xbox logo.
Kinect comes standard with the Xbox One. Whether you love it or hate it, you have no choice. As a comparison, the Xbox 360 can be purchased on its own and the Kinect as an optional accessory. The Kinect serves a big purpose on why it’s included in the box: Xbox’s interaction with its user lies on the advanced tracking and sensing capabilities of the Kinect. And it’s a part of the Xbox’s intention to become the centerpiece of your living room entertainment.
The Xbox One comes with a brand-new, redesigned wireless controller. In fact, Microsoft has spent just over $100 million in the development of this controller. But why did they fix something that isn’t broke in the first place? The controller that came in the 360 works just fine. A $100 million spending on a console controller cannot justify the new one. It looks very similar to its predecessor, and works just as well and behaves exactly how the one in the 360 was. There are a few minor changes to the gamepad, however. The analog joysticks now have a rubberized circular grip that improves on the stick’s feedback when in use. The buttons are more silent and easily pressed than ever. The vibrating mechanisms have also been improved. And the battery life has been increased from the 360’s battery performance, yet still using a pair of AA batteries.
Start up the Xbox One, and you will be greeted with a welcome screen. With a login to Xbox Live and a fairly small update download, the console leads to a Windows 8-inspired home panel. Just like Windows 8, navigation is somewhat cumbersome. Scrolling within the homescreen can be confusing sometimes due to the randomly arranged set of tiles. There is a reason why navigation isn’t as easy as you might expect: the Kinect does the job for you instead. Voice commands are what drives the interface navigation with the Kinect’s omnidirectional microphone. Just wave to the Kinect camera, and Xbox readily accepts any command you put in. Say for example, “Xbox Bing”, and it will give you a search field to put your search terms on. All vital tasks on the console can be used with voice commands. Want to go back to your game? Say “Xbox, go to Forza Motorsport 5”. Need to select things on screen? Say “Xbox, select”.
For some reasons, the Kinect-powered commands don’t work sometimes. It’s either your voice isn’t loud enough to be detected, or the console doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say. With different sentence constructions that you might say, the Xbox One can’t differentiate your command from its own set of built-in commands. This can be a learning curve, but as it seems, it is somewhat an issue.
One good thing about the Xbox One is its integration with your cable provider. Just plug in your set-top box via the HDMI in port, and the Xbox shows your cable channels without even switching to your standard TV display mode. It’s a cool feature, and Microsoft intends to make the Xbox One as the center of your entertainment content. The weird tile interface is also present within the cable TV navigation screen, and can be as cumbersome as the homescreen.
The Xbox One still reigns king when it comes to gaming. With the improved hardware inside, games run with greater detail that was never seen in the 360. As the Xbox 360 games aren’t compatible with the One, game developers have introduced new gaming titles specially catering to the One’s much-improved hardware. Some of the best game titles for the Xbox One are Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, and Call of Duty: Ghosts. The “next-gen” gaming era has finally become real with the Xbox One and its ever-growing portfolio of great game titles.
Kinect is as fun as ever on the Xbox One when it comes to gaming. Titles that support Kinect include Just Dance 5 and Kinect Sports Rivals which come with the console. The re-engineered and advanced tracking abilties of the new Kinect sensor makes these motion-sensing games the best games running on Kinect.
Microsoft has built a rock-solid foundation for the future of gaming. The Xbox One will be the console for the next 10 years or so. It is the most forward-thinking game console that Microsoft has ever designed, and it proves its future-ready abilities with its great set of features. Though there are some flaws, Xbox One is still a great console. It aims to be the center of your entertainment, and if Microsoft can bring perfection to the Xbox One, you can be assured of a great home entertainment experience for the years to come.