Does the Xbox Series X|S need a new dashboard OS?

Xbox dashboard
Xbox dashboard (Image credit: Windows Central)

Recently, I noticed that every time an Xbox staff member tweets, regardless of the topic, a bunch of replies plead for Microsoft to provide a new dashboard, often without context. I was surprised in my Xbox surveys at the start of the year how many people were actually upset with the general dashboard design, with roughly a third of complaints revolving around specifics or general dissatisfaction. It should be noted that these surveys were in no way scientific, and also present a bias around Twitter itself, which tends to amplify certain topics and produce trends that may fly in contradiction to Microsoft's internal, more scientific polling.

Indeed, the Xbox Insider Program is designed for and around feedback on the dashboard. During the Xbox One generation, we saw the Xbox dashboard undergo several major revisions as it moved away from Kinect and Windows 8's "Metro" design language to something more closely resembling Windows 11's Fluent Design system. It's also somewhat notable that the Xbox Series X|S is the first "new generation" of Xbox console that didn't receive a unique design. It looks and functions identically to the Xbox One dashboard, save for dynamic themes and other under-the-hood features.

I once again turned to the community to ask what it was specifically that people dislike about the Xbox dashboard. For full transparency, I'm quite satisfied with it myself right now. I enjoy the consistency between my Windows 11 PC and Xbox console, and the new storefront on Xbox is excellent, being far faster and more usable than its predecessor. That said, there are some points raised on Twitter that I do agree with, and would hope that Microsoft addresses in some form.

Cleaner, with less "ads"

New Xbox Dashboard Ui

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One of the main criticisms I see time and time again pertains to the perception of clutter and "ads" on the home screen right after you boot up your Xbox. I've put "ads" in quotations here because I suspect Microsoft views some of the content panels on the dashboard a little differently to average users.

The dashboard is comprised of two rows of tiles. The top row is a list of most recently used apps and games, while the bottom row is comprised of a direct link to your Games and Apps folder, with three panels that contain "dynamic content." These content blocks are generated by AI and encourage you to engage with various Xbox features, whether it's store promotions, achievements, or friends that are logging in. The last panel on the bottom right is often reserved for actual ads, served by Bing.

I suspect complaints around this dashboard cluttering are amplified since Microsoft introduced dynamic themes to the Xbox Series X|S, which are gorgeously animated. Unfortunately, their impact is stunted because they're obscured behind the large unmovable tiles. Fan mock-ups envisage a more streamlined UI that gives more breathing space to the background while reducing the number of segments dedicated to "dynamic" content blocks.

Ads have long been a contentious topic on Xbox consoles, even in the Xbox 360 era. It's symptomatic partially of the business model that console gaming represents: You sell the hardware at cost and make money on the digital purchases. Ads on the dashboard present a relatively unintrusive method to generate additional revenue and subsidize the console itself. They're generally far less intrusive than on platforms like Instagram or Tiktok, which build up profiles on your habits and offer ads specifically tailored to encourage you to make a purchase. Xbox ads tend to be fixed with a very generalized target audience in mind.

In the U.K., I often see ads for random campaigns being run by the government that don't even try to sell anything. Right now, I'm actually not seeing external ads at all in Germany, with the content blocks being focused on Xbox Game Pass benefits and a reminder that Tiny Tina's Wonderlands just launched. That said, they do take up an onerous portion of the dashboard, hiding away any dynamic themes or custom backgrounds you may have set.

Being realistic, I doubt Microsoft will eliminate ads on the dashboard entirely, given the extra revenue they generate. However, I suspect there must be some sort of compromise that reduces their command of the overall feel of the home screen. Many users requested more control over the home screen, with the ability to resize or move tiles, for example.

Performance and speed

Xbox Series X|S Networking Guide

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Another topic that I saw frequently pertained to speed. Many users cited how slow the Xbox can be to pull down updates or navigate quickly between different sections of the dashboard.

It seems true to some degree that the resource allocation for the OS holds it back. I recently tried to use Clipchamp on Microsoft Edge on the Xbox Series X, which is Microsoft's shiny new web-based video editing platform. Unfortunately, adding just a single short clip to the timeline caused the entire browser to crash since I maxed out its RAM availability. The Xbox Game DVR is another area of contention, given how painfully sluggish the Xbox is at handling the basics of clip editing and sharing. Microsoft removed the Upload Studio app entirely, removing deeper clip editing from the platform.

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Potentially, some OS performance constraints aren't things Microsoft can solve easily, given that the system resources are by and large reserved for games and gaming. A more pervasive revision of Xbox architecture may be needed in the future to improve some of these aspects of the console.

One thing users requested repeatedly on my Twitter thread was the option for an HDR-enabled dashboard. It's certainly irritating that whenever you switch from the dashboard to a game with HDR enabled, most TV sets flicker between HDR modes as a result of the Xbox dash missing out on the feature. If you're using a slower TV set, this mode switch can be pretty slow and annoying to deal with. Hopefully, this is at least one performance-related improvement Microsoft can implement a little more easily. In my experience talking to Xbox staff about these kinds of things, though, it sounds as if even things that seem relatively simple can in fact be quite complicated.

What is Microsoft working on right now?

Xbox Game Dvr March

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

In previous interviews, Microsoft said that its priorities for 2022 included improving the Xbox Game DVR, while noting that it's heard calls to improve and overhaul the Xbox achievement system, which has fallen behind PlayStation in modernization. Microsoft has made a range of small improvements over the past few months, including customization for the share button, improvements to Quick Resume, 4K dashboard, and improvements to store localization and accessibility information.

For as many people that were calling for a full overhaul of the dashboard, just as many were calling for Microsoft to leave it as is. It was quite intense how many revisions the Xbox One generation dashboard went through during its tenure, and I would argue that what we have now is a lot more streamlined and focused, although it has come at the cost of losing TV features, snap mode, and other similar things.

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I think that an entire dashboard revision isn't needed until the next generation at this point, but much like Windows 11 itself, it feels like this generation of Microsoft OS design is straying too far away from customization. People called on Microsoft to improve uniformity in Windows 11, and arguably it has achieved this. It has, however, come at the cost of customization in some ways. You can't move the Start Menu taskbar anymore, for example, and the new Start Menu has nowhere near as much customization as Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 did.

The same is true for the Xbox dashboard, but that has always been the case to some degree. I don't think it would hurt to give users a little more control over their experience, though. I opt in to the Android ecosystem for the control it affords me over the usability of my mobile devices. It would be nice to see a little of that design customization on Xbox (and Windows 11) as well.

What do you think? Hit the comments and let's talk.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • Great article, I'm okay with the dashboard as is, but could go for more customization. I just wanted to say the Xbox Dashboard is significantly better than the PlayStation's Dashboard/menu system is. That one just seems overly complicated.
  • I guess you can't please everybody? I think it is fine. As far as ads, GTF over it. I have ads on my Samsung and LG TVs and I find that FAR more intrusive than a freaking small square on the dash. Especially LG that actually pops into content. The X360 used to actually lock up the box for several seconds while the ad loaded. Talk about an actual problem. These are nothing.
  • All together now! Ads are unacceptable! Charge a sustainable price for quality service and don’t involve anyone else in that relationship. Microsoft is pimping out access to their customers for disproportionately small ad revenue. This is not necessary for them to profit. Stop with the side hustle and focus on great hardware, software, and services. We have an opportunity with Xbox leadership being receptive to feedback to shape the product for the better.
  • Yeah, no... An ad-blocker seriously needs to be a feature within web browsers considering they've over-saturated the Internet...
  • I thought they were doing HDR? Or was that only the 4K resolution? Anyway on the LG the Flicker is so fast I bearly notice it anymore.
  • I have been using Series X since launch and had always been somewhat frustrated by the confusing and fragmented interface. I got used to it though and just kind of dealt with it after a while. Recently, I played a PS5 for the first time and was astonished at how much faster, smoother and more efficient the interface was. It made the current Xbox dashboard feel dated and clunky by comparison. Everything on Xbox is stupidly siloed into separate apps (which have to be updated separately!) and performance is terrible even on Series X. This is in contrast to the pretty much seamless interface on PS5. Of course, this is all thanks to Microsoft’s idiotic insistence on running Windows on a f**king game console that doesn’t need even half of what a full blown desktop class operating system offers. As a result we’re left with a slow, clunky, POS. That’s the price of entry for game pass I guess lol. A price I willingly pay! Seriously though, Microsoft wouldn’t know how to create a truly polished piece of software if the instructions literally hit them in the face, so I’ve just stopped expecting it from them.
  • Lmao can tell you've never touched an Xbox in your life. I've had both the ps5 and series x since launch. The Xbox interface is light-years better than the ps5 interface. The Xbox also doesn't run full windows. Wtf are you even talking about.
  • Believe whatever you want. I’ve had every Xbox console ever released and have played my Series X plenty. I love Xbox games I just so happen to feel the dashboard is sub par right now. Also, yes the dashboard is based on Windows code, which is why it can run Windows UWP apps. That’s also why it’s more taxing on system resources than the PS5 interface. Why do you think it took so long for MS to figure out how to make the dashboard 4K? It’s because they had to figure out how to accomplish that without bleeding into system resources even more than the dashboard already did. Lastly, as to the design/UX of the interface, I guess that’s just my opinion. We can agree to disagree.
  • I was excited to go from a xbox one to a Series S but when you plug it in and it looks exactly the same, the excitement kind of dies. New consoles need new dashboards especially when the consoles play the same games. I now have an X and it does have enough differences to notice but I actually took the S back. I would have had a hard time telling whether I was looking at a series S or a One S.
  • It isn't about the look, it is about the performance. Just booting the system makes you see that.
  • If what you care about with a new console is how the interface (that you use maybe 2% of the time you have the console on) looks than yeesh. Also it's only the same games for the first two years usually and there are already plenty of exclusives and all that aren't exclusives run way better, which is what you upgrade for, performance. Sony butchered their UI from the ps4 to the ps5 just so it would look different, they went from something nice to use to a janky mess which is exactly why this mentality is dumb af
  • I spend about 10 seconds on the dashboard each time I play. It gets overplay how dramatic a change is to people.
  • Don't really use the dashboard at all, I'm generally in the guide. The only thing about the interface that really pisses me off is that achievements are tied to online, which is moronic.
  • Considering live tiles are no longer being developed, I think a slight change needs to be done at least.
  • The original Xbox One dashboard was far more interesting. Pretty much everything they've done to it since then, stripping away features, change for the sake of change, and so forth, has made it worse. I'd love to go back to the Xbox One Day One dashboard.
  • Could it be improved? Sure, always. There is no perfect in UI design. And it would be nice to avoid the flicker when switching to HDR, but that's a minor nit. But is the dashboard on the list of things I wish were different about Xbox Series X? I doubt it would even make my top 20. I have never thought, "Oh, now where is that game I want to play?" or "Why is it taking me so long to get to my game!?" I have never thought the ads are a problem (don't love them, but they don't bother me). Frankly, I appreciate seeing what's new in gaming, so I have thought of the ads as more educational than annoying. Like the rest of the dashboard, they have never affected me getting to my games. I don't understand the performance criticisms. Everything seems near instantaneous to me, and Quick Resume means I can get right back into a game and playing from where I left off in 2-3 seconds from a different game or streaming service. That's amazing. Some things I do want? I want voice control back for turning on the TV and Xbox and starting music or streaming a movie from across the room (w/o using Alexa or Google). I'd like facial recognition or some other mechanism to sign in securely w/o entering a PIN every time (fingerprint on the controller would be fine), because with multiple kids, password controls are a must. I'd like better integration with my Windows PC's and other Xboxes on the same LAN. Can't wait for the upcoming Family Plan -- not having one has been a real pain point for my family. But the dashboard? It's fine.
  • I can't say I agree with you more, especially about Windows Hello. The PIN is okay for parental controls, but something with less effort would be great. A fingerprint reader on the Nexus button would be amazing. I don't need full facial recognition.
  • People always chirp on about the "ads" on the dashboard, but it's been a decade since I've seen something like Doritos on my dashboard. It's a place to see new releases and be notified about sales without scrolling through the menu. I love it personally. I would love to see an evolution of the dashboard once they sunset the Xbox One and stop supporting it with new game releases. I'm mainly concerned about the Xbox Guide rather than the dashboard itself, which is leagues ahead of the competition already. I think an underlying upgrade to the speed of messaging and notifications across the Xbox platform would be the best improvement to make. Sometimes my phone or my PC pops a notification before my Xbox can.
  • For me (chirping) it is where they are. The main menu should be just for my games and/or apps. Put the ads in the store, gamepass or at their areas where selling happens so I can use that real estate for my stuff. The space ads use is obscene
  • The dashboard is fine. In my opinion MS needs 2 things 1. Trimm it a little. There is no need for like 500 submenus, No need to click 9 times to go to a setting.
    2. Overhaul the sharing features. Uploading is SO SLOW. I mean COME ON. I have 400/100 line and I can upload an entire movie on my Google Drive faster than I can upload a few screenshots on OneDrive. Make it faster. Make it 1click. Press the screenshot button and then get a menu to share to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and OneDrive. Make a tab on our OneDrive accounts that is called XBOX and everything goes there. 3. This is a bonus. Let us stream to Youtube. Come on Microsoft. I can't believe My friend pushes a button on his PS5 and its done and I have to connect a USB, record gameplay, take the freaking USB out, put it on my PC, copy the file and then upload it. I seriously cant believe how MS, a trillion dollars company cant fix these simple stuff for such a long time
  • For 2 ms does have it setup like that you have to add your social media accounts and it's one button sharing. also they limit the bandwidth while playing a game it's annoying yes but they have to cater to a wide variety of network bandwidth unfortunately not everyone has super high speed but I do agree with you it should scale better. As for the last one I don't know if it's ms on this one it might be Google they have been extremely abrasive when it comes to integration with Ms products. Twitch however does have that one button streaming you are referring to.
  • Yes. A good refreshis always welcome. I mean ps4 and PS5 have different dashboards so why not xbox one and Series?
  • They need one that let's you decide the icons and their placement
  • I agree. A console should look like a console. Not like a PC.
    I have a PS5 and a Series S, I LOVE how clean and easy to navigate the PS5 interface is, everything is intuitive and well organized, even a person who's never used the console would find anything they want, while on Series S, it took me a long time to find some options, it's kind of annoying. It needs to be more elegant and efficient. I want to feel I'm on a console, not on my PC.
    Also, why the Series S NEVER really turns off 100%? The turn off option is actually a Stand by mode. And EVEN if I go to settings any choose to tur it off COMPLETELY I can still rechard my phone on the USB. This is WEIRD!!!
  • USB ports can get power independent of the system being on. Assuming it's like a PC motherboard, they can be wired directly to the power supply for passive power when the system is off.
  • would love to see something in the same style as windows 11? so you get a more streamlined microsoft experience. The same for all microsoft Apps like teams, to do list, email, etc etc, right now everything has a different look and feel to it.
  • The Xbox UI has been garbage for years and it just got worse with time.
    The Original XBone UI was effective. The second iteration, with the giant tile wasn't pretty but it was useful as it allowed things like OneGuide to keep running while we went back to the home screen. But since then it went further downhill with the current UI being absolutely awful. And while yes, cumbersome navigation is one of the issued I have with it, the bloody ads ARE my main complaint, immediately followed by the absence of a PROPER Dark Theme (a proper Dark Theme uses black, not grey) which forces me to have my consoles constantly running on high contrast mode which, needless to say, Microsoft half-arsed, just like with everything else they do these days. This being it a priority to me?
    Not anymore. The removal of the HDMI-in port on the Series X pretty much killed all chances of me continuing with Xbox, and unless any UI change is ported to the XBone, I won't be seeing it as I've moved back to PlayStation for gaming in this generation.