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Xbox One: Comprehensive launch review

Eight long years after the Xbox 360 debuted in 2005, its successor console the Xbox One has finally arrived. The new console brings more than just increased horsepower to the table; it also sports an assortment of unique multimedia features and a new Kinect camera/microphone array that kind of works properly this time.

Before we got to this point, the Xbox One suffered through limp reveal events and E3 presentations as well as widespread controversy revolving around initial plans for the console to require an internet connection to function. Since then, Microsoft wisely reversed course on the online requirement and brought its messaging more in line with gamer tastes.

How does the Xbox One stack up to those tastes, the Xbox 360, and its direct competitor the Playstation 4? Find out all that and more in our lengthy and all-encompassing launch review!

Box design

The original Xbox 360’s physical design somehow managed to be both sleek and awkward, its indented shape differing greatly from common hardware designs. The system could also be used in a horizontal or vertical orientation, though the latter proved dangerous to discs at times.

Early models notoriously suffered from a widespread overheating problem/soldering defect that came to be known as the “Red Ring of Death” that would take Microsoft years to resolve. Hardware revisions eventually eliminated the RROD, slimmed down the console, and reduced noise produced by the system.

The Xbox One hardware design differs greatly from its predecessor. Instead of a smooth, curvy surface the new system is rectangular with beveled edges. The face features nothing more than a slot-loading Blu-ray drive (yes!) with eject button and a capacitive power button. A controller sync button and a single USB 3 port stay largely out of sight on the left side of the box.

A very large console, the Xbox One was clearly designed to operate for long periods of time without overheating. The top of the box boasts a generous array of vents for just such a purpose. Microsoft wisely wants to avoid another RROD fiasco this time around. The robust size of the Xbox One also helps with noise dampening. The system is whisper quiet; you’d have to sit awfully close to hear it during normal use.

The downside to the new hardware’s big, boxy design is aesthetic. The Xbox One more closely resembles a VCR than contemporary game systems; a little wood paneling wouldn’t look out of place on the console face. The utilitarian 1980s design style won’t win any beauty contests. But a console’s looks don’t matter all that much in the long run, especially when subsequent revisions will probably reduce the console’s size and tweak its appearance.

Audio/video ports

On the Xbox One’s backside, users will find a proprietary port for the new Kinect, two more USB ports (for a total of three), an IR blaster port, a gigabit Ethernet jack (wireless-N is also supported), and a handful of jacks dedicated to picture and sound. Audiovisual options are surprisingly limited this time out…

The only video output option is HDMI; a cable is mercifully included. Being that the vast majority of big-screen gamers (and especially early adopters) probably own HDTVs and/or home theater receivers with HDMI inputs by now, equipping the system solely with HDMI video isn’t such a bad thing.

People playing on computer monitors without HDMI can opt for an inexpensive HDMI to DVI cable if needed. BUT anyone rocking a component video-only HDTV or VGA-only monitor will have to either invest in a more expensive converter box or pony up for a better monitor.

Audio proves more problematic. Naturally the system pumps sound through HDMI, so you’re golden if your monitor or receiver accepts audio that way. The Xbox One also has a Toslink digital audio jack, which can connect directly to some receivers or via a Toslink-to-digital optical cable.

However, people who rely on analog RCA or 3.5mm audio cables are out of luck. The Xbox One has no analog sound output, not even via proprietary cable. In that situation, you’d need to buy a digital-to-analog audio converter, which tend to cost from $15-30 and are difficult to find in brick-and-mortar stores. Microsoft probably saves a dollar or so per system by excluding analog audio, but they pass along a much greater cost to certain unlucky consumers.

On the other hand, the Xbox One has something you wouldn’t expect to find in a game system: HDMI input. My $2000 gaming notebook doesn’t even have that. The HDMI input allows for some cool television and video features, helping the system live up to its name as an all-in-one entertainment box. The input port introduces some video lag when routing other gaming consoles through it though, so you probably won't want to pipe an Xbox 360 into the One.

Under the hood: Gaming power

Ryse

Much noise has been made online about the difference in power between the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, both of which launched during the same month.

The two systems feature a similar 8-core AMD CPU – the brains of the system itself. The Xbox One’s CPU clocks in at 1.75 GHz while the Playstation 4’s runs at 1.6 GHz, giving Microsoft’s system a small advantage in raw processing power. This could benefit the One in games that require large-scale or complex AI, such as Dead Rising 3 or Dynasty Warriors-type titles.

In practice however, the Xbox One’s minor CPU power surplus will more likely go towards compensating for the console’s Graphics Processing Unit. Both systems utilize AMD Radeon GPUs - shame they didn’t go with nVidias and their superior physics processing. But the Playstation 4’s GPU has 18 Computer Units and 1152 shaders, whereas the Xbox One has only 12 CUs and 768 shaders. That gives Sony’s system an edge of fifty percent more graphical power, though some estimates peg it at closer to 20 percent in practice.

At launch, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One each have an exclusive clear-cut graphical showcase game: Killzone 4 and Ryse, respectively. Either game looks significantly more detailed than the previous generation of consoles could produce. It’s just that the Playstation 4 has a lot more room to grow from a graphical standpoint.

Multiplatform game performance

Platform-agnostic third-party titles from publishers like Activision, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft tend to outnumber and outsell exclusive games these days.  Multiplatform games probably won’t differ too much assets-wise between the Xbox One and Playstation 4, actually. It’s more cost effective to share the same models across systems.

That said, multi-platform Playstation 4 launch games already outperform their Xbox One equivalents in three key areas: resolution, frame rate, and anti-aliasing. Games like Call of Duty Ghosts and Assassin's Creed IV run at 1080P on Sony’s system but only 720P on the Xbox One. They can fit more pixels on the screen without hurting frame rate, and the AA makes everything look a little smoother. The Xbox One’s upscaler also darkens colors and boosts sharpness unnecessarily, making sub-1080P games look worse than they should when displayed at 1080P.

All that might sound discouraging, but Playstation 4’s graphical edge shouldn’t make a big difference in sales potential and software support in the long run.

For one thing, most people (I’m not talking about you guys or the people who fuel console wars on message boards) can’t tell the difference between 720P and 1080P under normal viewing conditions. Play on a huge enough screen and/or sit close enough and the differences become apparent, but mainstream users won’t notice or care. And games like Assassin’s Creed IV – despite running at a lower resolution on the One – still look perfectly beautiful and noticeably superior to previous gen versions.

Let’s not forget that the original Playstation 2 was easily bested by the GameCube and first Xbox in hardware power. And yet the PS2 sold more than both of them combined. Games sell systems. If Microsoft keeps developers happy and those developers keep releasing games on Xbox One, the One will have no trouble competing with the slightly more powerful PS4. Whether or not Microsoft will actually catch up with Sony in developer relations this generation, I am less certain.

Storage

Image courtesy of Eurogamer

The Xbox One includes a 500 GB internal hard drive with which to store the OS, games, and apps. 500 Gigs is more space than the largest 360 hard drive, and yet it feels like less. Why? Every single Xbox One game requires a full disc installation; that’s why. Retail games now have 50 GB to work with thanks to Blu-ray media, and downloadable games aren’t arbitrarily limited in size as on the 360. In other words, gamers are destined to fill the hard drive up sooner or later.

This sort-of small storage space wouldn’t be such a big deal except that it’s not user upgradable. You have to open up the console and void your warranty to access it. That’s a short-sighted decision, especially since the Playstation 4 (like the PS3 before it) allows users to swap hard drives at will. Unplugging a drive and plugging in a new one is not rocket science. If you can connect your console to a TV, you’re mentally equipped for the task.

We will at least be able to connect  external USB 3.0 hard drives in the future, Microsoft promises. This should greatly alleviate the discomfort that comes with filling up a drive and not wanting to delete anything. However, external drive support was not ready at launch and we still don’t know when it will come. Hardcore users like yours truly probably wouldn’t mind waiting so much if we only had a reasonable ETA for its arrival.

Speaking of hardcore, the moding community has already discovered how to swap out the Xbox One’s internal drive with larger and faster ones. I’d make the upgrade in a heartbeat if not for fears of punishment from Microsoft.

As for the standard 500GB drive, don’t expect to monitor drive space right away because the system currently lacks a storage management utility. That’s right, you can’t view the list of files taking up space on the drive or even how much free space remains on the drive. How did such an essential and obvious feature not make the cut before the system arrived in stores? Users can at least delete game installations from the “My games and apps” menu, but come on.

The Xbox One Controller

Controller preference is highly subjective. Some people will always prefer the feel of Sony’s DualShock controllers because they grew up playing with them. But from an ergonomics standpoint, the Xbox 360 controller came out ahead of the DualShock 3 with more natural analog stick placement. The 360’s awful, inaccurate d-pad (and even the slightly improved transforming d-pad) pretty much squandered the chances of an all-out win on the controller front, though.

The One’s controller hews close to the previous design, but not too closely. First and foremost for fighting game fans, the d-pad is now a proper cross shape instead of a wobbly disc. It even makes a satisfying click when pressed in any direction, providing welcome tactile and aural feedback. Nothing can replace an arcade stick like the Madcatz Killer Instinct Fight Stick for accuracy, but at least an Xbox One pad user can play the new Killer Instinct without feeling too disadvantaged.

The analog sticks also show improvement - to a lesser extent (and more debatably). They’re longer and provide greater resistance, enabling finer movements than before. That means more accuracy when aiming, steering, etc. It’s also easier to keep a thumb in place thanks to the textured edges surrounding each stick’s concave top. Clicking in the sticks to perform functions like crouching requires a bit more pressure than with 360 controllers, though.

The big new feature of the One controllers is trigger feedback. In addition to the two motors traditionally found in the grips of the controller, the left and right triggers each sport a motor as well. The controller can specifically vibrate right under your finger (and nowhere else) when you pull a trigger. The nuanced feedback this provides is difficult to describe; it just feels really good. Trigger vibration support is optional for developers, so don’t expect every multiplatform title to shake your fingers, senora.

You might not know this, but the Xbox 360 bumpers suffered from an internal design flaw (thin plastic seating) that made them fairly likely to break over time. I still have some 2005-era 360 controllers, all with at least one ailing bumper.

Well, the One’s bumpers are now much larger (there is literally no space between them and the triggers), which I suspect distributes the pressure they receive and lessens fragility. But their responsiveness suffers because it takes more pressure to push them. The bumpers will barely annoy in most games, but titles that rely on fast button presses (such as Killer Instinct) will suffer.

More happily, reports indicate that the One controller gets much better battery life than the Dual Shock 4. Controllers can even be plugged directly to the system via micro-USB cable for wired use. Good things, because the twin AA batteries are harder to swap now - the inside of the compartment lacks a diagram of which way the batteries belong.

Egregiously, the system currently lacks a way to even monitor battery life. The only sign that your batteries are nearly empty comes when trigger vibration gets disabled. What a simple and important function for the system designers to forget.

The new Kinect camera

Whereas the original Kinect came late in the 360’s life as an add-on (and signaled a shift in Microsoft’s first-party software priorities), the Xbox One includes the new Kinect (AKA Kinect 2.0) by default. This has the disadvantage of bumping up the system’s sticker price up $100 higher than the competition. But it guarantees that far more games will support Kinect 2.0 because every One owner has one.

This Kinect represents a substantial performance improvement over its predecessor. The camera supports a 1080P video feed, providing excellent video chat and capture opportunities. Skype video chat works beautifully with it. Even games that aren’t too Kinect-heavy can do things like display clear windows of local player’s faces.

My favorite aspect of the new Kinect is its wider field of view. The old Kinect needed to be positioned fairly high up to have any hope of properly tracking a player’s body, and you still had to stand awfully far away from it. This Kinect actually sits under my wall-mounted TV and it can still track four players at a reasonable distance of six feet or so. Finally, people with relatively small rooms can get their Kinect on.

Motion controlled games are in short supply at launch, owing mostly to the console’s rushed development cycle, I suspect. I’ve seen firsthand that Just Dance 4 plays great with  four players, but its game design doesn’t put the Kinect’s accuracy and responsiveness to the test. Larger and more complex Kinect games should start to arrive in Q3 next year.

For now, the most common use early adopters will have for the Kinect is navigating the One’s system menus.

Motion controlling the UI works about as well as it did on the 360, though the gestures have changed. You have to hold a hand up to activate the motion cursor instead of waving it around. To scroll the screen left or right, users now have to start with an open palm, close it, and then drag in either direction. Not a bad gesture, but I wish resting the cursor against the edge of the screen worked as well.

With the motion cursor enabled, users can select things in two different ways. The first is to float the motion cursor over a tile for several seconds, just like on the 360. It takes too long as always and you still have to deal with cursor wobble. We can also now float the cursor over an item and push forward to choose it. Wobble affects the push gesture just as much; the first time I used it the cursor moved and selected the wrong thing. Pushing is faster though.

Voice commands­ fare much better than with the last Kinect, insofar as the Xbox One UI supports voice for almost every function, as do some apps. The Xbox 360 Kinect tended to have voice commands for some functions but not others, almost completely negating their usefulness. But now there are so many commands, and they don’t all follow the same design logic.

Famously, saying “Xbox On” wakes the system from standby but only “Xbox Turn Off” puts it to sleep. It ends up being difficult to learn and remember all but the most common commands. Microsoft has published a voice command cheat sheet PDF, but with more intuitively designed commands it wouldn’t be necessary.

Talking to the Kinect and using it to launch apps and games is actually pretty fun, initially. Remember how I said voice commands are useless if you can’t use them for everything though? Well, they also lose their worth if they don’t work all the time. Spoken commands work often – probably 70-90 percent of the time, depending on voice and environment. But when you have a physical controller with 100 percent efficacy, how many times will you feel like repeating yourself?

Voice commands perform especially poorly when more than one person occupies the room. Okay, the Kinect won’t hear my command if I speak it while someone else is talking. I can live with that. Problem is the Kinect frequently – as in all the time – misinterprets ambient speech as voice commands.

Innocent conversation will often set off the device’s listening mode as if someone had spoken “Xbox.” You’ll then have to either say “Xbox Stop Listening” in order to clear the on-screen display or just wait it out. The Kinect also picks up nonexistent voice commands during movie playback, so much so that we were recently forced to disable the device in order to watch a movie in peace.

I don’t doubt that the Xbox One Kinect’s voice recognition will improve over time. It just has a long way to go before it can graduate from a curiosity to a properly reliable method of input.

Xbox Fitness

Actually, Xbox Live Gold members will find Xbox Fitness to be quite a good showcase for the Kinect (other than the game's lack of proper voice command support). Xbox Fitness is one of those games that people who don’t care about non-traditional games, physical fitness, and getting off the couch will dismiss outright. But every one of us should care about exercising, especially since Xbox Fitness makes it kind of fun.

Xbox Fitness is a downloadable exercising game/app. Instead of working out to CG mannequins like we did with original 360 Nike Kinect+ Training and similar titles,  this one has players working out to actual live-action videos starring fitness icons like Jillian Michaels and Shaun T. The use of live-action is clever because people who don’t play many games (like your girlfriend or mom) will accept Xbox Fitness much more readily than they would artificial polygonal characters. I imagine the footage cuts down on production costs too, though the developers still have to make the game read player movements and compare them against the trainer’s.

Don’t think Xbox Fitness consists solely of videos and nothing else. To the right of the training video, you’ll see a highly accurate silhouette depicting your movements. The game also displays heart rate, time remaining, Fitness Points earned, and your star rating for the workout. Functionally, Xbox Fitness provides all the visual feedback you’d get from previous gen fitness games - and more. It also features friends leaderboard support (if you don’t disable it) and 21 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 GamerScore.

At present, the game offers 17 free workouts for Gold members and a handful of paid workouts ranging from $9.99-29.99 in price. Non-Gold subscribers can buy workouts individually, though that’s a poor value compared to subscribing.

Xbox One dashboard

The One’s main console interface is based on Metro/Modern UI concepts, much like Windows Phone, Windows 8, and the current Xbox 360 dashboard. In some ways the new UI easily surpasses the 360’s, whereas it falls far below in others.

To start with, the glut of ads that bogged down the 360’s dashboard have all but disappeared from the new design. The top level of the new dash itself consists of only three pages right now instead of practically a dozen, so they don’t have as much room for ads anyway. You’ll find only one vertical column of three advertisements along the right side of the main page, but that’s it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the allure of advertising dollars and the chance to annoy millions of paying customers eventually proves too irresistible to Microsoft as it did with the 360. But for now things are clean and unobtrusive.

On the Home page of the dashboard clockwise from left to right, you’ll find:

  • a tall vertical tile displaying a smattering of Achievement and friend info (this leads to the Profile and Friends interfaces)
  • a large box showing the most recent game or app that is currently running or tombstoned in the background
  • a tile for snapping or unsnapping apps and another tile that leads to the “My games and apps” installed on the console
  • five tiles at the bottom dedicated to launching the disc in the drive and recently used apps

This Home page is so well designed, putting every common function right at the user’s fingertips. I would like to see my avatar animating along the profile and friends column, and perhaps a social ticker at the bottom (à la the Playstation 4) but from a functionality perspective the Home page already bowls a perfect game.

The actual dashboard visual theme falls on the stark and ugly side, though. Players can select from a too-small pool of colors to act as a tile theme, but the background remains pitch black. That works on Windows Phone, but here it leaves way too much cold, black space. Perhaps the Xbox One design team has never witnessed Windows 8.1’s user selectable background colors and images?

Keeping track of games and apps

This image and several others courtesy of GhostRobo

Scroll left of the Home to see your Pins. As with the 360, pinning games and apps allows users to jump straight to their favorite content. Only here Pins load instantly instead of taking a million years, making them way more useful. Anything installed on the hard drive can be pinned – very convenient.

The only downside to Pins at present is keeping them ordered. You can choose to move a tile to the front of the list, but not manually rearrange them. Microsoft needs to go all the way with the modern UI here, not halfway. Windows Phone and Windows 8 both allow users to relocate tiles at will. The process of selecting a tile and then assigning it to a specific new location can’t possibly be all that complex. Hopefully we’ll get proper Pin organization in a future update.

Users can also launch things from the “My games and apps” page linked from within the Home page. As with the Pins page users can press the Menu (formerly Start) button when highlighting any game or apps to:

  • launch the app
  • pin or unpin it
  • check its download progress
  • view add-ons
  • uninstall it
  • visit its Store page.

All handy features, though the inability to jump to a game’s Achievements list from the context menu is conspicuously absent.

The real glaring omission with the My Games and apps page – emblematic of the Xbox One UI’s rushed and incomplete nature – is a complete lack of organization. Installed games and apps simply get thrown onto the same big list with no divisions by type of app or anything. Nor can we even move tiles to the front. The slipshod grouping of games and apps makes finding one manually rather unpleasant. Far easier to speak “Xbox go to…” followed by the app name, for the time being.

Storefront

To the right of the dashboard’s Home page you’ll find the Store page. The single, clean page leads to four store sections: Games, Movies & TV, Music, and Apps. Grouping the stores together is much more intuitive than on the Xbox 360, where each storefront appears on a completely different page. At the bottom of the main Store page, users can also use Bing to search all stores by text or voice.

Game discoverability was a huge problem on the Xbox 360 that Microsoft has made some inroads towards fixing on the One. All retail games will be offered digitally from day one; a huge improvement from the 360’s retail-first policy.

Gone is the division between retail releases and Xbox Live Arcade titles; all games receive the same classification and can offer the same Achievements and features. For fans of XBLA and smaller downloadable games like me, this makes actually finding download-only titles harder. But in the previous generation, many players wrongly thought of XBLA games as lesser titles and ignored them outright. At least non-retail titles like Peggle 2 won’t look like second class citizens now.

The Games Store offers the following sections and features from left to right:

  • Featured games (most of the first page)
  • Search games, use a code, and one advertisement (all in a column at the right of the first page)
  • New releases (one column and a link to a separate section)
  • Add-ons (one vertical tile linking to a separate section)
  • Top games right now (two columns and a separate section)
  • Popular games (one column and a separate section)
  • Recommended for you (one column and a separate section)
  • Top selling (one double-wide column and a separate section)
  • Top rated (one column and a separate section)

That amounts to three pages worth of horizontal scrolling to see everything – a little much. Other than a sales section (which surely will come in time), it has almost everything you could want in a storefront.

Everything except for demos, that is. Xbox One games (even strictly downloadable ones) are no longer required to offer demos like XBLA games were. A scant few demos (four so far) do exist for One games, but someone forgot to give them a category on the store. The only way to discover them is by saying “Xbox Bing Demos” or just typing “demos” in the Bing search bar.

Movie and Music Stores

Instead of a pure Xbox Video storefront, this section combines video offerings from the many video services supported by the Xbox One: Xbox Video, Netflix, Crackle, everything.

Selecting an individual title allows users to read its synopsis, ratings, and even casting info. Cool stuff. But to actually see which video service offers the show or movie, you have to choose to watch from within the title menu. Only then do the purchase and rental options come up – an unnecessary extra step.

If you only want to watch things directly from within Netflix or whatever, just use that service’s individual app instead of the Store. Xbox Video also comes as a separate app download, allowing users to buy or rent directly from within the app.

The Music store consists solely of Xbox Music offerings at present. I do hope to see Amazon Cloud Player support eventually. Like Xbox Video, you’ll need to download the Xbox Music app to actually use Microsoft’s music service.

Snap to it

The Xbox One’s single largest innovation over other consoles is its ability to “snap” most apps (not games) to a column along the right side of the screen. To snap or unsnap something, head to the Home screen and pick the Snap tile. Talkative users can also opt to say "Xbox Snap It" followed by the app name.

A snapped app continues to run in the foreground while the user plays a game or uses a different app in the main panel. Visually, this resembles Windows 8’s vertical split-screen function or simply running two traditional Windows apps on the same screen. Double-tapping the Home button or speaking “Xbox Switch” lets you switch between controlling the main panel and the snapped one.

The purpose of snapping an app might be unclear to some people. Humans can only concentrate on one visual element at a time, after all. That complaint forgets that multiple people might want to share a TV. One person can focus on the game while another watches a snapped app, for instance.

The Snap feature’s usefulness almost entirely revolves around videos and multimedia functions. Users can snap video apps like Netflix, YouTube, and even live TV (thanks to the console’s HDMI input) to the side and listen along to them while playing a game.  The benefit should be obvious for anyone who likes to keep up with sports or other live events while actively doing something.

Snapping benefits us non-sportos as well. Playing a grindy or non-story-intensive game while listening to a show or podcast can be highly entertaining. Following a YouTube strategy or collectible guide while playing a game becomes way easier with snapping since you don’t have to move your head between one screen and another.

Note that Netflix doesn’t allow profile selection from the snapped window. If you have multiple profiles set up, the window will just appear blank. You have to switch it to the main window, select a profile, and then switch back in order to watch anything while snapped. That will probably get fixed at some point.

The Snap feature is a game changer that will quickly integrate itself in some users’ daily lives and gaming and viewing habits. But the feature is undercooked in one very important area: sound. Right now, users can’t toggle between the snapped app and primary app’s sounds at will. The One just mixes both sound sources together, creating a cacophonic experience when watching/listening to an app while playing a game.

As a temporary workaround you can use a game’s sound options (if present) to lower or mute the game’s volume. That’s a hassle though, especially having to turn the sound back up when you’ve unsnapped the app.

Video playback

We’ve already touched on video and music, but both deserve further elaboration. Microsoft has positioned the Xbox One as an all-in-one entertainment device, one that you’ll use for all home video and audio entertainment on top of gaming. Will it actually replace your Blu-ray player and Roku though?

In the United States, probably so. The system boasts some advanced television guide functionality when paired with a compatible cable box through the HDMI input port. This same functionality will come to the United Kingdom eventually, though Microsoft hasn’t said when. It might become available in other regions later on or not at all; nobody knows.

Obviously that US-centric approach lessens the console’s impact in other countries. But let’s not overplay the importance of a console-provided programming guide. Anyone with an HDMI-capable cable or antenna receiver can still pipe the video into the Xbox One and enjoy the benefits of snapping and access to other Xbox features while watching. Your cable box’s guide will still work like it did before the One came along.

Some people (like me) don’t even use cable, instead opting for streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. The Xbox One works with all the important North American streaming services, though Amazon Cloud Player for music and niche video services like Crunchyroll would still be appreciated. They will surely come over time.

The One’s UK video offerings hit most of the important notes, including Netflix, Amazon LoveFilm, and NOW TV. The console does lack a few important video apps though: BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, and ITV Player. All are available on the Xbox 360, so Xbox One releases should happen eventually too.

Blu-ray disc playback requires a download of the Blu-ray app, which really should be included by default. Voice commands don't work during Blu-ray playback at all, oddly. Otherwise the One plays Blu-rays as well as expected, though I did run into a bug where only rear speaker sounds came through the front speakers. We couldn’t hear the dialogue and re-launching didn’t help, forcing a switch back to my regular Blu-ray player.

One quick, minor nuisance with video playback: to bring up video controls like Play, Pause, etc. you have to press the B button. The A button performed that function on the 360; there was no reason to change it.

Streaming from Windows and Music playback

The Xbox One bests the Playstation 4 at audio playback because it can actually play CDs and supports DLNA streaming. In other music respects however, the One falls well short of the 360.

Streaming supported video and audio formats from a Windows 7 or 8 system works, but only in a rudimentary capacity. You have to select video files directly from the PC and choose the “Play To” function to stream a file to the console while running Xbox Video or Music. Some users have managed to stream using the Skifta app for Android as well. Either method is a huge hassle.

The alternative music streaming option is to buy an Xbox Music pass, which costs ten bucks a month. But even then, music added to the Xbox Music library by the user can’t be streamed – not even from the cloud. A Music Pass just lets you play music you’ve bought or rented from Xbox Music, not stuff you ripped on your own.

Nor can the Xbox One rip CDs to the hard drive, even though it can play them. I doubt many users used that feature on the 360 once streaming took off in popularity, but it still lessens what the One can do compared to a home theater PC or its predecessor.

The other big musical disappointment is the absence of custom soundtracks. The feature, pioneered on the original Xbox and refined on the 360, allowed gamers to substitute a game’s soundtrack with their own music (either from the console’s hard drive or streamed from Windows). The One can’t even use purchased content from Xbox Music as a custom soundtrack.

Users can snap Xbox Music to the side and listen that stuff while playing a game, but that eats up screen real estate and still requires manually turning down a game’s music. We can only hope custom soundtracks return as a system level feature someday, but that seems unlikely.

Video capture and sharing

The Xbox One does offer a cool video function that the 360 never did: in-game video capture and sharing. The system automatically records the last five minutes of gameplay to the hard drive. Players can either say “Xbox Record That” to quickly save a 30-second clip, or launch the Game DVR app to save a clip ranging from 30 seconds to five minutes.

Having saved a video, gamers may then edit it in the separate Upload Studio app. It can trim the footage, create a montage, or combine footage with Kinect-recorded video as bookends or Picture-in-Picture. Any saved videos are sharable to SkyDrive and also appear in friend feeds for easy viewing from within the console.

The One bests Playstation 4 in video editing options, but it can’t stream live gameplay or take screenshots. Upload Studio also lacks the obvious features of direct YouTube and Facebook uploading, though both are promised for the future. For now, players have to share to SkyDrive, download the video on a Windows device, and then manually upload to YouTube.

Social features: ARGH

Right out of the gate in 2005, the Xbox 360 launched with the most comprehensive and well-integrated social features that consoles had ever seen. Microsoft would go on to expand some of these features and add new ones over time, but the vast majority of its social functionality was present and perfected from the start. Things like the friends list, messages, recently met online players, and Achievements? All there and well-integrated on day one.

The competing Playstation 3 attempted to catch up over the years, but Sony never managed to add cross-game party chat to that console. The feature debuted in 2008 on the 360. Only on the 360 in the last generation could a group of gamers form a party and communicate via voice chat regardless of what game each member was playing. Inviting members of the party to join an online game proved easy as well.

All of those things helped justify the price of Xbox Live Gold to socially-minded gamers even while Sony chose not to charge for Playstation Network access on the PS3. If you really cared about online communication, persistent and sharable Achievements, and interacting with friends in the best possible console environment, the Xbox 360 was always the easy choice over its rival.

How strange then that things have reversed in the new generation. The Xbox One can’t hold a candle to the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 4 in social features. It’s like Sony decided to go after the Microsoft audience, and Microsoft decided to assign people who’ve never played an Xbox 360 or modern console games in general to design the Xbox One’s social features.

Where to start? With the Guide button, of course. It goes by the Home button name now, and all it really does is jump between the Home screen and whatever game or app(s) are currently running. That works fine on Windows Phone and Windows 8, but not a console built to play games and succeed the Xbox 360.

On the One, we have no quick access to friends lists and messages. You can view those things but it takes several steps. We can’t browse players met online, so forget about making friends with or reporting random players. There is no notification when friends get online.

Party and game invites don't get sorted with messages as they did on the Xbox 360; they're tucked away in the Notification Center, which isn't even found under the profile and friends menu. Instead, the Notification Center is a tiny globe at the top-left corner of the Home screen. Finding invites there isn't a big deal once you learn where it is, but the more intuitive location for the Center would be with the other Friends content. Invites and notifications can't be deleted, either.

Messaging falls short too. The Xbox One can’t play audio messages sent from the 360, just like Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox.com. I refuse to believe that the 360’s voice message format is so complex that no other platform known to man can read it. Someone at Microsoft just doesn't want us to hear those voice messages, perhaps because voices haunt his every waking hour.

Nor does the Xbox One have a voice message format of its own; it can’t even send voice messages. We can text message each other, but the system doesn’t support USB keyboards (another super basic feature) so you have to use a controller or do like me and respond from a different platform.

For all those complaints, the Xbox One does improve over the 360’s friends structure in a few little ways. I sat on a full 360 friends list for years, having to drop someone off whenever I made a new friend. On the One we’re no longer limited 100 friends; you can have up to a thousand. To help keep track of all those people, friends can be favorited.

People can also follow other users without befriending them, much like on Twitter. Only when both individuals follow each other do they become full friends. Activity of actual friends such as Achievements earned and videos uploaded gets displayed on a friends feed page as well. I’d still love a friends ticker on the main dash but the friend feed is a good start.

Party Chat

Oh, parties. Truly the Xbox One’s single most glaring flaw. For one, parties, Achievements, and the like are no longer system level processes. Join a party and you enter a snapped app. Parties are the only snapped application that can be minimized without interrupting their function, for better or worse. And the party feature does get much worse.

Many users report difficulty entering into parties at all. The same players can join Xbox 360 parties just fine, so let’s not blame router NAT issues. Sometimes you just won’t be able to enter a party or will have to make multiple attempts at doing so, all because software is hard to program, okay?

Even having entered a party, users can’t automatically talk to each other. You have to manually enable party chat, inexplicably. Then the chat will either work or not work for one or more members of the party. It took loyal reader Jonathan Dollison and me several minutes of experimentation and negotiation outside of Xbox Live in order to successfully be able to hear each other.

Assuming everybody can hear everybody else, things still won’t be rosy.

The system really wants everyone in a party to play the same game. If the party leader is playing a game, the other members will be spammed with invites at the bottom of the screen endlessly until they join the game or leave the party. These invites also clog up the Notification Center. Forget about playing the same game and not joining the leader's multiplayer session. Killer Instinct literally wouldn't allow me to access the game menus or do anything else until I relented and entered my friend's lobby.

Even if everybody participates in the same game, chat problems persist. Players in public games can still hear you talk in some games (Battlefield 4 and Need for Speed: Rivals, possibly others), even if you’re in a party or Skype chat. You can still hear them too. Why aren’t those audio streams kept completely separate? Because it’s mixing audio sources, just like when playing a game with a snapped video or song.

The party situation has been uncomfortable for early adopters, but just yesterday Microsoft promised that “it will get better.” Let’s hope things improve sooner rather than later.

Achievements

Achievements, those highly coveted Xbox Live social features that helped sell many of us on Windows Phone and Windows 8, have changed a bit for the new console.

On the 360 and Windows platforms, players often couldn’t track progress made towards individual Achievements. Think of games that award an Achievement for getting 1,000 kills, for example. Unless the developer specifically coded a way to track those kills into the game’s UI, you just couldn’t tell how many kills you made.

Xbox One Achievements support built-in progress tracking (if the developer chooses to use it), so you can see progress directly from within the console and even at TrueAchievements.com. That should make grinding Achievements feel more attainable and less like a crapshoot.

Apps like Netflix have Achievements now, but they're not worth any GamerScore. Games can have time-limited Achievements called Challenges which don't add to GamerScore either. The latter makes sense since gamers hated missing out on XBLA Full House Poker's seasonal Achievements. App Achievements that don't contribute GamerScore to our profiles don't seem all that meaningful though.

When Achievement notifications pop up in game, they now match the color of your profile settings. Cool! But instead of tapping a button to quickly view the Achievement description, you have to press and hold Home. The Xbox One jumps to the Home screen momentarily and then shifts to another screen dedicated to Achievements. From there, you have to manually select the Achievement in order to actually see its description. Pressing the Play button at the bottom of the screen will then jump back to the game. Way slower and less pleasurable than on the 360.

Browsing Achievements has become harder in general because each Achievement is now represented by a giant screenshot instead of a manageable icon. The screenshots would be cool if they came from the actual in-game moment the player earned the Achievement. But no, they are prefabricated pictures. The unaffiliated TrueAchievements website provides a superior browsing experience right now; the Xbox One should follow in its example and shrink those big honking images.

Just like friends made through the Xbox One, Achievements can’t be viewed on Xbox.com yet. The only way to view either thing from outside of the Xbox is using the Xbox One SmartGlass app. Sure, the Achievements contribute towards the overall GamerScore that you can see from Xbox.com and other devices. But the invisibility of the Achievements and friends themselves makes them feel less significant (and permanent) than ever.

Overall Impression (at launch)

Killer Instinct

The Xbox One had a lot to live up to when it finally arrived in stores. The Xbox 360 arrived first to market in the previous generation, established an armada of loyal paying Xbox Live subscribers, and maintained a reputation for the best social functionality in gaming. This new generation has been long in coming, giving Microsoft plenty of time to prepare an evolution of what gamers loved last time around.

Inexplicably, the new console’s design team threw nearly all of that away and started from scratch when designing the Xbox One’s user interface and functions. They fixed things that weren’t broken, and quite obviously didn’t give themselves enough time to even do that. So many basic features of the One are missing, buggy, or halfway finished even though the console is now on sale.

Things aren’t all that bad, though. Almost everything that the new system lacks can be added or refined via software updates. The only real question is when those improvements will happen. I would love to see the party chat bugs fixed before December ends, but substantial new features and changes will likely trickle out well into next year. At least Microsoft is responding to user feedback through Major Nelson and other channels, so we have every reason to be hopeful.

Bugs aside, anyone who buys an Xbox One right now will have an excellent machine for playing videogames. The One’s launch software lineup is diverse in genre and filled with high quality titles:

Games, that single aspect that matter most on a console, do not disappoint.

The One also has a strong start as a video playing device. The ability to snap video apps or cable streams to the side of the screen has so much entertainment potential. That the new console runs extremely quietly and should never overheat will also help cement it as your go-to device for TV and movies.

The Xbox One retails for $499.99 and can be purchased at the Microsoft Store as well as other third party retailers such as Amazon.com and Best Buy. The package includes the console, one wireless controller, the Kinect device, a headset for voice chat, an HDMI cable, and an external power supply.  Keep in mind availability may be hit and miss until inventory can be built up after such successful launch day sales.

Fall 2014 Update

Don't miss our review of the white Xbox One Sunset Overdrive Special Edition console!

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

87 Comments
  • Great and detailed review. Kudos. 1st!
  • Thanks man. I hope you finish reading the whole thing. ;)
  • I read fast. Seriously though best review I've seen. Even beats WinSuperSite's review. +2520
  • Very detailed review, and no I have not read the whole thing, just parts that interested me. Would be great to have an acompaning video review as I would much rather watch and listen than read ;)  
  • Excellent review Paul, I learned a lot about my new X1 from reading it. Thanks!
  • Yes, I sincerely appreciate this review.
  • Will it blend?
  • It won't fit in a blender, so no.
  • Super sized blender ?
  • I'm afraid in America, everything is oversized :]
  • Yes, it does blend. The black Xbox One blends well with my black TV, black TV stand, black Xbox 360, black speakers and other black devices surrounding it. Hahaha!
  • Great job Paul. Still don't think I'll be buying this console, but hella fine job on the review my friend!
  • Thanks for checking it out (and helping with the UK video stuff), Richard! :)
  • $2000 notebook???? Dang
  • Yeah, I use gaming notebooks instead of desktops because I write and video edit in many different locations. Convenient to take my stuff along everywhere without relying on the internet.
  • Greate review, still going for the PS4 for the pure gaming experince and exclusives, I might get an Xbox one as well eventually, I wish they had a DVR though.
  • Living in Europe and only wanting something for games i am really thinking a ps4 makes sense.
  • Anybody tried uploadnig a clip to skydrive?  Went to the upload studio, did some trimming and chose to upload to skydrive, said it was complete and i dont think it ever showed up.  Seems lot of features onthe xboxone are broken. 
  • It's there under Pictures. That's where are mine are anyways.
  • not sure what you mean by "under pictures, but there isn't a picture category only a files category.  Are you talkking about skydrive on the console or all skydrive applications for various platforms?  
  • Under Skydrive, I have Documents and Pictures. Click Pictures and I have Xbox DVR. This is on all my platforms.
  • Worked for me
  • I'll say it again. Best review I've seen of the Xbox One. Detailed, informative and non- biased. Damn good article Paul. +1
  • Excellent review!
  • Didn't read, I'm too busy enjoying mine.
  • Paul, Here's something obscure I found out by talking to an Xbox One representative. The HDMI cable that comes with the Xbox One is HDMI 2.0. The reason this is important to note is if, like me, you have a receiver, an Xbox 360, and a PS3. I was having sporadic connectivity issues with TV watching. My other HDMI cables were not HDMI 2.0 (2.0 didn't exist prior to September 2013). Where you place the HDMI 2.0 cable in the mix matters. Through trial and error with the Xbox rep., we figured out where to place this cable. But I've since ordered 2.0 cables to replace my existing ones. HDMI 2.0 was chosen by Microsoft because of the advent of 4k TV's. 
  • Logan T, I am also having sporadic connectivity issues while watching TV. Where should the HDMI 2.0 cable go? I have the cable box connecting to the Xbox One then to a AV receiver and finally to the TV.
  • What worked for me is to have the 2.0 cable go from my receiver to my TV. My remaining cables are prior versions at the moment, and are hooked up everywhere else. Also, make sure you go into Settings on the Xbox One and turn off the command to turn your cable box on/off via Xbox One. Just let the cable box remain on at all times.
  • Thanks, I'll give those suggestions a try.
  • I agree with the guide button, friends, messages
  • Overall a great read and a decent overview of the system and its abilities. I did feel the review lacked most detail on how to use the Kinect though. Using Kinect to navigate is easy and you can "scroll" through sections by reaching out, closing your fist, and moving it. Other commands also exist, such as the ability to quickly jump to the home screen, jump to your achievements, and more. You can find these by visiting the link provided below or using the tutorial on your Xbox One. http://support.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/kinect/common-gestures Once again, I enjoyed reading the review and it felt detailed with everything except using Kinect - one of the major distinguishing parts of this system. <start rant> One more thing, I know it is harsh to say and hard to hear, but if you are using composite cables or a non-HD television... it is time to upgrade. HDMI is a universal standard for HD, a technology that has been around since 1998. Things have to start to phase out; there is no telephone jack on this unit either. </end rant> That's all for now... "Xbox, Turn Off"
  • I have a Panasonic plasma TV with 2 HDMI ports.  Unfortunately, the HDMI inputs quit working and all I have are components for now.  I don't know how much it would cost to have the TV repaired.  I'll probably buy a new one at some point, but no Xbox One for me until then.
  • To be fair, HDMI was designed to provide a connection over which DRM can be managed.  It is not superior to composite for image quality and length of cable runs.
     
  • So far i'm not impressed by the xbox one. I preordered months ago and put off buying BF4 until it came out. Right now not sure if it's my system or battlefield, but i feel like it's a bug ridden mess.  Worse than batman origins was. I'm not a hardcore gamer, i usually stick to one game at a time, so having one buggy game sucks. Kicks me to dashboard sometimes. Loses my saved place and rankings (both campaign and multiplayer) Freezes randomly And the oddest one of them all?  When i start battlefield it goes to the normal start screen where it says "press A to begin" (or something like that).  Well, when i press A, nothing.  I can go back, use controller just like normal, A works fine on the dashboard.   What i have to do is get the other controller, the one that is not on and never was, turn it on, and use that one,  works fine.  Mind you, i turned the system on with the first controller.  How this makes any friggin sense, i dunno. Haven't read much on the PS4, but i'm starting to feel like an MS fanboy that made the wrong decision. I understand it's new, but honestly just being able to play the game i bought without issues isn't too much to ask for the $600+ I spend to get the system, game and extra controller. I'm not the only one with issues and if they don't sort this out before milliions of systems go online christmas morning MS is in for a world of hurt and bad publicity.
  • Battlefield 4 is really buggy on both platforms.. What you're describing sounds like issues with the game, not the hardware itself. If you can be patient, they will be fixed. But picking another game up to play in the meantime wouldn't hurt either.
  • I know they will fix it, eventually.  But right now i feel like a $600 beta tester.  The solution to my issue shouldn't be to give microsoft more of my money by purchasing another game.  That game would be forza and feedback on that isn't that great either. I also can't figure out how to auto sign in, i'm the only one that uses the xbox, why do i need to sign in every time?  The face recognition or whatever option they do have is worthless.
  • I'm just saying, Battlefield 4 acting up is EA's fault and not Microsoft specifically, Well, you could blame the Live certification process not catching more stuff, but getting a game to work right still falls mostly on the software developer and publisher. At present, there is only one way to auto-sign in: enable the option for Kinect to auto-sign you in. When it detects your face, it will sign you straight in. It *is* silly that we can't do it without the Kinect, and I wanted to mention that in the review but chose to focus on more serious issues,
  • Dude that Kinect ia awesome face recognition works everytime. My Xbox has signed 4 people in no problem with the face recognition. BTW Forza is awesome, same with ryse and deadrising 3 and killer instinct. My games haven't bigger out once and I got shitty internet on top of that. Getting a ps4 next year when games actually come out but my buddy has one and would have to say Xbox is better
  • Battlefield 4 has some pretty bad bugs.  I've had the same ones you mention, except the controller issue (which sounds weird).
  • I have BF4 for the 360 and upgraded when the One came out, BF4 was way buggy on the 360 and it still is on the One. Forza has never given me a problem so its on Dice to fix it, not Xbox. as far as the auto sign in, go to your picture at the top left and click the "I wasn't recognized" button and relearn while you are sitting where you normally do. Works every time with multiple accounts on mine.
  • Your Battlefield 4 issues sound just like mine. It has gotten worse over time as well. I can't even finish a multi-player game without it completely kicking me out. My A button does not work sometimes so I can't select anything. My sound constantly cuts out, it is laggy beyond belief. I honestly am very disappointed in the game. I love it. But it is hard to like something when you can't even play it.
  • If you have a second controller, turn it on when the A goes inactive, somehow it works.  Right now i really have nothing to play considering i'd deem BF4 unplayable.   Hopefully in the next week they will release an update.
  • Streaming supported video and audio formats from a Windows 7 or 8 system works, but only in a rudimentary capacity. You have to select video files directly from the PC within Windows Media Player and choose the “Play To” function to stream a file to the console while running Xbox Video or Music. Some users have managed to stream using the Skifta app for Android as well. Either method is a huge hassle.
    That's not true Paul.  the Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps for Windows 8.x will stream to it just fine.  Also, the Nokia PlayTo WP8 app for Lumia's work as well.  You do not need to have WMP just to use PlayTo. Also, I have realized that the Kinect does really want you to speak with a natural voice.  Meaning, no shouting at it like the original Kinect.  Yes, I agree with multiple people in the room it becomes hard.  I have watched plenty of movies, and haven't had the Kinect in advertantly bring up it's UI overlay.  I do agree with the motion tracking capabilities. Overall, I love the Xbox One myself.  My XB360 is just now collecting dust.  Might have to plug it back in for some other games I have yet to complete.  Cannot wait for next years Xbox One games, including Halo 5!!!
  • party chat bugs
    The Party Chat bugs are mostly firewall related.  As you should know, the Xbox One Live architecture is based on IPv6.  Teredo is used to tunnel IPv6 into the backend network.  If the user has a firewall with UPnP enabled, they need to clear our the UPnP rules, and that wil fix the Party Chat issues, where users try to enable it and cannot even when NAT is reported Open.  
  • I removed the Media Player comment. We tested Xbox Music from Windows and could not stream a non-Xbox Music-purchased song or playlist to the console.
  • That's weird.  I can.  I have had no problems streaming MP4 video or MP3's from Xbox Music or Xbox Video from my local library to it on my Windows 8.1 Gen 1 Surface Pro.  As I stated, even the Nokia PlayTo app works perfectly.
  • "Party and game invites? Fail to press Home when they pop up and they’re gone for good, like water drops on a hot sidewalk." If you go to the home screen up in the top left corner next to your gamerpic there actually is a notification center there. It is the Globe grid looking image. You will find any and all notifications that have popped up on your screen. So they are not gone.   I do wish they made a quicker friends list though. Just a mini one that pops up. Also the turn on party chat is completely worthless. If I invite someone I want to chat with them instantly not have to turn on party chat. If I don't want to talk with them I can mute them.
  • Thanks for the correction, man. I revised the Social and Party sections of the review to be more accurate.
  • You're welcome! I think it's cool that you guys intereact with us. You all do a great job with the website.
  • Hold your hand up. Then close your hand to grab the UI and move it left and right.
  • Thanks Bob. We revised the motion control gestures portion of the review.
  • So far my system is great. With the advent of "Xbox on". Life is just simpler. I use voice commands for my windows phone. Only wish my phone was always listening now. :'(. Games look great on my Samsung series 7 46''led 3d 240hrz tv... 1080 bla bla p. Now people go on and on about p. There is more to a tv. Refresh rates are far more important to display a constant updated image. Also having a good quality color screen. Some say 1080p but are nock offs and give you crapy color.... I miss my plasma with its 600 refresh rate. :'( But I will live with this. Liking and loving my one!
  • Wait so this system, I can't have my own party chat or Skype chat without everyone hearing me? And then if I'm watching a video or a song they all can hear the audio? What kind of shenanigans is that??? That's way backwards!!
  • They won't hear the audio from stuff playing through your TV/surround speakers. The only unwanted thing people in the party can hear is in-game voice chat - the stuff that people in the game you're playing (who are not in the party) are saying.
  • If you turn on party chat, you can only hear your party and they are the only ones who can hear you. Same with Skype. Only people in your skype room can hear each other.
  • That has not been the situation for many of us.
  • I play Ghosts nightly for a couple of hours and am constantly toggling between the two (I game with headphones and turning off party chat allows me to hear the in-game audio better - the One annoyingly reduces the game audio when you are not using the chat headset, I use the Kinect for voice chat.) So, while I can't chat with my teammates during the game, I can hear the enemy footsteps better. I can also hear the in-game chat of anyone who is not in my party and not in party chat themselves. In the post game lobby, I toggle back to turn on party chat and talk to my friends. Super annoying, but I do it all the time. I've only ever heard my friends when we are in party chat and only others when not in party chat. Turning off party chat is analogous to switching to game chat on the 360.
  • You know, it might depend on the game. From what I'm seeing online, the audio mixing issues seem to happen mostly with Battlefield 4 and Need for Speed: Rivals.
  • Probably. It seems like MS annoyingly put more of the chat functionality on the individual game developers. For instance, Ghosts does not recognize the Kinect mic as an option for in-game chat. On the 360, when you had it enabled, if you unplug your chat mic, it immediately switches to the Kinect mic. It really seemed like something built into the system. Not so on the One. It does appear that each game has to program for this scenario. Who knows, maybe the developers asked for more control and we're seeing the negatives of that in these early titles. Oh, and we also had a heck of a time getting the NAT issues worked out so party chat would work. Terrible error message. Definitely a step back from the 360 where these things just worked.
  • This isnt really a step back aside from the chat, on 360 you could pretty much most the time chat with anybody but it wasnt 100%, what i mean by that if someone hosted a party that didnt have OPEN nat then hardly anybody could join. If you didnt have open NAT you couldnt even join in game parties on certain games. This happened all the time on 360 but chatting someone in an party most the time worked even without open nat which is a slight step backwards but most likely they changed the way xbox handles chat its probably actually a step up as far as how well it works but probably more finicky with the NAT. In any case having your NAT open on either system chat and parties and in game invites work flawless on both so technically its your fault for not having your NAT open on your router.  AS far as mixing audio and all that yeah there are some glitches with that but i say first update will address all that. Looks like it was rushed to try and align with sony releasing ps4. But with early adopting thats what you get, wait a few months it will be better than 360 easily i also think they rushed the menus i bet they are redoing alot of stuff on that as we speak to make it flow a little better. I even have glitches with COD that sometimes crashes and i have to restart it when i'm switching apps its all software stuff.
  • Most people (I believe) would agree that parties and joining online games should just work without the user having to adjust NAT or other router settings. Especially if they worked on the 360. Agree that 360 games won't allow players to enter multiplayer games at times based on NAT issues though.
  • Great Review. I hope you sent a link to your review to every xbox employee,  Everything was absolutely accurate. I hope this is a wake up call for Microsoft considering this is a review from MS fans and even we are having a hard time defending the Xbox One.
  • Ill be waiting a year to pick mine up, hopefully all the bugs get sorted out
  • Two things that struck me as "off" in the mostly well-done effort. Changing batteries is harder? First off, I think it's actually easier - now you just slide the cover off as opposed to having to press a button to open it on the 360, but it certainly is preferable to having to plug in the controller and let it charge for an hour before being able to play again. Second, it kind of sounds as though you're saying all games will run at 720p and be upscaled, when that's not the case. Some games currently run at 900p, and if I'm recalling some even run at 1080p natively. Thankfully, most of the common gripes (storage management, external storage, 5.1 audio via optical, improved snap audio options, party chat issues, etc) are set to be addressed by updates...so, the vast majority of users will never encounter those shortcomings, as 99% of owners will be buying the console long after the launch window. Our family is really enjoying it so far...my son and I have a blast playing Skylanders, Marvel Legos, and Just Dance 2014...while I enjoy Assassin's Creed, Zoo Tycoon, and the hack-n-slash fun and graphics of Ryse.
  • With the battery changing, what's harder is telling which way the batteries should be inserted. There is no printed diagram like most battery operated devices would have. You have to look at the metal contacts themselves, which I find bothersome. Sorry if my comments about game resolution were unclear. I definitely didn't say everything will run at 720P. A few games like Forza 5 and Need for Speed do run at 1080P natively. Based on the tests from Eurogamer and other sources, the One doesn't seem to upscale lower resolution games as well as the 360 did. Maybe that will improve over time.
  • I see...I was really hoping they'd include this tech that they invented: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/07/microsoft-instaload-insert-batteries-any-way-you-like/
  • The lack of Dolby Digital amazes me. They support DTS but not Dolby? This also includes the HDMI pass thru.
  • It's coming http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-11-21-xbox-one-dolby-digital-headset-support-coming-post-launch
  • I think you can also stream music/video to X1 from an app by opening charms bar -> devices -> play -> X1. Should work with Youtube, Xbox Music, Xbox Video, Soundcloud etc.
  • Really good review.  I have to say, much of what you've written leaves me disappointed about the XBOX One.  As you say in your conclusion, Microsoft can fix many of the things lacking in future software updates, but why will they never learn?  Why are they incapable of recognising what they've done well, sticking with it and building on it rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water all the time?  Sure, maybe the updates will come and the console will be terrific in a year or two, but by then how many people will have heard the flaws about XBOX One and gone and bought a PS4 instead?  It's an all-too-common story in Microsoft's history.  Concede the advantage, react slowly and watch someone else overtake while they dawdle.
  • I assume this review makes the assumption that anyone buying this will pay the $100 / year for XBOX Live. Is that correct? I would love to see one good review that does not make that assumption, and lets us know exactly what the experience is if you do not want to pay that additional fee. If I understand correctly, a lot of apps cannot be downloaded or run without XBOX Live, such as the streaming apps such as Netflix. Is this correct?
  • I thought Xbox LIVE was $59 with sales often in the $35 range?
  • My mistake on the price. $59.99, right? And while sales make it better for "savvy shoppers" I think it's fair to review based on "normal" people buying these things, and happily (?) paying their subscriptions. If we're going to start basing our opinions on best-case scenarios, perhaps more of the phone reviews should be based on how much you'll pay off contract, as well as your options for carrier. (For example, buying a Moto X on Republic Wireless. Or a full-price Lumia and taking it to Straight Talk. Or FreedomPop's crazy $99 HTC Evo 4G with plans as little as $0.)
  • Xbox Live costs $60 a year, and savvy shoppers can often pick up subscription cards for as low as $40. They were actually $35 on Black Friday this year. Reviewers don't tend to see what it's like to use an Xbox without subscribing to Live because we all use Live. You'd have to be a non-enthusiast not to (no offense), in which case your review would probably read really strangely compared to a Live user's. But to answer your question, I believe you're right that Netflix and other video apps are restricted to Live subscribers. Xbox Fitness's workouts are not available for free to non-subscribers. No online multiplayer access. Otherwise, I'm not sure which features (if any) don't work for non-subscribers.
  • Thank you Paul! And yes, I realized after I posted that, that the price is $60 (or less if you shop around.) I was mixing up the Xbox Music price. (It'd be nice to see a combo of the two...) At any rate, I am not a gaming / Xbox enthusiast. But I would think, to some degree, Microsoft would like to sell some of these boxes to non-enthusiasts, too. Am I wrong? For me, I'd like the Kinect for games when my nieces and nephews visit, and the streaming video features. But I'm not going to pay $500 + $60/year to watch Netflix, of course. (And Amazon, videos on my local network, etc.) Which reminds me - can you watch videos from your local network? Can you do that without Xbox Live?
  • You can stream videos without Live via Xbox Video and Music. The interface for doing so is rudimentary right now though.
    I agree that Netflix shouldn't be gated behind Live, but Microsoft at least tries to incentivize the subscription with things like Xbox Fitness, sales for Gold members, etc.
  • Hmm, kinda down now..got a xbox 1 sitting under christmas tree for me and my son and now worried if made right choice :( - Seems like a lot of negative here.
  • I'm a casual gamer and heavy media user. Love the Xbox One, coming from the 360. No regrets.
  • I don't think he'd notice a lot of the gripes we picked up on, unless he's a big party user. And these problems will be picked within a few months, so don't worry too much.
  • Best review I've seen. Thanks these are things I would not be able to notice from a demo unit thanks alot. Still thinking about getting Xbox one but wish someone would review the ps4 with the same thinking you have
  • >>The Snap feature’s usefulness Would be more useful if they had apps like AMCs story sync app so can get more info about charcters and play fun games during commercials.  The windows app works great would love it on one screen. 
  • Yeah, that would be fun.
  • Great review Paul.  Very comprehensive and fair.  I love the new Xbox One but like you there are things I wished they spent a bit more time to polish.  By the way I think you also have to open ports as I think the One is even more picky than the 360. My likes: Much faster and slicker UI Skype - love the sound quality and for 6 months you can call mobiles and landline for free Voice commands are very cool Apps, apps, apps Room for improvement: Missing voice messages Ability to chat with friends on 360 Ability to sort online friends (and keep it that way by default) More live arcade games and with demos! Better DNLA support See you on live!    
  • Thanks man! I was lucky enough not to have to mess with my router settings, but a lot of people do have to resort to that.
  • I would consider myself more than a casual gamer and i still decided to go with the XB1 over the PS4 just because i prefer the exclusives and the control pad i wish people would stop with the nonsense about which one is more powerful etc and just pick what really matters which has the games you want to play. I haven't even bothered setting up all the tv stuff. Can't wait for Halo 5 / TitanFall / Fable Legends / Sunset Overdrive / Quantum Break etc you can't play them on PS4.
  •   Good, in-depth review.  I would've liked to have seen a little more on the games themselves though.
  • Thanks Lt. I would've liked to talk about the games more too, but the review already ran really long. Maybe we'll put up a launch game wrap-up article before the end of the month.