In this review, I’ll be reviewing the Xbox One as-is. Although there may be mentions of certain apps or games for sake of example, this review is not meant to offer an opinion on anything other than the experience of using the Xbox One and its included software/hardware.
From the beginning, it’s abundantly clear from using the Xbox One that Microsoft firmly believes that software is the greatest asset to today’s gaming consoles. The interface that the Xbox One uses is reminiscent of Windows 8, and shares elements like the ‘Metro’ UI, as well as other features like app ‘Snapping’. Even if Xbox One is technically slower than the competition, you wouldn’t know it from the way it operates. Microsoft has moved away from a static UI, and has made the interface on Xbox One so interactive, it actually becomes fun to use. It’s consistently impressive that Xbox One constantly updates itself with what I like to do in order to give me an experience tailored to me.
Xbox One’s user interface is FAST. Blazing fast. After becoming so used to the Xbox 360′s slow UI, it’s refreshing to have a console that manages to keep up with me. Try as I might, I haven’t seen a lag, a stutter, or a crash in any tasks that I’ve performed. Xbox One intelligently manages the things you do so that everything is optimized. Good luck slowing it down.
There were a few issues I encountered at first while I was using the UI. First of all, the B button is no longer the ‘back’ button, at least not all the time. Sometimes, there will be a ‘back’ command on the screen that you’re supposed to use to go back instead of pressing B, and if you do press B, you get taken back to the Xbox One home screen. It’s a very similar restriction to phones that don’t have dedicated ‘back’ buttons.
‘Snapping’ is Microsofts way of saying ‘apps next to your apps.’ It’s easy on Xbox One to open up apps on the side of your game, or whatever it is you’re doing at the moment. If you’re playing Call of Duty, but want to watch TV at the same time, it’s possible to ‘Snap’ TV next to Call of Duty and keep playing with no delay. There’s a lot of instances where this can be useful, such as viewing your party chat in real time next to your game, instead of going to a secondary menu like on Xbox 360.
The one problem I encountered with Snapping is that I couldn’t figure out how to switch the focus from my main app to my ‘snapped’ app. Once I snapped an app, I could only use that app, and there’s no on-screen command to switch it. After a bit of digging, I found that it’s easy to switch focus using a Kinect command: “Xbox, switch.”
Kinect 2.0 is easily the most unique aspect of the Xbox One. It’s included with the console, and for good reason. It’s plain to see that Xbox One and Kinect go hand in hand. The interface can be easily navigated just using the Kinect, either with your voice or with your hands. Compared to the original Kinect, which was clunky and just felt sluggish, Kinect 2.0 is fast, responsive, and is enjoyable to use. Kinect no longer feels like something that’s half-finished – it’s as much a part of the Xbox One as the controller. Sometimes, it’s so enjoyable to use Kinect that you completely forget to even turn on your controller. (I’ve done this a few times!)
One convenience that the Kinect offers is the ability to automatically sign in your profile when you sit down in front of it. It can detect multiple people as well, so if you have friends that have a profile on your Xbox One, it signs them in when they’re in the room as well. It also has the ability to see who the active player is based on who’s holding a controller, and change their preferences (such as inversion or sensitivity) on the fly.
Voice commands are extremely intuitive as well. Once you learn the commands, which takes a little while, it’s easy to tell Xbox One what to do just by talking to it. You can start games simply by saying “Xbox, play (name of game)”, and launch by apps by saying “Xbox, go to (name of app)”. One limitation is that you have to use the full name of your games or apps. You can’t get away with saying “Xbox, play Ryse,” you have to say “Xbox, play Ryse: Son of Rome.” “Xbox, snap ‘app’” is also a useful in-game command as well, since you can maintain in-game control while giving voice commands.
One problem I have run into with voice commands is that if you give Xbox One a command it doesn’t recognize, it tries to guess what you said, often with catastrophic results. Why Microsoft didn’t decide to add a “command not recognized, please try again” is beyond me.
The Xbox 360 controller was arguably the best controller ever made, and the Xbox One controller is a worthy follow-up. It contours to the hand better than the 360 controller, and also slims down the form factor. The batteries are now internal, which reduces bulk considerably. The controller is light, yet feels sturdy in the hand. Most of the buttons feel the same, with the exception of the left and right bumpers (which feel noticeably stiffer), but the analog sticks are a bit smaller and looser than their 360 counterparts. They still have more tension than a Playstation controller, but less than the 360 controller.
The impulse triggers are also a neat addition to the Xbox One controller. Rumble effects feel better overall, but the ability to feel your gunshots or your accelerator on your fingertips is an addition that only adds to immersion of your gaming experience.
TV integration on Xbox One is a very new take on a very old issue: bad cable boxes. It’s clear that Microsoft really wants to replace your cable box with the Xbox One, and they plan on doing this by using the console to control every part of your media center. Enabling TV on Xbox One is easy – you simply plug your existing cable box into the HDMI in port on the back of the console, answer a couple questions about your service, and BAM!, you’re watching TV.
Bear in mind, Xbox One does not replace your cable box completely. What it does is put a layer over the top of it to make it look better. This means that sometimes, you will still see your cable box’s often very ugly interface rear its ugly head. On the upside, it’s very likely that by using Xbox One’s ‘OneGuide’, you’ll never have to use your cable box’s guide ever again.
The OneGuide gives you one-stop access to all video media that your Xbox One has access to. Everything from live TV to Xbox Video to Netflix can be organized on the OneGuide. You can even set favorites so that only your favorite channels show up! It’s what the channel guide should be, and Xbox One pulls it off flawlessly.
Xbox One is a true step forward in the world of gaming and home entertainment. Microsoft has created a box that seamlessly integrates all the things you’d want to enjoy in your living room, from games to live TV. The interface is a breeze to use, whether you want to use your voice, or a controller. All-in-all, Xbox One is built for the future, and considering how far the Xbox has come over its lifetime, the potential of Xbox One seems infinite.