The Xbox One is one of the most eagerly anticipated game consoles of the decade. This Techspirited article gives you a complete review of the hits and misses of this mighty device.
One Above All
The Microsoft Xbox One sold more than 1 million units within the first 24 hours of its launch.
Microsoft finally released its latest next-gen game console, the Xbox One, on November 22, 2013―exactly 8 years after the launch of the Xbox 360 (November 22, 2005). The predecessor of the One ruled the charts for most part of the last year and a half, giving the PlayStation 3 a good run for its money. It now makes way for an even more mean gaming machine, which definitely seems geared to claim stake to the title of the ultimate gaming machine, although the Sony PS4 may have something to say about that.
What makes Microsoft’s latest console stand out is the fact that it is a lot more than just a gaming machine, it aspires to take control of your entire entertainment system. The console can replace your set-top box, music player, VOIP app, cloud storage (SkyDrive), Internet browser, and yes, game console. The Xbox One brings a lot of promise and has a mind-blowing spec sheet to show for it. But does it actually deliver on all its promises? Here’s taking a look.
Image Source: news.xbox.com/media
Optical Drive: Blu-ray, DVD
Game DVR: Upload Studio
RAM: 8 GB DDR3
Clock: 2,133 MHz
Bandwidth: 68.26 GB/s + 32 MB
eSRAM Bandwidth: 204 GB/s(102 In/102 Out)
Flash Memory: 8GB
CPU: 8 Core AMD custom CPU
Frequency: 1.75 GHz Clock
Speed: 853 MHz
Peak Throughput: 1.23 TFLOPS
Storage: 500 GB Hard Drive non-replaceable
(external hard drive support expected soon)
USB: USB 3.0
Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct support
A/V Connections: HDMI input and output (4K support)
API: DirectX 11.1
Companies release a game console only about once a decade. The hardware needs to be competent with all the requirements of the time and that of years to come, if it intends to keep up its market share. Keeping this in mind, the Xbox One has some solid processing muscle and has its eyes firmly set on the future. The One is powered by an 8-core AMD CPU, with each core clocking in at 1.75 GHz. This is coupled with a GPU that is clocked at 853 MHz, and is ably supported by 8 GB of DDR3 RAM. On paper, the One might seem to be just a tad behind the PS4, but as the 360 has shown, real-life performance is a different ball game altogether. You can read more about the showdown of the Xbox 360 with some of the big guns in the market today, here.
The console itself is rather large, unlike the slim design of its competitor. This, however, can be overlooked, considering the fact that the One is a lot more than just a game console. Besides, portability isn’t something most people look for in their game consoles. The device can only be placed horizontally, and looks very much like an old VCR with its part plain and part-ridged textured body. No aging connectivity options here though, as at the back, you can find an HDMI-in and out port, optical audio port, two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a port for the Kinect to connect to the device, and an IR port (for an optional IR blaster). You’ll also find another USB 3.0 port to the left of the console. The only downer for some would be the fact that the latest Xbox only connects to your TV through an HDMI cable, so there is no out-of-the-box support for old televisions. There are a lot of air vents all around the device which should help the device stay cool, considering it is expected to stay on through most of the day. The powerful hardware on board comes as a shot in the arm for the last-gen console, although game developers are yet to fully exploit the gaming prowess of this mega-machine. It also helps the console handle multitasking a lot better, something that is an integral part of the repertoire of the One. We will talk about these features when we cover the software features of the device.
The other major component in the box is the wireless controller of the Xbox One. The controller on the 360 was well designed apart from the D-pad, which seemed just a little flimsy to use. The new controller keeps most of the good parts of its predecessor and works on its shortcomings. It has undergone a few minor design changes which unfortunately, aren’t all for good. It now has a more angular construction and seems just a little bigger in the hand. The Back and Start buttons now make way for the View and Menu buttons. The Home button, now replaced by the Xbox guide button, is placed away from the two buttons in order to avoid accidental clicks. The D-pad sees the biggest change and now, is a lot easier to use and registers clicks better. The LB and RB buttons are better spaced out and are easy to reach, although the same cannot be said about the LT and RT buttons, which are ridiculously hard to reach. The L and R joysticks feel a lot more solid and are just a tad smaller. All the other buttons are essentially the same as they were on the 360. A new feature is the separate vibrating feedback from the right and left side of the controller. The controller is powered by two AA batteries or an optional rechargeable battery pack. The latter can be charged using the Micro-USB port on top of the controller, which sits below the sync button that helps the controller register with the console. Also found here are two IR blasters that wirelessly connect it with the Kinect.
Lastly, there is a port to attach the chat headset that comes along with the package. The port, however, is not backwards compatible, and does not support chat headsets from the 360.
The last major component in the package is a new version of the Kinect, which now, apart from motion sensing, also aids better voice control and acts as a remote extender. The good news is that usability of this device has gone up by a notch. The bad news is that it is no longer an optional accessory and comes bundled with the Xbox One, and probably makes up for about 1/5th of the console’s asking price. You might recollect that the Kinect, when it debuted alongside the 360 was considered to be an abomination, and the company was forced to sell it as an optional accessory. It now plays a more important role in the way you interact with the console, although you can choose not to use it altogether. The device gives you complete hands-free access to your console, and responds to a series of voice commands and gestures to control the One. The Kinect looks like a compact sound bar, which in fact is one of the many devices it looks to replace. The conspicuous camera on it helps read your gestures, and is incredibly accurate at detecting your presence even in low light. It also serves as a video-calling camera for making Skype calls.
The initial setup takes up to 30 minutes and can be a rather painful affair. The good part though, is that the console boots up a lot faster from the second boot. You need to be connected to the Internet during the initial setup. If you have attached the Kinect (which Microsoft recommends you do), you will also need to calibrate it. Once the setup is done, the Xbox boots into the home screen. Here, you are greeted by a Windows 8-style tiled layout.
You can navigate through the interface using voice commands (which I must say the Kinect does a good job of, although it might take you a while to get the hang of it) or the controller, which is fairly easy to use in the main menu, but gets just a little tricky in the in-game and multitasking menu (Snap). You can log into your Xbox Live account (up to 6 different logins) using your password or even just by smiling for the Kinect, which can recognize you by reading your facial features.
The home screen has your profile details to the extreme right, and featured game titles, media currently playing, apps, the Store and other tiles pinned by the user. You can pin anything and everything to the home screen, right from apps, media, games, to shortcuts to your favorite TV channel.
Speaking of TV channels, the Xbox One is built to be a complete media center, and true to its new role, it can complement your set-top box and give you access to all your TV content right from the Xbox interface. The TV-listings interface is identical to that on your set-top box, and gives you easy access to all the content. You can access this feature by going into the Xbox OneGuide app.
You also have access to HuluPlus, which provides Video on Demand. Support for Netflix is also expected to arrive on the platform soon.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Xbox One brings multitasking to game consoles. It is a feature called snap, and lets you open dual windows simultaneously. What this means is that while you are playing a game or running any app, you can have another app open which takes up about ¼th of the screen. Although this is a real novel feature found on the device, it is not necessarily a great implementation of multitasking. For one, you would need to have a rather large screen to be able to see the smaller window without hampering the functioning of the main window. Also, navigating and switching between the windows can be a real pain, especially using the controller.
Skype is probably the most important add-on feature of the Xbox One. You can make video calls and chat with your friend using the VOIP messenger using Kinect. It even allows for multiple user chats and handles them very smoothly. The Kinect does a great job of focusing on the subject or multiple subjects if there is more than one person in the room. You can also choose to snap the app while playing a game, although we don’t quite see the point of it. The downside to this is the fact that to access the app, you would need an Xbox Live Gold membership.
The same also holds true for game DVR and uploads, cloud storage, and to play online multi-player games. Considering the premium that the company already charges for the Xbox, it is a shame that you would need to pay another premium to unlock the many features of the device.
Game DVR is an in-game feature and allows users to record up to 5 minutes of their game at a time. These can then be edited using the Upload Studio app. These can then be shared on your Facebook or Twitter pages.
The Xbox One has some real large shoes to fill in, when it comes to sheer gaming experience. Its predecessor, the Xbox 360 thrilled and captivated the minds of millions of gamers from around the globe. Gaming, thankfully, is an absolute delight on Microsoft’s latest game console. Although not a lot of titles are currently available on the platform (Xbox 360 games aren’t compatible just yet), but the few that are around, run without a glitch on the One. The performance of the One is better than that of its predecessor, although it isn’t really a telling difference. This is mainly because no game currently out in the market has been able to exploit the potential of the One. One thing that can get rather annoying about the One is that even if you have a game DVD, you will still need to install a part of it on the console before playing.
Some of the popular titles currently available on the Xbox One.
It is only a matter of time before we see game developers push the ante, and deliver an out-of-the-world game playing experience. The controller on the Xbox One is one of the best in the market, albeit with the added bulk. The dedicated vibration feedback for each side of the controller feels great, especially while playing racing games. The Kinect too, plays a handy sidekick to you, and more often than not, gets your commands right.
All-in-all, Microsoft’s Xbox One is a worthy successor to the 360, and delivers on every count. There might be a few niggles along the way, but none that can be termed as a major flaw. Besides, the console has only just hit the market and is definitely gonna get better with firmware upgrades and software tweaks, which ought to sustain the One through its journey over the next 7 years or so. The device surely has all the makings of a great media device at the heart of your living room. For now, however, it is a capable gaming device with some added features.
Retailing at USD 499.99 at launch, the Xbox One is a whole 100 dollars more expensive than its nearest rival the Sony PS4, but offers a lot more in terms of usability than the latter. If you are a hardcore gamer and just want a next-gen game console at a (comparatively) reasonable price and don’t want any frills attached, then you might want to get off at the next ‘station’. If, however, you want a game console that matches up and at times beats the best in the business, and also doubles up as a capable media center for your home, then you’ve gotta pick up the box marked with an X. Cheers.
Disclaimer: Prices mentioned are subject to change according to offer and location.