Reviews»Xbox One»Xbox One
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Kareem Ali 4.5

Xbox One

 

  • The good

    Truly feels like an all-in-one entertainment experience. Multitasking is a breeze and responds very quickly. Excellent controller and Kinect adds additional element to make game play more immersive.

  • The bad

    Controlling Xbox through gestures is inconsistent and currently lacks the right precision for certain choices. Launch titles are limited

  • The ugly

  • I’ve been waiting to get my hands on an Xbox One for months and as an Xbox 360 owner I was impressed with many of the things it had to offer. I had serious issues with some of the initial policies when it was first announced and I wrote about them in a post months ago, but I did like the way Microsoft responded by changing those policies. So I had high hopes leading up to its release. I’m into gaming first and foremost and of course there are some exclusive titles I definitely want to play. And with the Kinect being a requirement I imagined the potential benefits to gaming since developers could expect the same hardware for each console. Yet I was very interested in the promise and promotion of the Xbox One as an all-in-one entertainment console. And that’s because of the way I game now. There are many times when I’m gaming and I stop to eat a meal, and while doing so would watch something on Netflix or TV, and when I’m finished get back to gaming. Even though the Xbox 360 had a Netflix app, it wasn’t possible to switch to Netflix without exiting the game completely so I would have to switch and use the Netflix app on my TV in order to keep my current spot in the game. It usually involved multiple remotes and, well, you get the picture. So the ability to multitask on the console is one that would definitely make my experience easier. Imagine my excitement, mixed with a healthy skepticism, when I brought my bab…I mean Xbox One home an opened up the box and saw what was inside:

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    • Console (Blu-ray Drive, 3 USB ports, HDMI In/Out ports, Optical audio port, Gigabit Ethernet port, Built in Wi-Fi)
    • Kinect accessory
    • One controller
    • Headset
    • High speed HDMI wire

    There’s been a lot said about how the Xbox One is just a black box but for my entertainment setup it actually fits perfectly so I have no problem with the way it looks. The controller looks similar to the 360 controller but the bulky battery pack on the back is gone and it feels slightly better, as well as having a slightly different look for all the buttons and sticks. I’ll get back to the controller because there are huge differences when gaming. And the Kinect sensor has a pretty bulky wire that can affect placement in front of the TV and the angle in which it’s set can be adjusted vertically so you don’t have to worry about the height too much. The hardware set up doesn’t take long and you can either run your cable box through the Xbox One or choose not to, although you’ll be missing some features if you don’t. There wasn’t a noticeable difference for me in terms of the quality of the TV feed when passing through the Xbox.

    After powering on, the initial green screen took about a minute and you have to go through the basic set up of choosing your language, country, etc. You also have to choose an internet connection because there’s an update that’s about 500 MB that has to be downloaded. You’re then asked if you want to set up Kinect. You can choose to skip it if you want so it’s not mandatory. If you do choose to use it, which I recommend, you see immediately that the camera is a much better quality than the previous Kinect. It can see the entire room and you don’t need to have the same amount of distance between the Kinect and your couch as the previous one either. I could see some ash on my leg it was so clear (hey, it was EARLY in the morning). You then have to perform an audio check and calibration and this is so the Kinect can distinguish between background noises in your house when it’s quiet, sounds coming from the room, and sounds coming from the TV. (I’ve tried to get the Xbox to be controlled from audio from the TV but it thankfully didn’t work). The hardware for the Kinect and what it actually sees are very interesting to me and I see a lot of potential, but at the same time can be creepy. You won’t have to sign into your Xbox because it’ll recognize you and do so automatically, and you can see during set up (or in settings later) how it can pick you out of a group of people. That’s pretty cool because it can recognize the gestures coming from you. It can also see in the complete dark and still recognize you so you can be signed in (if your Xbox is on) even in the dark. It gets a little creepy if in the wrong hands when it shows you that it sees heat signatures as well and body parts are pretty distinct. So it’s not so much a concern walking around nude in the privacy of your home since that’s not done but it being able to see enough even with clothes on. There’s a privacy statement detailing how Microsoft will protect your privacy, etc. There are a lot of potential benefits with the Kinect so I truly hope Microsoft stays true to the privacy statement.

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    The last part of the setup is for watching TV through your Xbox One and it automatically detects it if you already have your cable box connected to it. You have to select your TV and cable box brands so it can choose the correct commands to control both.  This was extremely simple and the entire setup from powering the Xbox on for the first time to the final step took about 30 minutes, and that includes the time it took to download the 500 MB update. Controlling the TV is also very simple and the response time is surprisingly quick. There’s a built-in guide called OneGuide so you can view your program listings without touching your cable remote. And with the way I have it set up my Xbox turns my TV and cable box on and off so the claim that you won’t need all those remotes is actually true for the most part. I’ve almost become too lazy to reach for any remote now. The only time you will have to use your cable remote is to watch your DVR and all recorded shows. If this could be added later it would truly be a complete experience in terms of watching and controlling your TV. Also if you use certain apps on your TV you’ll need your TV remote for the times you do.

    You can control your Xbox by either the controller, your voice or gestures. Using the controller is no different from before except the menu button (start button) opens up a menu of options for the box on the dashboard that’s currently selected. The dashboard doesn’t look much different from the 360 but it’s been simplified in appearance and for the most part it works. For now there aren’t layers of menus you have to navigate to get to specific sections so it’s easier, however it was inexplicably more difficult to actually find what I was looking for initially. Once I found the items I was looking for it became easier because the Xbox adds to the home screen all your recently used apps or games, and the most recent one in the main window. Of course you can pin items so you can quickly access them and this has been very handy. My favorite way to control my Xbox so far has been through voice commands and there is a slight learning curve, or rather, you’ll have to memorize the commands and become accustomed to using them intuitively. You can say “Xbox Select” and all the items on the screen you’re currently on are highlighted in green and you state what you want it to do based on those highlighted items. For example, if you’re on the dashboard and you say “Xbox Select,” you can then say the words “play disc,” which would be highlighted in green. Xbox select works for all apps, screens and even while watching TV. There are also more direct commands such as “Xbox go to *app name*” and it’ll go there immediately regardless of what you’re doing. The list of commands can be found on the official website but this is by far my favorite way of controlling everything now, and the response is super fast.

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    The final way to control your Xbox is through gestures. When you lift your palm up you’ll see a hand icon appear on the screen, and when you want to select an item you move your hand forward as if you’re pushing it. There are other gestures that can be found on the official website but for me this has been a hit and a miss. When it works it’s very good and it’s actually easier to scroll through certain menus using gestures than voice. But I found it to not be very precise and sometimes the hand icon is very jittery so when making a selection it moves in an unpredictable way even when I’m just pushing forward. Sometimes I could fix it by putting my hand down and then putting it back up but considering there are no obstructions and I know the hardware can see me clearly, this was frustrating at times. When sitting back on my couch I’m about 5 feet away from the sensor so I don’t know if that’s part of the issue but selecting items through gestures definitely needs to be improved so it’s more consistent because it is a nice touch. The ability to scan QR codes for DLC or pre-order bonuses by holding up the card to the camera instead of entering the long code is a welcome addition too.

    There aren’t a ton of apps currently available for the Xbox One but of course that will change as time goes on. The ones that are available have worked very well, and some are snappable. You can snap an app by saying “Xbox snap” and then saying the name of one of the apps that appear on the list in the sidebar that opens up. This allows you to multitask and I haven’t had any issues with snapping or unsnapping apps and the response is quick. It becomes difficult when trying to use gestures and the hand icon acts erratic so it’s been all voice for me. The Skype app is not currently snappable but will be in the near future. It works like the regular Skype application and you can send messages, make voice calls and video calls. The camera has auto zoom and adjusts to where you’re sitting so everything in your room isn’t visible. It automatically switches between a video call and a phone call when you switch to another app on the screen. This works very well but there was an issue with the video returning when switching back from a game. I was able to be on a Skype, watch TV in snap mode while playing NBA 2K14 without a single hitch so the multitasking claim is true. And I could switch back to video mode in Skype and the game would automatically pause. It was wonderful to be able to multitask like this. Other notable apps besides Twitch, Internet Explorer and Xbox Music are below:

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    You might be screaming at this point, “WHAT ABOUT THE GAMES?” and there isn’t a huge launch lineup with about only 16 games available now and unless there’s a game that you absolutely have to play now on a next-gen console, the launch line-ups for both consoles aren’t deep. And since you can’t play multiplayer with Xbox 360 owners, even though your friends list doesn’t change, you can only play with others who own an Xbox One too so you might be playing without your usual friends. There are some games I definitely wanted to play and I’m currently playing now (reviews later this month) and I definitely see the potential in developers being able to create unique gaming experiences. Of course graphics are better and I can say they look stunning while being mindful that PC games can have the same graphics already, so yes, I know it’s relative. However the graphics have been top-notch and I haven’t experienced one single slow down in game play. The controller is impressive and not only feels good while playing but the vibrations/feedback is more nuanced this time around. For example, while playing NBA 2K14, if the player is dribbling with his right hand the right trigger vibrates to match the dribble. When I crossover to the left hand the same thing happens to the left trigger. It’s this type of responsiveness and force feedback that truly makes the controller stand out this time around. I can also call out plays, substitutions and make adjustments with just my voice because of the Kinect and it has worked extremely well. I can also simply say “pick and roll” and it happens, and since it works, it opens up a new level of immersive game play.  I even got a technical for foul language when complaining about a call. The left and right sticks are excellent and the ridges around the edges prevent your fingers from slipping so if you’re playing a fighting game this is very important when trying to perform moves. And with the Game DVR you can capture all of your game play moments easily. So the graphics are excellent, the controller is definitely a level above the previous one, and the Kinect is useful in a substantial way when gaming as well as having great potential in future titles once developers become more familiar with the Xbox One’s hardware. So the gaming is really dependent on the titles and I can’t judge based on titles that haven’t been released yet but I don’t expect it to be lacking.

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    You do have to install every game you play and the first time you insert a disc it automatically starts to install. There has been an issue with the amount of time it can take to install a game but you can multitask while it’s installing, and if you own a game that was downloaded you can play that while the other game installs. You can technically start playing after 6-8% of the game is installed but depending on the title certain features are unavailable until more is installed.

     

    SUMMARY

    The Xbox One has been pretty impressive overall and has mostly lived up to the promises on what it would offer. The voice commands and switching between apps and games has been surprisingly quick and accurate for me, and with the ability to watch TV through it, my habits have changed for the better when it comes to entertainment (no remotes). Multitasking is a breeze and even though the dashboard initially felt unintuitive it has improved the more I use it and the apps I use more frequently are easier to find. Using gestures to control the Xbox has been cumbersome for me at times and I hope it becomes smoother soon because the hardware is capable. Since I don’t plan on doing a new review every 2 months for the Xbox One I’m only factoring in certain glitches to an extent since they should be ironed out sooner rather than later, and can be expected in an initial launch of a new console. The games catalog at the moment isn’t incredibly deep but the experience of playing the same games on the Xbox One and the 360 feels completely different and better. It’s not just the excellent controller, which gives more precise control and feedback, but the additional features in the game as well as voice commands in most of them. As more games are released I expect the hardware to be utilized in more ways too.  I absolutely recommend the Xbox One if you’re ready to take the leap to next-gen gaming. However take into the consideration the number of games available right now and the fact you can only play multiplayer games with other Xbox One owners and not 360 owners and that will decide whether you should get right now or next month. But I’m completely satisfied I made the leap now.

  • Rating ( 8.75 )
  • Total score 8.8

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