Feature Article

Xbox One Review

A console of compromises.

by

At CES in 2001, Microsoft boldy unveiled its first gaming console, the Xbox, putting the desktop software giant in direct competition with Sony, a successful hardware company with a proven and popular line of gaming consoles. In a market dominated by Japanese manufacturers, the Xbox immediately stood out. It was massive, and featured forward-thinking components like an internal hard drive and integrated Ethernet. Exactly one year later, Xbox Live came to life and ignited a digital revolution of downloadable content and broadband-fueled multiplayer. For Microsoft, there was no looking back. In 2010, it took another stab at innovation with Kinect, the sophisticated camera array that promised full body motion detection and speech recognition. Sadly, due to strict lighting and space requirements, on top of middling software integration, original Kinect failed to deliver on its full potential.

Then, along comes Xbox One, and with it, Kinect 2.0. Microsoft’s next-gen console relies heavily on the new Kinect and an 8 core CPU for voice-controlled multitasking. Its HDMI passthrough port allows for advanced cable and satellite TV integration, and Kinect’s IR blaster and face recognition promise a seamless, personal TV viewing experience. It’s also, of course, a gaming console first and foremost, but by requiring all users to pay for a Kinect upfront, Microsoft’s messaging and direction has led to confusion over its priorities. The ultimate test will be whether the additional functionality adds to the gaming experience, or detracts from it.

Superficially, the Xbox One looks like more than an average gaming console. It’s big and glossy, and likely to dominate any device in your home theater setup, save a high-end AV receiver. Unlike the Xbox 360, the Xbox One has to remain flat, a caveat Microsoft has attributed to both ventilation and the Xbox One’s slot-loading drive, but it’s an unfortunate limitation given the sheer size of the console. The Kinect camera isn’t small either, and though it’s optional, omitting it from the setup removes a lot of Xbox One’s definitive functionality.

The Xbox 360 controller earned high praise during the last console generation, and Xbox One’s controller retains many of that controller’s positive aspects. The layout is mostly the same, except that the Xbox guide button is now known as the home button, and has been moved higher up on the controller. Similarly, the start and back buttons have been renamed to the menu and view buttons, respectively. Disappointingly, the bumpers, RB and LB, are too stiff towards the center of the controller.

Less obvious features of the Xbox One controller reside within its matte-black exterior, including vibration motors for each trigger and infrared emitters that work in conjunction with Kinect to provide motion controls in place of embedded accelerometers or gyroscopes. Though there’s little evidence that this inclusion will have a meaningful impact, the force feedback in the triggers has already been put to good use in games such as Forza Motorsport 5, where they inform the players understanding of road conditions and traction, or loss there of.

Every controller can be used in a wired or wireless fashion thanks to the addition of a micro-USB port. You get the best of both worlds, though you still need to provide your own AA batteries for wireless functionality. There are rechargable battery packs for Xbox One controllers, but they aren’t included with standard retail units, and must be purchased separately or in a special controller bundle.

The third key piece of Xbox One hardware, the Kinect 2.0, is easily the most interesting of the lot. Now, with lax space requirements, additional high resolution sensors and improved speech recognition, the Kinect of today is a vast improvement over the original model. The Xbox One operating system can respond to dozens of voice commands through Kinect, allowing you to manage multiple windows and tasks, and you can even use it to adjust the volume on your TV, or better, turn your entire entertainment setup on with the utterance of “Xbox On.”

The caveat here is that you have you speak with the right cadence and tone for the Xbox One to respond accordingly. It's up to you to learn the best way to communicate with it, but even after a few weeks, it quite often fails to work the first time everytime. That said, there’s nothing quite like it when the Xbox One manages to consistently respond to your commands. Switching between TV, Skype calls, and games, without picking up a controller or changing inputs on your TV, feels new and exciting. The first time the Xbox One tailors itself to your voice, showing only your content and friends, it leaves an impression that won’t soon wash away. That is, until the next time it fails to work.

Thus is the dilemma in regards to Kinect. It has a lot of potential, and is designed with the future in mind, but if it isn’t consistent, people will quickly revert back to using the controller for navigation. Who in their right mind wants to yell at their TV, repeatedly commanding, ”Xbox. Bing Assassin’s Creed?” Considering that Microsoft is leaning so heavily on these features to sell the Xbox One, it’ll be interesting to see how they can improve it down the road. At launch, it’s still a bit too underwhelming and inconsistent to be considered a triumph for the troubled Kinect line. Unfortunate, given that the Xbox One costs $500, in part due to the mandatory inclusion of the camera.

The guts of the Xbox One are the product of a collaboration with processor giant AMD, resulting in a hybrid CPU and GPU, known as the APU. The 8-core CPU module, based on AMD’s Jaguar line, boasts a 1.75 GHz clock-rate. With multiple cores on hand, the Xbox One can simultaneously handle tasks in the fore and background, resulting in a new level of console-based multitasking.

On the same chip as the CPU sits a GPU based on AMD’s Radeon technology, and here is where the Xbox One’s architecture gets interesting. Like the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One comes with 8 GB of RAM, but it's the slower and cheaper DDR3 variety, compared to the PlayStation 4’s GDDR5. To account for the Xbox One’s lackluster memory bandwidth, calculated at ~ 68 GB/s, Microsoft opted to include 32 MB of hyperfast ESRAM on the APU, taking up valuable space that would otherwise have allowed for a mightier GPU, in order to offset the slower speed of DDR3.

On one hand, the inclusion of ESRAM helps speed along simple non-gaming tasks. On the other, its presence on the APU has effectively neutered the GPU’s potential. For such a critical component of a next-gen gaming system, this is odd. The ESRAM acts as the middleman between the DDR3 modules and the APU, and it helps to boost memory speeds a bit, but even so, the combination isn’t enough to match Sony’s GDDR5-packed PlayStation 4. This may not matter to customers wooed by the Xbox One’s extra-entertainment features, which Sony can’t begin to match, but for anyone who values gaming performance above all, the Xbox One is at a disadvantage in terms of graphics capabilities from a raw numbers perspective.

For technical reasons relating to multitasking and the limitations of Blu-ray drives, every Xbox One game has to be installed to the system’s internal hard drive. At 500 GB, there’s room for a lot of games, and the operating system features dynamic storage management to mitigate running out of space, but like the last generation, storage needs inevitably grow over the course of a console generation.

Sadly, Xbox One users are not allowed to upgrade the internal drive to something faster or larger. Even if you void the warranty and physically replace the hard drive, your new drive won’t work without the necessary security sectors from the original drive. Microsoft promises that support for external storage is coming down the road, and while that’s a good option to have, external hard drives are a clunky last resort. Ultimately, customers should be allowed to replace hard drives, and it’s a shame to see that this isn’t a feature of the Xbox One.

Once again, Microsoft has excluded Bluetooth from it’s console, relying instead on Wi-Fi direct, a standard that enables Wi-Fi devices to connect with each other without the need for an access point in the middle. It’s a useful feature, but rarely used, and the result is that most devices for the Xbox One will likely come directly from Microsoft. Elsewhere, the Xbox One Wi-Fi radio uses the 802.11n standard. The good news is that it takes advantage of modern frequency bands in the 5 GHz range, resulting in an increase in range and signal strength, a feature that Sony failed to include in the PlayStation 4.

The back of the Xbox One reveals a range of interesting and useful ports. Of course, you’ll find the standard Ethernet port, HDMI-out, two USB 3.0 ports, and an optical audio connection, but most interesting are the infrared-out and HDMI-in ports. They are unusual for a console, but key to the Xbox One’s extended media functionality. Most importantly, the HDMI-in port allows you to watch TV through your console, working in conjunction with the Kinect to provide an unusually personal experience.

Truthfully, almost anything you plug into the HDMI-in port on the Xbox One will function within the console’s TV app, but Microsoft has designed features for use explicitly with cable and satellite boxes. Once you connect either to the HDMI port, you can choose your service provider and navigate the channel guide directly on the Xbox One. It communicates with your cable or satellite box using the Kinect’s infrared blaster for a seamless blending of television and gaming in one device. The Kinect’s ability to detect who’s in the room, and specifically who’s talking, allows for the creation of personalized channel lists, a feature that will prove invaluable for families who watch a lot of TV.

Xbox Live, the online service that made Xbox a household name, returns with the Xbox One, once again requiring people to pay a fee for online gaming and media streaming. The good news is that the Xbox One is tightly integrated with SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud service, allowing you to share content between your Xbox One and PCs, including gameplay clips and pictures. This ties into the Xbox One’s ability to record, edit, and share gameplay clips.

With the Kinect, you can easily capture a video of your last thirty seconds of gameplay by saying “Xbox. Record that.” The resulting clip is then uploaded to your SkyDrive. The downside to this whole process is that you are required to go to a PC in order share the video with others. With the discrete Game DVR app, you can manually access the last five minutes of gameplay with tools to edit and abridge your footage with audio or picture-in-picture video commentary.

Being able to share your gameplay clips with the internet at large is enticing, but the need to access a PC in order to do so feels cumbersome and ultimately detracts from the experience. As desired as this feature is, it pales in comparison to the ability to stream live video content, a feat Microsoft promises will come to the Xbox One in the near future. Here, Sony has Microsoft beaten with direct support for Twitch.TV and Ustream right out of the box.

Taking everything into account, the Xbox One has impressive potential, but it’s disappointingly unrealized at launch. The increased performance of the new Kinect affords the console a unique blend of special features and innovative player interaction, though it’s inconsistent and unreliable. Elsewhere, the Xbox One lacks the power of its competitor, the PlayStation 4, due in part to an unusual combination of RAM, and the difference is tangible, with many launch games running at 720p on the Xbox One versus 1080p on the PlayStation 4. On the plus side, Xbox One and Kinect improve the TV-viewing experience by conveniently integrating it into a console. In this regard, the Xbox One offers a valuable next-gen experience if you value television watching as much as gaming. Unfortunately, the Xbox One is designed around that unique feature set, ultimately forcing gaming-focused consumers to make compromises if they decide to make the leap.

Discussion

1080 comments
chrisx28
chrisx28

 Got them both and can barely tell the difference! They are both great systems and to say 1 is better than the other is not to logical as of yet.

cadiacscanner
cadiacscanner

Anyone saying XboxOne is just for multimedia and PS4 is for hardcore gamers is showing their fanboy colors.  Yeah PS4 has better hardware on paper, but in the long run you probably wont ever really notice the difference.  Take into account it will take 3rd party devs a year or so to start utilizing the hardware to its full potential, added development time and research/testing costs is going to mean that devs wont always push the games to the max.  Especially when  it means extra months of production compared to a few fps better that nobody is going to notice anyway.  


The multimedia functionality of the Xbox One is FAR from being mainstream compatible for the general public.  Kinect 2.0 is a far leap beyond first gen Kinect, but its still clunky in many respects and limited in its abilities.  The camera recognition seems to be its best weapon, but the voice recognition is lacking in several major issues.  This can be fixed with software updates, and theres a 100% chance that it will be improved in the future, probably several times over the lifetime of the system.  But as it stands, its still often more useful to just pick up the controller or tv remote and do it "old school".  Ambient noise interference is killing Kinect voice recognition, but time will tell how much they can improve this.  But this negative is in regards for interaction with the unit, it doesn't impact in-game voice recording, which is great in games like Battlefield 4 where the player can just sit there and talk to their squadmates, or yell out "xbox record that!", which works more often than not, but is still clunky.  


My wife hates talking to the Xbox One, she hates it so much that she by-passes it completely when using the tv or Netflix.  Even though the Netflix on the Xbox is FAR more quick and responsive than our old Blu-ray player Netflix, she still uses the old blu-ray box.  Sometimes when someone is talking in the room, the xbox voice command menu will pop up, and before you know it someone has said something else that has caused it to access a menu option and you are in your apps and games section and trying to download an app that you don't want.  Its a nuisance, but nothing bad has ever happened like accidently purchasing or erasing content has happened. 


All-in-all, im pleased with my Xbox One.  The REAL competition between the units will 100% be the games available.  1st party content will drive this little battle.  Graphics and performance will NOT make a real difference, its going to be all about which system has the best games. 


My son is getting a PS4 for his birthday in 2 weeks, if I see the performance and graphics are so much better, I will admit it.  But till that happens, im loving my Xbox One. 

dbene
dbene

One thing that is not looked is that I think with the TV..media interface MS has laid down that they will continue to be on the forefront of adding these kinda things on the U.I. Right now, it might not be overwhelmingly impressive but in a year or so I think it will me a multimedia juggernaut.

Just imagine if they would work out a deal with dragon speech recognition software to work with Kinect for messaging and internet searching? 

Like if you can just speak a message and it makes a text. 

smelly_boob
smelly_boob

he spent too much time on the "GPU power"... for multiplatform games... they are goign to develop for the lowest common denominator... no major dev. is going to spend time fine tuning code to get a tiny bit more performance the ps4's hardware may allow

PetJel
PetJel

tv in xbo sounds about as useful as those 'tv remote' gimmicks that some gameboy color games had.

matt_kirsche
matt_kirsche

Personally I use a console to play games. I've never been a Xbox or playstation fanboy but just looking at raw numbers it appears that the PS4 will simply be more powerful on the games front. Microsoft keeps trying to push the console into the center of the  home entertainment setup, apparently forgetting that the main reason why people buy such devices is to play games on them, not to watch TV (that's what they already have a TV for.. which you need to use your fabulous console btw)

quaker04
quaker04

Will Kinect 2.0 be available to PC?

DMND
DMND

I hope the "power" of PS4 GPU shows it's true colors this generation, cause last gen PS3 came almost a year after X360, with a stronger hardware, and every single game for both consoles ran better, faster and smoother in X360. Tekken, Red Dead Redemption, COD:BO, Fallout 3, Ninja Gaiden,  just to name a few.

hotsizzle0615
hotsizzle0615

I own both systems and love them both. The Xbox One has the games like Forza and Dead Rising...and love the layout but the updates are so big compare to the PS4 updates and some little kinks. The PS4 games are weaker. Killzone is nothing special and dislike the on/off and eject button but PS4 is very smooth. I have the Playstation Camera and both Kinect and the Playstation camera are awesome but the Kinect is more responsive. 

clr84651
clr84651

X1 = TV app, kinect, etc. that compromises the gaming experience. 

PS4= High powered, game focused experience. 

People already have TV service. It's BS that MS put it in their console. 

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

Breaking News! A studio recently revealed that you can like a console without hating the other! In fact, it seems like having a feeling of hate for an "object" it is a supreme nonsense that may be tied to immaturity and general childish behavior

This studio was revealed at the same time that a new theory (crazy as it may sound) supports that you could actually HAVE BOTH CONSOLES EVENTUALLY without it causing the world around you to implode or the makers of your first console to cry, delete you from Facebook or come to murder you.

In other related news: it has been also confirmed that insulting other people because of preferences and trolling in the comment section of the console that you don't like It is still something stupid and a waste of everybody's time :)

adminspawn
adminspawn

there are 1080 comments on this thread... how poetic.

emerin76
emerin76

Sega Master System - CPU:3.58 Mhz, RAM:8k, Video RAM: 16k
NES - CPU:1.79 Mhz, RAM:2k, Video RAM: 2K.

These two went head to head 86-92 (in US at least).

Which one was the more popular?

cjtopspin
cjtopspin

So basicallyboth the PS4 and XB1 are pretty good and have some issues that need to be fleshed out to realize their full potential.

Kinda like the PS3 and XB360 when they first launched.  I've played them both and they are both fun.  That's what its all about right?  Playing games and having fun?

James9002uk
James9002uk

What's with all the hate? I currently own a 360, previously I was a PS1 & 2 boy, now I'm 29. For me I don't want to be tracked, shared, social media, TV rubbish... I have enough of that as a web designer. It's about the games, and playing them. For me it's Playstation 4 all the way, and BTW size does matter and it does count how you use it, 1080p over 900p upscale will always make the difference, it's like when you buy a PC to push the extra FPS or max out the ram to run at a fast clock. That's not to mention the X1 looks F*ugly.

adminspawn
adminspawn

No one asked for TV features the words "next gen" are synonymous with graphics. Graphics are what matter and Sony knew this and delivered. 

maybock3000
maybock3000

I still haven't bought either system. I was alarmed at how both systems had so many hardware issues right off the bat. I think I will wait at least a fully year before making a decision, or a new Elder Scrolls game, whichever comes first.

dbene
dbene

If a year from now PS4 games are noticeably better and superior because of the GPU I will simply pick one up. Right now...I'm not convinced that the slighlty better hardware specs are not simply Sony's "Ace in the Hole" and their only thing to hold on to. It's not that the media stuff is a "selling point" for me but if the games are equal then I would love to have all the multimedia stuff. I basically went MS not because of the U.I. or multimedia but because I love their exclusives (although not a huge number of them) and for the continuity of Xbox Live and my achievment interface.

horizonwriter
horizonwriter

@smelly_boob True about 3rd party devs but look at what Sony's 1st party devs brought to the table with the overly-complicated architecture of the PS3 once they really wrapped their brains around it and got solid engines in place. Imagine how amazing the exclusives will be this time on a console that's significantly more powerful and far less complex and daunting. As always the exclusives will likely be the deciding factor on which console a lot of people purchase and in the future this may very well tip people over into camp Sony.

cadiacscanner
cadiacscanner

@clr84651 Yeah total fanboy comment here.  Anyone who says XboxOne is JUST for multimedia, and PS4 is for hardcore gaming is just spewing junk out of their mouths.  The hardware specs in the PS4 are better, but not THAT much better.  You probably wont ever really notice the difference. 

DMND
DMND

@clr84651 There are 20 casuals for every hardcore gamer, I don't think they give a shit about PS4 GPU or whatever.

SweetPandaLove
SweetPandaLove

Except it doesn't hamper or compromise the gaming experience in anyway. That's a purely fanboy statement.

SambaLele
SambaLele

@Warlord_Irochi Cool studio bro.

clr84651
clr84651

@cjtopspin 

Except the extremely high hardware failure of the 360 from launch to 3 years out was much more than acceptable. 

dbene
dbene

@James9002uk


So are you suggesting the Xbone will NEVER be able to push 1080p and 60 fps?..


Wait...I thought Forza 5 was already doing this.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@adminspawn Because that thing called "games" have nothing to do with it, right?
also processing capability? screw that! we only care about graphics here, right?
Physics, loading times, rendering, animations? LOL at it. Graphic are what matters

Yeah, right...

Urizen316
Urizen316

@adminspawn Graphics don't define next gen, if you truly believe that I am glad you're not a part of the xbox community.

clr84651
clr84651

@maybock3000 

If you want to play games at their best buy PS4. 

If you want games downgraded so you can do TV & other non-gaming stuff buy the X1. 

I'm interested in a console optimized as much as possible to bring me the best gaming experience. Already have Dish Network, Netflix, Vudu, & Amazon Digital. If I do want to have a camera, I can buy that later or not. 

stellos5
stellos5

@dbene I agree completely.


If PS4 ends up being the best "gaming" system then I will convert regardless of the added multimedia aspect of Xbox One.  Xbox One will never be better then my MacBook Air or iPad Air laying by my side when gaming.  I am not looking for a bargain here.  I am simply looking for the best gaming system.  I would of switched to PS4 if it wasn't for the exclusives that I have learned to love and the fact I am already in with Xbox, but I am still on the fence because I feel MS got away from true gaming.


We all want the best system for faster loading, easy interface, and visually stunning games etc.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@horizonwriter @smelly_boob PS3 exclusives were good looking but I still think they were nothing more than generic, linear, quick time filled cinematics that tended to be impressive if that was all you had access to.

Goes to show how low people's expectations have become that something as linear as TLOU can be so widely loved.

legomyego21
legomyego21

@SweetPandaLove there are TV's out there that do everything the apps on xbone do and more, they even have the motion sensors (Samsung),

PC: Highest power, everything focused experience

break the mold people

vikesrule14
vikesrule14

@Urizen316 @adminspawn exactly what an xbox fanboy would say lol! no the xbox is a great console, my brother has one and its pretty nifty, but in terms of sheer gaming power the ps4 is the clear winner. power doesn't just mean graphics though, it also means larger and more complex gaming as well as the sought after next gen experience

AlwaysRunning
AlwaysRunning

@Urizen316 @adminspawn Graphics and processing ability have *always* been what "next gen" is about, from the Atari down til today. Kinect is a toy, just like the Wii was a toy. It's something for family play time and light party entertainment. If that's your thing, more power to you, but its advantages to what is generally considered "serious gaming" are practically nil. That's already been proven with the PSeye and Kinect gen 1. The ancillary features of screen snapping and fantasy football are, well, just that:  Ancillary--of secondary importance. I can turn on a radio, watch TV, or check fantasy team rankings just fine without a whizzy new console.

dbene
dbene

@clr84651 @maybock3000

I see where you are coming from but these hardware differences are so minute and they are being SOOO overstated.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@horizonwriter Yeah but you can have a complex story that is cinematic. It is just the stories in most games these days are so one dimensional they wouldn't be able to fit the story into anything more than a few corridors. That and it seems making a good story with a set of cinematics is the least of their priorities. And that is why I'm actually getting a little tired of games. The only games I'm actually excited for are the open worlds like Witcher 2 and Watch Dogs and a little in the gray area as far as open world goes but Dark Souls 2 also simply for being so awesome and difficult for a change without being unbalanced. Also Destiny looks okay. But as a result Titanfall, the announcement of a new Uncharted, any Halo games that come out in future, they do nothing for me.

If they actually had a main story, in which you had freedom to roam and then a bunch of side activities to find. Like someone would in real life for example. Then those side missions can start to have an effect on the main story arch, depending on who you meet and what you choose. But they don't do that, they just plough on with a simple story which could be summarised in a side of A4.

horizonwriter
horizonwriter

@Dannystaples14 @horizonwriter @smelly_boob Sony's first party studios go beyond just Naughty Dog and there's plenty there besides QT sequences. As far as linear and people's supposed lower expectations, some games need to play out in a linear fashion. That doesn't mean that you expect it and accept as good game development for every game, just those that have a cinematic story to tell.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@meatz666 @horizonwriter @smelly_boob What do you mean like Metal Gear Solid Japanese or one of those titles I can't even read because they are in Japanese?

I am generally a good fan of Japanese games outside of Nintendo that is. Nintendo are doing my head in at the moment despite me trying to keep an open mind.

They've always been the kings of RPG. But the majority of games that come out in North America or Europe tend to be kind of underwhelming at the moment.

Final Fantasy 15 looks pretty sweet but ever since they ditched the turn based style I've kind of felt like I was losing interest.

I don't know nothing has really stood out to me exclusives wise for a long time.

Well actually if I owned a PS3 I'd probably have had a go on Ni No Kuni but it isn't enough on its own for me to buy a PS3.

dbene
dbene

@Urizen316 @vikesrule14 @adminspawn


yes and also with the naked eye I could see ZERO difference in PS3 games and Xbox360 games .......as a matter of fact many games RAN better on the 360...ex. Skyrim.

Urizen316
Urizen316

@vikesrule14 @Urizen316 @adminspawn Everyone has already established that the PS4 is more powerful. Then again, so was the PS3 when compared to the 360. Instead of innovating they chose to rely on graphical prowess. There has barely been any form of innovation or more complex gameplay when it came to gameplay. I don´t see that happening on this console either.

dbene
dbene

@AlwaysRunning @Urizen316 @adminspawn


I agree that graphics matter and the if the PS4 was noticeably pumping out better game quality I would be all on board. However, I can't tell ANY difference in COD Ghosts on either platfrom and quite frankly I think it moves smoother on the XboxOne. I think in 6 months nearly everything on both consoles will be running at 1080P 60 fps unless it's the type of game where there is not a lot of fast movement and art intricacy is preferred over framerate. 

Urizen316
Urizen316

@AlwaysRunning @Urizen316 @adminspawn I believe next gen is about the game experience, not the graphical fidelity. Sure it looks pretty, but you eventually grow accustomed to that. I firmly believe that Kinect can enhance the experience we have for gaming beyond a graphical upgrade. And since the Kinect is now in possession of every XB-1 owner, more and more developers can and WILL find new ways to implement its features, thus providing a true next gen experience. The PS4 is just a hardware upgrade and there's nothing wrong with that, but that console is making next gen look mundane.