Microsoft’s kicks off the 3rd generation of their console with the release of the Xbox One. The Xbox One released a week after Sony brings their 4th generation console to the market. Microsoft hopes the Xbox One can pull gamers away from the Sony market with their new innovative device. How does the device match up in our opinion? Read on and find out!
Out of the box the Xbox One does not wow you or even make you think the device is anything but a game console, but the proof is in the pudding. What the device does internally is really the game changer. When I think next generation, I look for something different from what I have seen in previous years. For me to justify a next gen purchase at launch, I need to see changes that will make me want to use the device over my current gen devices….I am not just talking about Netflix integration and apps….blah blah, I am talking about serious functionality changes….actual cutting edge technology. Does the Xbox One deliver?
First thing you will notice immediately out of the box is the brand new Kinect. The Kinect 2.0 uses a wide angle camera, and processes 2 GBs of data per second to read its environment. The accuracy of the new device is leaps and bounds more efficient that the original Kinect. On the 360 the fitness games did a good job of capturing your movements and making sure someone was standing in from of the TV and doing something while the workout was being performed. With the Kinect 2.0 accuracy is three times greater over its predecessor forcing you to follow and learn the workouts that you are performing. Your workouts are much more accurate to what you would get in a class or personal training session. On top of the increased accuracy of the device it no longer has issues in low light environments thanks to its new active IR sensor. The field of vision is wider and can follow a user up to 3ft from the sensor compared to the 6ft requirement of the original Kinect and it has the ability to track up to 6 people at once. The device has the ability to also detect a player’s heart rate, facial expression, joints (including thumbs and rotation of joints), the weight put on each limb, and the speed of your movements. The innovation of the Kinect is truly impressive when compared to the prior iteration. Without the Kinect improvements, one could make an argument that the Xbox One is not much of an improvement from the Xbox 360, I can see both sides of the line, but the fact is that it is a major cog of the device and certainly improves on the next gen experience when used in tandem with the Xbox One.
Kinect integration is HUGE to the Xbox One UI. All navigation is done with the use of the Kinect, so much so that the experience feels drastically different without it. The Kinect is so responsive, you can quickly change from one app to the other in seconds. The biggest hurdle will be the user. The learning curve will be big for any first time user, which will lead to alot of frustrated users. Hopefully once users get used to the changes and learn the proper commands the experiences will change. If you are expecting a mind reading device, then this is not the device for you, there is a big learning curve and you have to take the time to teach yourself. This is not a device you can take out of the box and know all there is about it as soon as you power it up. This is a gaming console, but if you plan on embracing the Kinect it will definitely be in your best interest to take the time to learn how to use it properly.
Another big change is the ability to plug in your cable set top box (STB) using the HDMI-IN port on the Xbox One. By simply using the “Xbox Watch TV” command you can switch from gaming to watching TV instantly. Super cool feature if having that functionality is something you desire. It is really cool playing a game with some friends and still having the ability to not miss a play of the Sunday Night Football game on NBC. Using voice commands you can easily navigate to your favorite channels and plug right in to your beloved shows. One short coming of this functionality is that there is currently no support for the STB DVRs, so watching your library of saved TV shows/movies is not something you can currently do with the current system (using Kinect, you can still access your DVR library using the STB remote).
One would think with the experience Microsoft gained when revolutionizing their dashboard with the Xbox 360 release that the Xbox One would launch with a stable and concrete UI. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am extremely disappointed with how much of a step backwards the UI has taken from the last generation. Yea voice commands are cool and very innovative….but I feel too much of the UI is based off that functionality. If someone chooses to not use voice commands and instead use the traditional methods of navigating the interface via controller, the experience is cumbersome and confusing. The party functionality no longer works as nicely as it did on the Xbox 360, now on the Xbox One you have to start the party app, then find and invite friends. Once you send invites out you have to actually turn voice chat on, it currently does not default on. This makes absolutely no sense. The majority of people that use this functionality will be partying with people they want to talk to, if people party with strangers then they can simply mute the party…or turn party chat off. When discussing innovation from a UI perspective you have to consider ease of use. Typically a company would achieve this by reducing the amount of clicks a user needs to make to reach their desired destination, the Xbox One UI fails miserably. When not using the Kinect it seems like everything is 2 or 3 more user actions than it needs to be. Something as simple as looking at an achievement you just unlocked is 2-3 user actions before that can actually see the details of the achievement, which feels like another app having to be launched for something that seems so simple to perform. I cannot help but continually feel that the Xbox One UI development was built too much around the functionality of a tablet (i.e. – Windows 8), it just doesn’t work well for consoles in the current state.
Simple little things have fallen off the radar on the UI. You can no longer see how much battery life your controller has. This is a HUGE problem for me. Most of my gaming is done in MP arenas, these are game types that cannot be paused if your controller disconnects. It is extremely inconvenient when you have no idea your battery is about to run out and you join an MP match with clan members. A simple indicator could relieve a lot of frustrating moments when playing online….again this is something the Xbox 360 had and for whatever reason was not implemented on the Xbox One.
The marketplace is frustrating at best. Every game on the 360 marketplace is accompanied with a demo, that does not exist on the Xbox One. There is a featured section, most popular section, new releases section…..but no list of all available games? You can use the search option, but like everything else it just brings up a bing search box which you can either give a voice command, or type what you are looking for. A new video was released for the game “The Division”, I know this because it was listed in the featured section. I simply go to the search section to look for other things about the game, so I say “Xbox bing the division”, not once was the video listed in the results and the only result that would come back was a “Just Dance” game.
To say the Xbox One UI is an improvement to the Xbox 360 would be a lie. As much as I am enjoying the system, it breaks my heart to see the lack of thought that went into using the system without voice commands. I am hopeful that in the way we saw the Xbox 360 dashboard “grow up”, that we will see the Xbox One UI make some MAJOR improvements. I just cannot see the Xbox One UI continuing on the same path that it is currently. The Xbox Live service as a whole just does not feel as functional and rock solid as it once was.
The Xbox One controller is coming on the heels of what I would consider to be the best controller in gaming for any console and I own all of them, the Xbox 360 Controller. The Xbox One controller from an overall presentation perspective does not look like it changed much, but in actuality you can feel the difference as soon as you put it in your hand. The new controller benefits from the following changes:
- Trigger Rumble Motors
- Battery pack flush with controller
- Plus-shaped D-Pad (mechanical)
- Haptic feedback triggers
- Grip texture around sticks
- Faster response time
- Micro-USB port
- IR sensors for Kinect interactivity
The triggers feel so smooth, pressing the triggers feels very much like part of the controller instead of being just a button. The D-Pad is a HUGE improvement on the 360 version, you can actually feel every press and can tell definitively the direction in which you select. I absolutely love the textured thumb sticks and initially I was not sold on the decrease in size but it has grown on me and certainly feels better than the 360 version. The whole controller feels smoother and more responsive and just when you think you cannot improve on something perfect, Microsoft certainly did it with this peripheral. The only complaint I could have with this controller is that the bumpers feel pulled into the controller a bit and almost makes my hands feel too big for the controller. I am sure this is just a learning curve I need to overcome and due to my pure comfort level with the 360 controller.
The headset is nothing special, seems better than the stock 360 headset, the dongle is pretty big compared to the last generation. I really like how it has buttons for mute, volume up and down instead of having a dial and an annoying switch. Not having the ability to use your expensive surround sound headsets is a bit of a let down, but Microsoft has announced that they will be releasing an adapter in the early part of 2014. The only real problem I have with the headset is that it works half the time. You can plug your headset in and never unplug it, it will work perfectly one session then when you power cycle and start a new session your party will be coming through the speakers and your voice will travel through the Kinect to the rest of your group, rendering the headset useless. The only fix for this seems to be unplugging it and plugging it back in, hoping that it kicks in. Sometimes having to power the controller down, unplugging the dongle and then plugging it back in before powering the controller back up will sometimes fix the issue as well. Senseless issues for functionality that seems so simple. This could be a headset issue, a controller issue or a software issue. I tend to believe it is the later, which could be fixed down the road.
The Xbox One overall is a great system, offering plenty of innovative ideas with tons of room for growth. All systems initially have their ups and downs, if the
UI is the only issue, that is actually a good thing. Software can be patched and fixed to improve functionality, very much like the Xbox 360 dashboard when it was originally released, compared to what it is now is a HUGE difference. As the Xbox One evolves and fits into its mold it also will become something different from what we see at launch. Knowing the community support Microsoft has and their responsive nature to the feedback they receive the future is bright, but in the current state, the UI falls short of mediocre. With that said I am extremely excited to see what the future has in store and I cannot wait to see how the new generation of gaming takes shape.
Overall I give the Xbox One a 7/10, with a TON of room for improvement.
“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.” ~Norman Vincent Peale