45 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Xbox One Console Review!, 22 Nov 2013
It's been 8 years since the Xbox 360 was first revealed to the world and hundreds of thousands of gamers across the world descended on the console to play in an immersive world that was at the time only available on Xbox. The question on everyone's mind is will the new console stand the test of time? I picked mine up at a launch party at my local GAME store last night and have been playing it through the night and early this morning and the following review is based on my first impressions as a professional gamer for the past 10 years having more recently owned both PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles.
The first thing that struck me upon opening the box was the quality feel of all the items and indeed the weight they had. Even the cables have a sturdy, almost industrial thickness to them which is usually a good sign. I'm getting ahead of myself with excitement all over again, firstly let me tell you what's in the box and then I'll go through each part individually.
The first thing you find once you open the box is the Warranty documentation and setup guide as well as an xbox live trial period and an Xbox sticker (yeah lets all party as we get a sticker included) Wahoo!!.
Immediately below that is the Kinect Sensor bar which is actually smaller than I was expecting it to be but nevertheless it is an additional item you will need to find space for around your tv. The next thing you pull from the box will be the headset (I will talk about this later on in more detail). Then you get a 4K rated HDMI cable which is about as good as you can get these days. Following that you have the new controller (again I will discuss that some more later on). Next out of the box is the Power brick and power cable which is similar in size to that of the current xbox 360 brick but I would argue looks better as it is designed both in shape and colour to match the console, I will state at this point that is doesn't make any noise. Finally below that you have the console.
Installing and initializing the Xbox One took only a few minutes but it did require a large software update when it connected to Xbox Live for the first time. As an existing member of Xbox live I redeemed my current Gamertag very easily and my profile was up and running within a few minutes once I'd gone through a few checks. If anything the largest setup part was the Kinect sensor assessing the surrounding area and judging all kinds of audio settings to match the environment, by the way the first time you setup the system it is mandatory to use Kinect! Setting up a wireless connection was also fast and easy to do so you should be good to go regardless of what room in the house you are using.
So I've told you about what you get in the box and a little regarding setup. I want to talk about each item now and then finally give my view on the console User Interface and gaming ability.
Firstly, the headset wasn't going to be included, originally they planned to make it a £20 accessory you had to buy but because of the Backlash from hardcore gaming consumers they eventually decided to include one with every Xbox One Console. It is a mono headphone with a microphone boom attached (so similar to the xbox 360 headset you get in the box) but the difference is that the in-line audio control point is at the end of the cable and plugs directly into the controller (again similar to the original xbox 360 headset), you have a mute button and volume buttons too. I can confirm that the audio quality having talked with friends using it for the past few hours is dramatically better with everything sounding clearer than the xbox 360 one! Now the headphone jack on the controller is a proprietary one meaning only specially designed headsets will work although Microsoft have confirmed they are working on an adapter so you can use more expensive 3rd party headsets you may have. Naturally you can't and will not be able to use the Xbox 360 headset with this!
Moving to the Controller, while not being radically different it has been improved in each area to a degree that makes the whole experience of holding it even better. Key changes and improvements include a completely new D-Pad which is now flush with the controller and not only works better but has a better tactile feel. The thumb-sticks have been made slightly smaller but have a deeper groove so your finger tips now sit in the thumb-sticks rather than just on them and they have been coated around the perimeter with a highly texturized rubber for added grip, now I do have concerns about this material as although it feels superb to touch it also feels the type that may wear away after a few months of heavy use. Back and Start buttons have been replaced with View and Menu buttons and essentially do the same jobs as before but Microsoft have allowed developers more freedom to experiment with these buttons, so watch out for future games. The bumper buttons are now wider and curved around to the side of the controller making it easier to press them and the same goes for the trigger buttons which also now feature their own rumble motors and I can confirm they work great in Forza 5 providing feedback on what the car is doing on track (indeed at launch Forza 5 is the only game that supports them). The battery pack is no longer external and has been recessed into the controller itself, unfortunately they still work of rechargeable AA batteries but you can buy a Rechargeable battery pack which will save you money in the long run, please note that this controller works off "wifi direct" technology which is faster and also used less energy than before so your batteries should last longer than on the 360 controller. Indeed the controller shuts off if it hasn't been used after so long. If you use a micro USB cable with the controller then it actually becomes a fully wired controller and disables the wireless function (unlike its predecessor) and hence saves you battery life.
Now to the Kinect sensor, it's not as big as people make out and for the record isn't mandatory to use, so if you really hate the thought of the sensor staring at you then place it back in the box and forget about it. However, it's only fair that you know that Kinect has been made in tandem with the Xbox One console to such an extent that you lose quite a bit of functionality I would argue if you don't use it. Again for the record you can change the privacy settings of Kinect so it can be switched off and you can control what data it can collect. For instance while you can get to any place and open any application using the controller, it is 10 times quicker and easier to just tell Kinect "Xbox,... go to Skype" and so far having use Kinect for a good few hours I have to say it is pretty accurate and recognizes 95% of what I say. The key is to pause after you say the word "Xbox". If you rush it and don't pause then that is the main reason for it not recognizing your voice. Also a list of commands that you can say pop up on screen when you say the word "Xbox" which helps you out if you are stuck, and no you don't have to shout either, just talk like normal and it seems to work! To be perfectly honest with you since I plugged it in out of the many commands I have spoken I think only around 6 of them weren't recognized and I had to say them again but the second time around they worked... now these problems are down to software and I'm guessing the detection will only get better over time with software updates that Microsoft is bound to release.
Finally onto the console and Yes it true! It is bigger than the original xbox 360 and yes it does look like an old Betamax player from the 1980s with lots of industrial vents on it. If I'm being honest however, I find it quite refreshing! At the same time it feels sturdy, has a decent weight and is surprising well put together from what I can tell. It's certainly been made to last many years underneath your tv that's for sure!
At the front everything is kept relatively clean and free from clutter with the blu-ray slot loading drive and a tiny eject button and the xbox logo which also doubles as a touch capacitive on/off button (not that you'll be using the button given how good the voice commands tend to be, a simply "XBOX ON" will suffice). The right hand side of the console simply features a vent down the whole length as does the left but the left also features a high speed USB 3.0 port and a binding button to link your controller to the console just in case you aren't using Kinect (which does it automatically).
The top of the console is very clear cut with one side being "liquid black" and the other being a huge vent in a matte finish and I have to say the contrast really grows on you! Oh, by the way this console is a HUGE fingerprint magnet but considering it will sit under your tv I doubt you'll be touching it that often. Speaking of sitting, that is the only way this console can rest, i.e. it can't stand up on end! The back of the console is nothing special but it does feature many ports which include; the power port, HDMI in and out, optical audio, 2x USB 3.0 ports, Kinect port (Kinect gets it's power through the console so no extra wires are needed), Gigabit Ethernet port and finally an I.R outport.
Part of the function of the Xbox One is you will supposedly be able to connect your Satellite box to your console and using Kinect be able to quickly navigate the menus and find things quicker yet I have not been able to test this feature out as the box (certainly at lunch) is not compatible with Sky+. You can alternatively connect your smart tv up to Xbox One using the HDMI in port but sadly while my TV is Full 1080p it is not a smart tv so I can't test that out either.
I now want to talk briefly about the User Interface. It is really intuitive and incredibly easy to navigate and is clearly related to the current xbox 360 dashboard (as of November 2013) . It is extremely fast, no really it is very fast and there is no lag regardless of what you do or what command you give it. Although it is clearly related to the xbox 360 operating system I can tell you they have taken it to the next level as far as simplicity and convenience goes, the system also remembers what you were doing last which may not sound like much but does make your life just that little bit easier. "Snap To" mode where you can run two programs at the same time onscreen is very impressive, so you can be gaming and have music or indeed coming soon is the YouTube app, meaning you can have walkthrough guides up on screen as you play (happy face)
At this point I will say that Xbox Live Gold Membership is required for effectively all features with this console, even the ability to save the last 5 minutes of gameplay footage and screenshots sit behind the pay wall so please be in the knowledge that buying this console will effectively mean you need to subscribe to the online service, don't think of it too badly as the service that it offered is second to none and it just works! However, unlike the last generation where gold membership basically just allowed you to play online, now it comes with a few added perks. You now get the FULL use of Skype using the Kinect sensor which films in 1080p, the audio quality used in party chat has gone to the next level with everything being crystal clear (you still get the odd word every now and then which is fuzzy but by and large its better and more stable).
You will also be able to buy all games digitally as they launch although I am disappointed that they are dearer than their disk based versions (surely digital versions should be cheaper as they don't require the company to make a physical copy and you have less rights over it to start with, yet to charge more I find takes the proverbial).
Finally onto gaming (happy face time), much has been made of the Xbox One and how it "supposedly" lacks in the gaming department. Firstly here is some basic information regarding the Hardware under the hood of this console. They have now shifted to a PC architecture with 8GB of GDDR3 RAM, hard drive wise there is a non-removable 500GB drive (storage can be expanded later down the like through use of an external hard driver Microsoft have said, although not at launch). Also note that it is now mandatory for games to be installed on the hard drive and judging by the size I have to say it won't be long before it fills up although you will be able to delete old games from the hard drive to make room for new ones, don't worry your save file on progress made through the game is automatically saved to the "cloud servers"
So how does it fair with games? So far I have only played two, Forza 5 and Battlefield 4 and I have to say that graphically they look mightily impressive, not just graphics wise but the scale that both these games have seem to go far beyond anything the xbox 360 could even dare to reach. Connected services and indeed the online servers are also quite stable considering it's less than a day since worldwide launch too. Loading times seem dramatically shortened compared with xbox 360 games and it all seems to work quickly at loading games from the dashboard.
You may or may not be aware of the problems that the xbox 360 had when it first came out back in 2005, it suffered hardware malfunctions principally due to overheating, well there is virtually no chance of that happening this time around as having seen footage of the inside of the xbox one I can tell you they have designed it with keeping the heat down at a priority. It's for this reason why the exterior of the console is covered in so many vents. Other things I want to bring up include how quiet this console runs; with a disk based game in the drive this console is barely audible. Speaking of the drive, did I mention it is a blu-ray drive so you can now watch blu-ray movies through your xbox.
Pros: It offers the same great gamer focused experience as the 360 but expands on it * feels well made and the software has been well developed * blu-ray drive * Runs cool and quiet * Very, and I do mean Very fast operating system * cloud power opens up a world of connected gaming * The games I've played look, feel and play really well * All Xbox One games run off dedicated servers * Kinect is surprisingly handy and works a lot better than what you may think * Kinect detects movement better than I expected * Kinect can now work in smaller spaces * D-Pad on the controller is a massive leap forward * WiFi Direct technology * Record game footage and upload it to social media * 1080p Skype * Games can be bought digitally from their launch finally (it only took 8 years to get here) * They include a 4k rated HDMI cable in the box
Cons: Kinect is compulsory to buy and while not mandatory to use beyond initial setup you lose too many features if you don't use it * The console is massive * the power brick makes a return (although this will help reduce heat in the console) * Controller still uses AA batteries unless you pay extra for a recharge kit * Non removable hard drive * liquid black finish is a fingerprint magnet * Xbox Live Gold Membership is essential if you want a good experience * managing game-play clips in the upload app can be time consuming and confusing * no private chat * Interface does need some small improvements * Battery indicator on the dash has gone * It's an expensive Console
VERDICT: Anyone that knows anything about gaming or has followed the gaming news regarding the Xbox One console since it was announced earlier in the year will know it hasn't been easy for this console so far. Microsoft did try to bring in DRM (digital rights management) policies upon the consumer so we wouldn't be able to share or trade our games, play offline and indeed there was too much of a focus on TV rather than gaming. Simply put, Microsoft screwed up, yet they acknowledged their mistake and apologized for what they tried to bring in. So don't listen when someone tells you that you can't trade in games on Xbox One as that is total rubbish. Now I've got that off my chest, this is most definitely a step up in terms of gaming ability but also in terms of a connected entertainment console. You can now watch blu-ray movies, play HD games while at the same time make use of many of these other apps such as Skype or web browsing. If you have a current Xbox Live Gold Membership then you can run the Xbox One off the same account as your Xbox 360 meaning you won't need any additional subscription which is a good thing. Other things to point out are that your gamertag and achievements do port across so again don't worry about losing anything, the only thing to bear in mind is you can't be logged into both consoles at the same time.
Needless to say anyone upgrading from an xbox 360 won't be disappointed and in my view you are getting a lot for your money especially as Kinect is included with every Xbox One system. Despite what you may have heard it works very seamlessly and has been well integrated into the system. The console feels well made and the games look beautiful, with the software and User Interface to boot I have to say it's a great experience worth investing in despite a few smaller problems which i'm sure will be ironed out. If you're new to gaming or come from another system then all I will say is take the plunge and enjoy the journey as it has lots to offer and given how good Microsoft have been at keeping xbox live updated I'm going to bet things will only get better!
I will be happy to answer constructive questions to the best of my abilities, please post a comment and I will try and get back to you as soon as possible!