Xbox One Review
Its getting closer to the third birthday for Xbox One now and Xbox One S is out now too. So why are we reviewing it now? That’s because it has evolved like no other consoles can. From what it was on the launch day, Xbox One is now equally comparable with the PS4.
So before going into the review, let’s just take a look at the position of Xbox One at launch.
What was the Xbox One?
Don Mattrick, the former head of Xbox revealed the all new half-glossy, half-matte Xbox One during E3 2013. His vision was an ‘all-in-one entertainment system’ which was great to see on its trailer but quite difficult to actually accommodate with it. He limited the console to be connected to the internet at least once a day, so that you could play your disc-based games without discs after installation. He said screaming at the new Kinect is better than to avoid it. He introduced the awesome Skype to Xbox One, in which the Kinect shined a lot. He told the gamers how they could switch between apps to games to movies to TV and how you can wake up your console using your voice, voila! magic.
So let’s round it back again. The console was received okay by the people. They loved the new Skype and also the new controllers (especially the new rumble motors, more on that below). But they realized that it is far better to stand up from the couch and change your disc rather than not able to play at all. The ‘always connected to internet’ thing and Microsoft forcefully giving Kinect along with the console for an extra hundred bucks, not so good.
As for the launch games, let’s say about Ryse. Ryse: Son of Rome was just a video-game to show what the Xbox One holds in terms of graphics. But as per the game, the stronger spartan can jump very high rocks when the game wants to but can’t hop off a simple log which blocks your way, meaning you are very much limited!
The other launch games were Forza Motorsport 5, Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection and these were classy. But overall the launch games were totally poor.
So that was what the Xbox One had been. I said had been, and you should really know, if you don’t know, what the Xbox One is now.
Xbox One as you can notice at the first look itself, is a.. box. Its bulkier than its competitor which will make the user very difficult to carry around or if he has less space under his television. But Microsoft doesn’t really want its users to carry around the console as they are considering Xbox One as a complete entertainment system i.e, a gaming console plus set up box. But what if you want to take your console with you on your vacation? You need to carry the big and heavy console and the Kinect (if you want) and the power brick. Yes, the power brick does make an appearance here. This was one of the cons of Xbox One as its competitor PlayStation 4 is sleek and stylish and it has its power brick built in.
The console itself measures 274 x 79 x 333 mm. Even if its bulky, it got its own style. The Xbox One is coated half-shiny and half-matte on the top as well as on the front. The face of the console has an elegant feather-touch Xbox button which can be used to turn on your device. The feather-touch is useful but if our hand or legs accidentally touches it, the console can turn off. But its not really a problem as Xbox One syncs all your saves on Microsoft’s servers (more on that later). The front-face is also where you can insert your disc and eject it.
The back side features all the connectivity ports. It has a main power port where you will be connecting the power brick. A HDMI-out port to connect your console to your TV or monitor, a S/PDIF port, a HDMI-in port to connect your satellite box or set up box to your console, two USB 3.0 ports which can be used to either connect a hard disk above 250GB to increase your HDD space or to connect any pen drives or to even charge the controller using The Play & Charge kit. There is also a Kinect 2.0 port to connect your sensor, an IR-out and an ethernet port to connect your console to the internet directly. There is also an additional USB 3.0 port on the left side of the console, making it a total of three USB 3.0 ports but the last one is quite difficult to connect to.
As you can see from the above images, the Xbox One is covered almost with ventilators on all sides excluding the front-face to release all the heat from inside. This was done to ensure that the console is free from the ‘Red Ring of Death’ issue which plagued the Xbox 360 systems making the users unable to use it. This is somewhat great as you can’t hear any sound other than your disc screeching from your console, if you make everything quite inside your house. The console however gets heated up quickly and it is not preferred to put anything, the Kinect or controller or game discs above your console and to not make the console congusted.
The Xbox One in terms of graphics is behind the PS4. But it can’t be noticed unless you put them both side by side and play Call of Duty: Ghosts. The Xbox One has an 8 core AMD x86 APU with 1.75 GHz frequency, an 8GB DDR3 Ram with 32MB eSRAM as compared to PS4’s 8GB GDDR5 memory. The main problem was most of the game ran on 900p or even 720p while the PS4 maintained 1080p resolution. Games like Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and of course Call of Duty: Ghosts are best examples. But Microsoft tried their best and led the developer to take complete advantage of the system and most of the recent games work the same on both consoles. Games like Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4 and Assassin’s Creed: Unity are some of the games which worked best on both platforms. But there are games which showed the true power of Xbox One. Quantum Break from Remedy Entertainment is the best example aside Forza Motorsport 6 and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Okay let’s talk about the initial interface first. The Xbox One had the worst interface than any other consoles, featuring Windows 8 tiles. It was designed for Kinect and it was very clunky with lots of bugs to use it with a controller. The interface had four sections: Pins, Home, Friends and Store.
The Pins section allows you to pin your favorite apps and games there so that you don’t have to wait for the Games and Apps section to load in. Home features a large tile of whatever you have done or played lately and also showed the recent played apps and games. This was one place where the interface was too clunky. Friends tab showed what other players had played recently along with the leaderboard and the Store tab provided us with the Xbox Store.
Even with a Kinect we found it harder to use and when I used the PS4, its interface was like a heaven to me. The interface also had numerous issues like going back to the home screen while playing and freezing of console which made me to force shutdown the console. whewps!
But look at what its now
The Xbox One now we use is above everything. It has the best user interface now and its fast as ever. I can now interact with my friends and invite them to a game or a party chat even while I’m playing. The interface is fluid with some useful shortcuts to get into My Games & Apps section. The best of it is the new Quick Access menu which can be accessed from anywhere by double tapping the home button. The Quick Access menu features many tabs in which you can quickly sign in and sign out accounts, keep watch on what your friends are doing, quickly invite your friend(s) to a party or a game, find new friends and also for each game you can now go to the Achievements section on the Quick Access menu to see what all achievements you got left to complete the game 100%.
Accessing messages, notifications and settings as well as snapping and switching between apps is much quicker with the Quick Access menu. While the older interface was built with Kinect in mind, this newer one is built for the controller.
Aside the Quick Access menu, the interface features four tabs. The Home tab features an even larger tile for the most recent used games or apps. Below it you can find a list of recently used tab and aside the large tile you can find the My Games & Apps section along with some featured ads. The new interface also allows you to reorder your pins.
The Community tab allows you to view your friends and followers captured clips, screenshots, achievements and everything they share. You can also follow developers and can see everything they share about including new DLC release and updates. Community section also shows some trending topics on the right side of the screen. There is also shortcut for getting into your Game DVR to see your recorded clips.
The OneGuide tab completes most of your TV needs. OneGuide allows you to watch live TV from your console. You don’t need to switch to the other HDMI port to view live TV, you can connect your set top box into your console directly. OneGuide section also allows you to command your set-top box using voice. But its better to stick around with the controller or with your TV remote.
Then there’s the Store tab which was just upgraded through the Summer Update.
Xbox One’s main launch attraction was multi-tasking and even after many of its vision has changed, snapping on Xbox One is still holding up and its a feature that no other console has till now. You can snap almost any app you downloaded from the Store alongside your game. This is at its best when you want to find a secret collectible or want to watch a walkthrough for your game, you can snap YouTube or Dailymotion aside your game and can play along with it. Skype calls can also be snapped while you play (Skype on Xbox One requires Kinect).
Xbox One had poor selection of launch games as I mentioned in this review before. But as time went on, Xbox One is known as the console with the best exclusive titles and last year we got an amazing list of exclusives. What made me think Xbox One has the best exclusives than the PS4 is that Xbox One has best exclusive games in all categories. For example, Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon series for racing, Gears of War series and Halo series for shooting and action-adventure games like Quantum Break on the other side. But looking at the opposite side, racing and shooting is not so best. But they do have action-adventure titles like the Uncharted series and the Infamous series.
While they have some of the best exclusive triple-A titles, while coming to indie games, Xbox One is behind choices. While Ori and the Blind Forests and Inside were the beautiful games I’ve ever played, still the Xbox One is behind choices compared to PS4. Microsoft introduced the ID@XBOX years before, they are capturing some of the best and you can count on the upcoming CupHead.
Third-party games like Battlefield, FIFA, Call of Duty ,Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed can be picked up on Xbox too.
Media in Xbox One is at its best. The Xbox Store has some useful apps that you can download whenever you want. Microsoft also added the Universal Windows Applications (UWP) support to Xbox One in the latest update. This allows us to download some of the apps from Windows Store to use it on Xbox. But for now UWP supported apps are less but there will be more apps available on the coming months.
BluRay & DVD playback
Xbox One supports BluRay discs and DVD discs for watching video files. But with CD, only audio files will be supported. You need to download specific apps for each of the three in order to watch it. Its not that hazzle and is very easy to set it up. The first time you insert a non-game disc into the disc tray, it will urge us to download the specific app.
Major streaming services like Netflix, HBO Go, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, 4oD and Hulu Plus are available in the Xbox Store. With a subscription for each you can stream movies and TV shows from each. But these apps are not available to all other countries for now. There are also other services like Crunchyroll, WWE Network, Vine and Go Pro Channel which allows us to stream animes and other program.
DLNA streaming is another fascinating and unique feature for the Xbox One. You can stream videos and other files from your mobile or computers or through cloud services like OneDrive. Plex is also available for Xbox One so you can view your contents you shared from other devices on Plex, but you need a Plex premium membership to do it. Other free DLNA service is the Xbox Media Player app which is clunky in its own right but does the job. Nothing on streaming without mentioning Twitch. So you can broadcast your gameplay or stream someone else’s gameplay while you eat your Dominoes pizza you ordered through your console (Dominoes Pizza app is only available for UK and Ireland users).
Xbox Live Gold is yet the most reliable service for playing multiplayer. Aside from online gaming, this monthly subscription also gives you four games for free on Xbox One (including two backwards compatible Xbox 360 games).
Means you will get two games for your Xbox One, which you cannot play after your subscription runs off. You’ll also get two more games for your Xbox 360 which you can play on your older console or you can also play these games on your Xbox One as it is backwards compatible. The latter will be playable even after the subscription runs off.
Okay, so after freebies then what? Xbox Live Gold was mandatory for accessing majority of features on Xbox One during its launch time. But now we can do more things, especially essential things, without the need for Xbox Live Gold subscription. With Gold, you can now compete with your friends, start a party, get great deals every week, edit your recordings using Upload Studio, start a broadcast and more. Xbox Live Gold costs $60 a year or $10 a month. We recommend a year subscription as you will get some best games for free (mostly). Recent free games include WWE 2K16, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Theif, Sunset Overdrive (the best freebie yet), The Wolf Among Us and more.
You can do the basic things with the unpaid service of Microsoft, named Xbox Live Silver, which syncs your save files and purchases across your devices. Syncing helps you as you can continue playing your game from the last sync point on other consoles. Each time a game or app starts, it will get synced automatically, so no worries! Other features include adding friends, messaging or social networking on your console. You can also share your clips without Gold.
The Impulse Trigger
‘The Impulse Trigger’ or it is what Microsoft is calling their latest controllers for Xbox One. And by far, its the best controller I have ever played. If you have used the already great Xbox 360 controllers, this feels similar. The greatest addition is the new triggers which has the rumble motors which will be enjoyable mostly in Forza Motorsport 6. The triggers feel luxurious to press. The four AXBY buttons are now covered with a glass covering. It also gives the controller a bright look as well as the letters will not wear away after long periods of use. The analog sticks are now smaller than before and I recommend to cover it with grip covers because long-term use will wear the analog sticks away. The d-pad is in a cross shape now after long fan recommendations. The Xbox 360 controller made the users very hard to use the d-pad buttons during certain circumstances.
Although everything is great, the bumper buttons are way too difficult to click and to get a hold on. Sometimes I failed too many missions in GTA V only because I couldn’t find the bumper’s clickable point. As a tip, the best part to use it is to click on the narrow part of the bumpers (left part on the right bumper and right part on the left bumper). Again Microsoft packs a AA battery along with the controller. But unlike the older 360 controller, the Xbox One controller holds on longer. I played almost 23 hours with a pair of new Duracell batteries. You can buy Microsoft’s official Play & Charge Kit which will cost another $20. But you can get third-party chargers with more benefits for the same price (it will be worth a look!).
Other changes include the View and Menu buttons instead of Play and Start button. A new button at top for connecting your controller to your console. There are a total of three ports. A micro-usb port for connecting your controller to your PC or to charge your controller or even play your controller wired. The controller can be connected to any media outlets, for example, I tried connecting my controller to my Samsung Galaxy S5 charger (plugged in to the outlet) and it worked that way too. A special port for connecting the Xbox One Chat Headset or Xbox One Headset Adapter and a 3.5mm port for connecting headsets (which is absent in older controllers). In every way the controller feels luxurious and a little bit heavy unlike Sony’s new Dualshock 4 which feels cheap and very light in weight.
Kinect and accessories
Microsoft’s new upgraded Kinect 2.0 is the best motion-tracking device you could find in the market now. But you will not use it much. Kinect Sports Rivals is one way to show its potential but it too fails to detect us sometimes (especially in soccer). Before the November update I used to show off with the gesture controls but I haven’t used it ever for other things. And knowing this Microsoft removed the gesture control in the new interface saying that most of the users doesn’t use it. Speech recognition is good but not so good when you have to yell out at your console “Xbox, go home” while playing and resulting in opening another game which would quit the game you were playing.
The shining spot for the new Kinect is Skype. The Kinect has a full HD camera which could track our lips even in a large crowd. The Kinect scales the person or group of persons talking in a beautiful way. Yeah Kinect, you are appreciated! Another major use with Kinect is Xbox Fitness. Xbox Fitness offers daily workouts and even yoga. Some basic workouts can be done for free but advanced movements and yoga needs extra subscription. The new Kinect tracks our heart rate too, so its one good health companion.
Xbox One’s other gadgets include a chat headset, an headset adapter, an official headset, a chatpad, remote and Play & Charge kit for charging the controllers. A special mention for the Xbox One Elite controller which is meant for pro-level gamers. The controller allows us to replace its d-pad and analog sticks, adjust the triggers and so on.
After the November 2015 update, Xbox One supports backwards compatibilty from Xbox 360. Its another one of the feature for which you can pick a new Xbox One right now. This feature is not present in PS4 and never would be (PS4 Neo seems promising though). You can play more than 200 Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One now. You can download these from the Xbox Store also, or if you have a digital copy it will appear on the Ready to Install section on My Games & Apps. If you own a physical copy, then put it in your Xbox One disc tray and you can download the game data from the Xbox Store. The PlayStation 4 has a similar program called PlayStation Now, but it is a rental program. You need to pay for the game you already own and it is not so perfect either.
Sony also did some other things to catch up with Microsoft’s Backwards Compatibility program. They revamped older PS2 classics for PS4 which can be bought separately. But nothing better than free, right?
The Xbox Smartglass app can be downloaded for Android and iOS if you own the Xbox One. The Smartglass app allows you to view a brief summary of what you see on your console. However brief doesn’t mean too brief though. You can view your friends activity, screenshots and clips he/she shared and achievements. You can also see who’s online and send or receive messages through Smartglass. Xbox Store is also available on the Smartglass app. For Windows Phone, a similar app is in-built.
Windows 10 can stream Xbox One using the in-built Xbox App. For that, your console and Windows 10 PC should be connected to the same network. Its really helpful if your big screen is busy or want to play in another room. You can control the quality for streaming if your network connection is slow. This app provides information as much as your console can do. You can even start a party with your friends from your PC.
Xbox One is the best place for gaming if you look at its future. Xbox One S is the sleeker version of Xbox One. Its 40% small and features up to 2TB HDD and an improved controller. Then there is Project Scorpio which, as Microsoft claims, ‘the most powerful console ever’. It will be able to run games at native 4K resolution and supports virtual reality. Microsoft doesn’t have any VR headsets of its own (or I don’t know, it could be in secret development) other than the HoloLens, or they could link with Oculus as Oculus Rift provides the Xbox One controller with its purchase.
So is Project Scorpio really Xbox Two? Nop! All three console come under the Xbox One family. So why three? the standard Xbox One is.. after all for Xbox One users, the Xbox One S serves people with less space under their 4K TV and whom badly needs a HDR console with built-in BluRay player. And Project Scorpio is for those advanced elite gamers out there. In spite of the console you choose, every games and accessories will be supported by the other two. So if you want to switch your console from Xbox One to Scorpio then you don’t need to buy the same game you have for your Xbox One in order to play. There will be no game released specifically for any one of the three consoles as per Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. Also the cross-buy and cross-play support is coming too. Yay! the future is bright.
From my view point the Xbox One is in every way comparable with PS4. Everything the Xbox One carries is suited for a gamer and for an entertainment-person either. So at this point, should you buy one? For this question, you should consider the other variants too- the Xbox One S and Scorpio. From my viewpoint, you should wait for Project Scorpio which is not far from its release date (Holiday 2017). Or if you want one right now, you should go with Xbox One S which packs the same goodies as the Xbox One with some extra goodies too and you can clip it to a vertical stand too.
Whichever console you choose, you’re gonna have a great time!
Have anything you like or don’t like that we didn’t cover? Fill it out in the comments below..