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Xbox One review

The Xbox One is getting better with every firmware update

Our Verdict

The Xbox One was a good console when it launched and today it's even better. It may be a tad less powerful than PS4, but that doesn't play out in the overall experience and its better media features make a strong case for selection.

Product features

  • Processor Core : Octa-core (8 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Great interface
  • Speedy performance
  • Kinect is impressive
  • Decent games
  • Easy video sharing
  • DLNA and Plex

Against

  • Controller still uses batteries
  • Voice commands hit and miss
  • Inferior graphics
  • External power brick
Ratings in depth
4

features

4

4

4

The Xbox One is now a full year old, and it's sales record would looking fairly healthy if it wasn't for that pesky PS4.

Over six million gamers have bought into the Xbox One philosophy so far, a number that would be really quite impressive were it not for the PS4's incredible tally of 13 million.

But don't let that distract you from the fact that the Xbox One is a superb living room machine that offers super speedy performance and media features you won't find on any other (next gen) console.

Because the Xbox One is not just a games machine, it's designed to sit at the centre of your digital home, offering a slick, unified interface for your choice of Sky, Virgin, BT, Freeview and Freesat TV services alongside music and movie streaming options, Skype chats, catch-up TV and more.

The original Xbox One release date was 22 November 2013, launching with the new version of Kinect on board by default. These days of course, Microsoft is offering a Kinect-free option which has proven popular because of the bundle's cheaper price and higher performance.

The standard Xbox One console can now be found online for about £310, while the version with Kinect costs a bit more.

Make no mistake though, Kinect is baked deep into the Xbox One experience, with voice and gesture controls at the heart of everything should you choose to use them.

So if you're not going to play a game, you don't need to use the excellent gamepad to turn the console on or navigate to your entertainment of choice.

xbox one
Make no mistake, the Xbox One is a big console

Design

The first thing you'll notice about the console when you get it out of the needlessly elaborate packaging is what an absolute beast it is. It measures 274 x 79 x 333 mm, making it longer and taller than a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox 360.

You don't need a tape measure to figure that out though, the thing just looks huge and it's not exactly a looker when you see it up close, either.

Its size and girth harkens back to the original Xbox, an imposing black plastic beast covered in black plastic ridges. Microsoft seems to be throwing back to that design, bringing back the all black and the ridge-covered aesthetic.

xbox one
You can buy it with or without the Kinect peripheral

It's massive size and black rectangular construction evoke a stereo tuner from the nineties. Its imposing bulk begs to be hidden away, with just its slot loading disc drive exposed, little white Xbox logo glowing in lonely TV cabinet darkness.

For a console of this size, you would at least expect for the power supply to be built inside the unit. But as with the Xbox 360, that's not the case. The external power brick is large and contains its own fan.

This makes the PS4 look even more elegant, which is a lot smaller despite having an internal power supply.

rear
Standard ports are joined by an HDMI-in port for set-top boxes

Flip the machine around and you'll see a plethora of ports. It has all your standard nodes: ethernet, HDMI out, power, S/PDIF (commonly used for optical audio), dual USB 3.0 ports and an IR out.

Additionally, there are two proprietary ports, one for hooking in the Kinect, and an HDMI-in, which is how you feed the Xbox One a TV signal from a set-top box. There's also a third USB 3.0 port found on the system's right side.

A third USB 3 0 port sits on the side of the console
A third USB 3.0 port sits on the side of the console

The HDMI-in can function as a passthrough and allows any old HDMI signal in, but this introduces a lot of input lag, making it no good for hooking in another console. So if you were thinking of running an Xbox 360, PS3 or even a PS4 into the Xbox One in order to save HDMI ports in your TV... forget it. That's not what it's for.

Kinect

You can't talk Xbox One without bringing up Kinect. While the system can operate without being hooked into Microsoft's magic eye and in some cases performs better without it, you'd be losing a lot of its most unique features and showroom wow factor if you chose to buy the version that comes Kinect-free

kinect
Kinect is much improved but voice commands can be hit and miss for some people

The Xbox One version of Kinect is a whole lot bigger than its predecessor. It's also designed to sit in front of your TV, rather than perched on top of the screen like the PlayStation Camera. That's because it's field of view is now so large that it doesn't need to sit up high.

Just like the system itself, it has a white light up logo on its right side. Dull red lights from its IR blaster intermittently glow when it's active.

The underside of the Kinect has rubber feet that provide a firm grip. It's not going to fall off your entertainment center any time soon. It can also tilt up and down, with enough range of motion that there shouldn't be any trouble finding the right angle for your living room.

controlpad
The Xbox control pad remains one of its very best features

What's in the box?

What a pile. An Xbox One purchase gets you the console and a Kinect, a power cable and adapter (aka the power brick), a decent headset, the headset adapter, an HDMI cable and controller with batteries. You'll also get a 14-day free trial of Xbox Live Gold.

Xbox One setup is more involved than on the PS4, but it's still not terribly complex. Along with power and HDMI, you'll also have to connect the Kinect through its proprietary cable.

If you plan to watch TV on the console, you'll do so with an HDMI cable, through the system's HDMI-in port. You'll then need to run the OneGuide's setup, which isn't too complex. We'll get into that in the media portion of this review.

When you first switch the system on you'll be met with a setup wizard which will get you connected to the internet for that initial patch. It'll be a sizeable initial download and is absolutely required before you can even get to the Home screen. Be prepared to make a cup of tea and cool your heels for a while as the updated is downloaded and applied.

There's been quite a few firmware updates since launch, too, so expect your first patch to take a while depending on your internet speed.

Xbox One review

Snap

The Xbox One's tiled Home screen is a dead giveaway that the interface shares some DNA with Windows 8 and it's not a radical change from the Xbox 360 design either.

Its essentially brought one of the unique features of the Metro UI to your TV screen in the form of app snapping.

Snapping lets you run two apps at once, giving a third of the screen to one app off to the right, and the rest to your primary engagement. It's a good way to do a little Internet Explorer browsing while you wait for a friend to join your game, but beyond that it can be straining on the eyes unless your TV or projector screen is very large.

Kinect makes it easier, allowing to simply say "Xbox snap Skype" to get the side by side feature working. It's also much easier to just say "switch" for toggling between the two rather using the controller.

Xbox One review

Game DVR

Game DVR could be the end of gaming tall tales and "you had to be there" stories. With help from Microsoft's SkyDrive service, it lets you easily record and share your personal epic wins.

It's much simpler than third-party recording devices since it's built directly into the system, and can grab your finest moments just after they happen. Simply say "Xbox record that" to Kinect and a 720p recording of your last thirty seconds in-game is saved to the hard drive. You can also get up to five minutes of footage but you have to plan ahead by snapping the Game DVR feature.

That 5 minute limit is a bane for some people though, and like the recording on the PS4, game DVR cannot record on the Home screen. Also, developers do have the choice to disable it at certain moments, in case they don't wont spoilers to pop up online.

Unlike the PS4, which keeps a running archive of your last fifteen minutes of gameplay, the Xbox One is not constantly recording. However, games can be programmed to automatically engage the DVR. Battlefield 4, for example, records when you rank up or earn an achievement.

Xbox One review

You can also share clips on Xbox Live where they will appear on in your activity feed. Those feeds are rather buried though, so chances are your friends won't see it unless you give them a heads up.

Upload Studio also has a simple suite of editing tools, and allows you to record a voice over commentary. You can even use Kinect recording to place yourself in the video, picture-in-picture style.

While the Xbox One currently has no built-in live streaming capabilities to match the PS4's Twitch and Ustream support, we think players will appreciate having direct access to their clips, which greatly extends the possibilities of editing and sharing.

Smartglass

Xbox One review

Smartglass is the Xbox's second screen experience. It was introduced on the Xbox 360 and lets you navigate menus and see system information on your tablet or smartphone.

The app is back for Xbox One, and does have improved functionality. You can now launch apps from the second screen, and several games now have companion apps. Dead Rising 3, for example, lets you use your device in lieu of the in-game phone for ordering attacks and calling for back. You can even view the in-game map.

The best service Smartglass provides is a keyboard that's easier than the console's on-screen option. It's a great way to read and respond to messages. You can also type in URLs and operate Bing search this way, which is an excellent way to multitask. You can also use the OneGuide on Smartglass for TV control.

The Windows 8 Smartglass app has its own special features. You can throw a browser page from the console directly onto the screen of your W8 device.

Also, its online requirement, which threatened to lock up the system without a daily server ping, has been dialed way, way down. Out of the box, your Xbox One will need to download a day one patch before you even arrive at the homescreen. After that, you can cut the ethernet cable or smash your router; there's no further online connectivity needed for single player gaming.

Tech Specs

Product TypeGaming Console
Hard Drive Capacity500 GB
Processor ManufacturerAMD
Graphics Controller ManufacturerATI
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeBlu-ray Disc Player
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
USBYes
HDMIYes
Product FamilyXbox One
Gaming Controller ConnectivityWireless
Maximum Resolution1920 x 1080
Brand NameMicrosoft
Input Device TypeGame Pad
Processor CoreOcta-core (8 Core)
Graphics Controller ModelRadeon
EthernetYes
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Graphics Processor Speed853 MHz
Online NetworkXbox LIVE
Channels7.1
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameXbox One Gaming Console
Processor Speed1.60 GHz
Processor TypeJaguar
Product LineXbox One
Manufacturer Part NumberXBOXONE
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.microsoft.co.uk
Marketing Information

Be amazed.

Welcome to a new generation of games and entertainment. Where games push the boundaries of realism. And television obeys your every command. Where listening to music while playing a game is a snap. And you can jump from TV to movies to music to a game in an instant. Where your experience is custom tailored to you. And the entertainment you love is all in one place. Welcome to the all-in-one, Xbox One.