Xbox One Hands-On: The Only Review You Need to Read

Xbox One All-in-One Demo with Yusuf Mehdi and Marc WhittenMarc Whitten and Yusuf Mehdi walk through a comprehensive demo of Xbox One, including instant switching, biometric sign-in, Live TV, Skype, game DVR, OneGuide and more.2013-11-08T11:00:10.000Z

Microsoft’s legacy in the video game spectrum is…well, legendary.

The original Xbox’s innovations (Xbox Live, the introduction of Halo) are still relevant factors in the world of video games. The successor to that console (the Xbox 360) improved upon everything that gamers appreciated about its predecessor. Xbox Live Arcade, indie games, TV/movie streaming apps, party chat, etc. are just a slew of the add-on’s that increased the massive fanbase that trumpeted the Xbox brand’s superiority.

November 22, 2013 marks another era in Microsoft’s Xbox venture and tenure. So much has happened (both helpful and harmful) to Microsoft’s next-gen console and its public perception. After spending countless hours with the next evolution in Xbox’s brand of gaming, I came away with some final thoughts on the Xbox One.

Do you need to race out and immediately pick up an Xbox One? Or should you hold off until the console makes some drastic improvements to its operating software and collection of video games?

Let me answer that question for you all…

The Design

Xbox One

The Xbox One’s shape and overall outside architecture shine. The console adopts the look of your average cable box/DVR, which some may frown upon at first glance. However, when you place it alongside your myriad of other home entertainment collection, you’ll grow to appreciate the Xbox One’s somewhat low key presentation.

The console’s dark finish, combined with the more noticeable Xbox symbol on its power button, still presents it as a showpiece item that’s hard to ignore. The smooth outlining of the console makes it a victim of visible dust and fingerprints, so you may want to keep your grubby mitts off it as much as possible. Dust that baby off from time to time, too.

Once the console is up and running, you’ll come to love the fact that it runs without making much (or any) noise at all. Inserting games/DVDs/Blu-Ray’s into the disc drive may elicit a notification sound or two, but once you start playing you won’t have to deal with a super noisy fan. Those late-night online gaming runs shouldn’t disturb a soul when you use the Xbox One.

The Controller

Xbox One Controller

The Xbox One’s main gamepad is most certainly the best version of all the controllers offered on past Xbox systems. Everything about it, from the altered analog sticks to the rear bumper buttons, improve the overall gaming experience. Gamers let the world know how much they despised the directional pad on the Xbox/Xbox 360 controllers. Microsoft listened and provided the Xbox One controller with a directional pad that’s akin to the one seen and felt on the old SNES.

The analog sticks make the process of holding and keeping a steady grip on them an easier one. The buttons that are littered on the top portion of the controller are situated much better, plus the Xbox One’s home button has a much better placing this time around. The biggest addition to the existing controller design is the impulse triggers. The vibrations and feedback you’ll feel from racing around tight corners or shield bashing some poor sap’s head in makes playing games feel more immersive.

The switch from Select/Start to View/Menu buttons is a noticeable change up as well. The View button is great for interacting with apps, while the Menu button pauses gameplay and signs-in/out of profiles. In a nutshell, the Xbox One controller gets high praise from this reviewer.

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The Kinect 2.0

Xbox One Kinect

Gamers weren’t exactly infatuated with the first iteration of the Kinect motion camera. The lack of worthwhile games for hardcore gamers made the Kinect more of a novelty act than something that truly added to the Xbox 360 experience. Its spotty motion detection physics also hurt the Kinect’s marketability and staying power. The Kinect 2.0 changes things immensely and makes a better case for its staying power and major connection to the Xbox One.

This HD camera does a much better job of tracking your body movement. Interacting with your Home Screen feels similar to the actions you perform on your smartphone. The Kinect 2.0 recognizes your hand movements when you grip the sides of an app window, tap on a menu item, or even when you grip a picture when you want to zoom in/out. The motion capabilities of the Kinect 2.0 play a bigger role in how you’ll use your Home screen and everything included with it.

Signing in by sitting in front of the Kinect 2.0 and having it recognize/greet you will never get old. Up to six people can be signed in at one time, so the Kinect 2.0 immediately recognizes who’s playing every time someone new steps in front of it. This feature works like a charm every time. The act of downloading games and Xbox Live currency becomes less of a chore now that you can use the Kinect 2.0 to scan the AR codes on the back of DLC cards. No need to enter that 25-digit code if you don’t want to.

The voice commands do an admirable job at times. Turning on the Xbox One by simply saying “Xbox on” is always fun to perform in front of your interested guests. There’s a ton of voice commands that the Kinect 2.0 can pick up on. Signing in/out, turning up/down the volume, recording gameplay footage, browsing Bing/Internet Explorer, etc. by using your voice works most of the time. There were instances where I had to voice a command two or three times, though. At the moment, the voice commands work just fine but they could perform so much better with a future update.

The Dashboard/UI

Xbox One

Are you familiar with how Windows 8 feels and looks? The use of tiles and their representation of the games/apps on your console should be familiar to those who’ve operated on the Windows 8 OS.

The Xbox One’s dashboard does a much better job of splitting up the many sections you’ll come across. Your Gamertag ID/profile photo can be seen in the top left portion of the screen, along with your notification messages. The Pins section is the leftmost page, which is the personalized grouping of your favorite apps. The Home screen, which lies in the center, keeps track of your overall GamerTag info and your most recent usage of games/apps. And the self-explanatory Home screen on the right has four distinct storefronts – Games, Movies & TV, Music, and Apps. The streamlined dashboard and the easier to navigate Microsoft Store are big improvements in my eyes.

Xbox One

Moving between apps feels fast, so there’s not a lot of waiting as far as loading goes. Hitting the Xbox One’s Home button on your controller takes you out of whatever you’re doing, but manages to pause the action and let you navigate your dashboard without much delay. Pausing your game, proceeding to take a Skype call, and returning to your current play session is just one of the many instances possible through the Xbox One’s easy to utilize UI.

The main web browser on deck for the Xbox One is Internet Explorer, which performs better than expected. Loading web pages and scrolling through them works a million times better than the IE compatibility on the Xbox 360. The Bing search engine comes improved with vocal recognition action through the Kinect 2.0, which makes the act of locating a movie with a specific actor a simpler task. The Xbox One’s dashboard/UI feels, looks, and performs well.

Head to the next page to check out the Xbox One’s games, friends list/achievements/challenges, apps, and more!