It’s been over a week now since Microsoft and Sony released their next generation gaming consoles. So far the two companies have been doing quite well in sales, consumers of both companies have been quick to embrace their gaming system of choice. Personally I chose the Xbox One and what follows is my review.
Now before I get into the review, it is important to note the reason I chose to go with the Xbox One over Sony’s PlayStation 4. When it comes to choosing a new gaming system, there are a number of factors that influence a consumers decision to purchase one gaming system over the other. Marketing, hardware specifications, game titles, peer advisement, and functionality all play a part in most consumers decision.
For me it was all about functionality, after all, if I was going to shell out a few hundred dollars on a new device I wanted to know what it was going to do for me. If I was basing my decision just off of hardware specifications alone I would have chosen the PlayStation 4, but I wasn’t.
What about exclusive games? Flip a coin. Both systems have launched with a relatively small number of exclusive games. In this case, I wasn’t tied to either one in regards to launch titles.
I wanted something that could do a little more than just play games. For me the Xbox One offered a richer integrated media experience. Having the ability to integrate my cable box, audio receiver and TV into my game console was a major contributor to my decision. To others that may not be a big deal, but to me having to independently control yet another device is something I didn’t want to do.
Whats in the box?
The first thing that you see when you open the box is the familiar Kinect sensor. Slightly larger and a little heavier than its earlier predecessor, the device comes with every new Xbox One. This also contributes to the $100 dollar price difference between the two consoles. At first I was a bit skeptical about being forced to buy something that I would most likely never use. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I actually used it more often than I thought.
Next up was the headset. It is an enhanced version of the set you saw in the Xbox 360. Microsoft has improved the audio quality, but most gamers will probably find themselves using a third-party headset.
The controller was packaged next. At first glance you will notice its similarities to the Xbox 360’s controller, but after you pick it up you will notice the difference. It fits in the hands more comfortably than the previous controller, Microsoft made some adjustments on the shape. The battery pack is also flush with the controller. In addition, you will notice that left and right thumb sticks have been coated with a new texture that allows for a better grip. I found that somewhat subtle detail, to be quite helpful after playing a game for a while and having sweaty hands. Microsoft also added impulse triggers. These triggers allow for localized force vibrations, this makes a games experience even more in-depth. The controller has a faster response time as well. The Xbox One can connect to up to eight controllers simultaneously.
The box also contains a 4K HDMI cable. It’s basically just a standard HDMI cable that is compatible with the Ultra HD 4K wave of TV’s. Really, its nothing special. This was followed by some paperwork that no one reads. However, I did find my self referencing the quick setup guide. The power cord, power brick, and the console were next.
The console design is pretty standard and goes along with the PC theme that both consoles have embraced this year. Its rectangle shape ironically reminded me of my home theater PC (HTPC) It is not that heavy, but its slick black look will match perfectly with most people’s other media equipment. Oddly enough to some the color is a big deal, having the system match their other equipment is a plus.
The front showcases the slot-loading Blu-ray drive, as well as the illuminating Xbox logo. On the side you have a USB 3.0 port (not the most ideal spot if you have it in a cabinet), as well as a binding button. The binding button is used to connect extra wireless controllers. On the back is where you can find all the peripheral ports. From left to right you have the power cord connector, followed by the HDMI out to TV port, next is the optical audio out, HDMI In from SAT/CABLE, and two more USB 3.0 ports. Next up is the Kinect port followed by the IR out and a Gigabit Ethernet port.
As for the guts, it sports a 500 GB hard drive, an eight core AMD 1.6GHz processor on an x86 architecture, and wireless network connectivity. Going into detail on the hardware specification of the Xbox One is beyond the scope of this review, but it does fall a little short of the PS4 in this area.
Like most gaming consoles the setup is not that complicated, however now that the Xbox One has some new bells and whistles there are some things you need to configure.
When you first power on the Xbox One you will find that the boot time is a little longer than the previous Xbox. After the device boots you are presented with a video from Microsoft showcasing the controller. From there you select your geological location, wireless network, and the system is patched and restarted.
After the reboot you are presented with time zone settings and the system asks you if you want to set up the Kinect. While you can skip this part I recommend that you do it now so that you can get used to the voice controls. The Kinect video sensor will find you in the room and ask if it its you. It performs some audio tests that check your background noise, speaker volume and lastly it calibrates your microphone. Overall I found the Kinect set-up process to be quick and painless.
Now its time to set-up your Microsoft account. You pick a color theme for your Xbox, as well as how you want to sign in. Its worth noting that here you have the option to sign in with the Kinect, this makes the Xbox recognize you and auto sign in. This is a feature that I really liked.
From the account set-up screen you are greeted with a commercial from Microsoft showcasing the Xbox One and its features. Now you are ready to play.
The first thing I wanted to do was to make sure that I could integrate the Xbox One in with the rest of my equipment. So I navigated over to the TV app and was prompted to start the set-up. The on-screen instructions made it easy to set-up my cable box, TV, and audio receiver. I was pleased to be able to voice command the Xbox to turn off and on all of my devices at one time. However, I did find that when it came to using the voice commands with OneGuide it was not very smooth. So I find myself utilizing the controller most of the time to navigate through the channels.
So what about playing games? After all this is supposed to be a gaming console. I picked up Ryse: Son of Rome an exclusive Xbox One launch title. While I wont be going into depth about this game here (review coming soon), I did want to mention that this is one of the best third person action-adventure games I have played. I enjoyed the Kinect integration that the game had to offer as well.
Perhaps one of the most important points to note when playing games on the Xbox One is the installation times. Both the Xbox One and PS4 require all games to be installed from the disc, this is due to the increased size of games and the limitation of optical disc speeds. The Xbox One can be painfully slow when it comes to game installations, and compared to the PS4 its down right embarrassing. Yes, both consoles allow you to launch the game while it’s installing, but if you are the impatient type you better grab yourself a cup of coffee when installing games on the Xbox One.
With that said, after I installed Ryse: Son of Rome I was pleasantly surprised to see that the loading times were very quick. Interestingly, some testing suggest that even though the install times may be longer on the Xbox One the game loading times are slightly quicker on the Xbox One. Ether way I was just happy to finally play the game.
Needless to say, I was quite impressed by the graphics; while playing games I often found myself looking around at the scenery admiring the details. While some may argue that the graphics may not be leaps and bounds ahead of the Xbox 360, I was still fascinated with the attention to detail that the developers put into the games. It’s definitely an upgrade from the previous generations graphics.
The Xbox One also has a feature called SmartGlass which allows you to use your mobile device to control your Xbox. The app is available on Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android and iOS so you are bound to have at least one device around the house that you can use. In addition, this mobile extension of the Xbox is embedded into some games as well. For instance, in Dead Rising 3 your character finds a cell phone, and with SmartGlass your real mobile device becomes that device. In-game calls, maps and even calling in commands are all routed through your mobile device. While Microsoft introduced SmartGlass on the Xbox 360, it was barely used, and in most cases when it was used, it was nothing more than opening up a web page on your mobile device. Microsoft has greatly enhanced this feature to make it worthwhile. I see good things to come with SmartGlass.
The Xbox One is a solid gaming console. To most people the console will be more than suffice for their entertainment/gaming needs. The Kinect adds a nice touch to the overall experience, but it’s not 100 percent accurate yet. I’m sure over time, Microsoft will continue to fine tune this innovative feature, but for now it could be a bit more accurate. The Xbox One is able to satisfy gaming needs while still providing a rich multimedia experience.
The Xbox One will steadily appeal to Xbox loyalists, while still building a new base of consumers that want something extra with their gaming consoles. The Xbox One succeeds in being more than just as gaming console with its extensive media features.