Viewing Review: An overall impressive machine with lots of potential. - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
An overall impressive machine with lots of potential. Edit
by ajones13 Combined Rating: 4.0
When the Xbox One was first announced, there seemed to be an overwhelming negative response. The announcement seemed to focus entirely on the One's ability to be a media player and incorporate...
Pros Cons
  • Voice feedback, when working, has a truly futuristic feel. Good game selection. Snap applications. Well designed controller. Xbox Live. Kinect
  • Voice feedback sometimes requires multiple attempts. No DLNA full support. No 3d blu ray playback. Gesture controls
When the Xbox One was first announced, there seemed to be an overwhelming negative response. The announcement seemed to focus entirely on the One's ability to be a media player and incorporate live tv functionality, and didn't spend much time talking about games. In addition, the console was forced to have an internet connection every 24 hours for DRM checks, as well as a requirement that all games would be installed on the hard drive for DRM purchases, effectively eliminating the ability to share, sell, and buy used games on the console. Another issue that was a cause for concern was that Microsoft decided to set a requirement of the Kinect sensor being connected for the console to operate. Soon after the announcement was made, due to the feedback, the DRM and Kinect policies, though some thought that the damage might be done.

I have spent 3 months with the console now, and I can safely say that the talk about Xbox One as a flop, may have been a bit premature. The first thing you will notice about the new Xbox is the Kinect. Unlike the Xbox 360, where the Kinect sensor was an add-on accessory, the Sensor is now included with every Xbox. Because of this, the interface of the new Xbox is very Kinect oriented. For everything you can do with the controller, there is a way to do it using voice commands, and it is usually quicker to do so. After telling the Xbox what kind of TV and AVR you have, the Xbox can do a variety of controls such as turning your equipment on and off and changing the volume. I rarely find myself reaching for the controller and instead find it easier to just say "Xbox Pause", or whatever the control may be. The Kinect also uses the camera to perform gesture controls, but at the moment, they seem more like an afterthought. Hopefully future updates will make this feature more useful. The Kinect, at set-up listens to your audio system and does a surprisingly good job at filtering the sound out to hear your voice commands, but the system isn't without its flaws. I have noticed, if there is a conversation going on in the room at any more than a modest volume, the Xbox has a hard time picking up what I am saying. This is somewhat surprising to me, given its accuracy in other situations. I can easily pause music while 30 feet away in the kitchen around the corner and it picks up my commands with no problem. When the voice commands work, the effect is also science fiction like, but when it fails to pick up your voice, it completely breaks the spell.

As far as the game selection goes at launch, in my opinion, the Xbox was clearly the winner between the two next-gen systems of 2013. Forza 5 is a beautifully detailed racing game, that add's features like Drivatar, that lets you compete with your friends, even if they are not online at the moment. Dead rising 3 was a highly entertaining game, that, while not as detailed as some of the other games, made up for it in sheer scale. The amount of zombies rendered within the game truly shows off the power of the hardware. Ryse: Son of Rome is, in my opinion, the best looking game from the next gen consoles so far. It has a short, and somewhat repetitive campaign, but the game is absolutely gorgeous and it's gladiator mode is hours of fun, with several arena choices and plenty of upgrades available to keep gamers interested.

The Xbox One, from the start positioned itself as a media hub for the living room. The console features an HDMI-In connection in the back that allows you to connect a set top box for live tv pass-through. The live tv performs very well in my experience, and adds voice controls for commands such as changing channels. The Kinect controls all of your devices by a built in IR blaster as has a port in the back of the console for an IR extender if needed. The One also has a feature called OneGuide, which basically acts as a tv guide for all of your media. It shows you your current live tv guide just as your set top box does, but also lets you create channels for apps, so you can quickly jump into your favorite tv show on Netflix, or access a photo album you have saved on OneDrive. This is also the first Xbox to feature a Blu Ray drive, which is a necessity to consider the Xbox as an all in one media device as Microsoft intended. The Blu Ray player performs well from a visual standpoint. Audio is where Microsoft needs to make it's improvements. The audio options out of the box for surround sound are 5.1 uncompressed (PCM), 7.1 uncompressed (PCM), and DTS. The Xbox currently does not support Dolby Digital at launch. Also, the optical port only supports stereo sound at the moment, and does not support 3rd party headsets at launch. This has all been addressed as problems that will be fixed in an update, but it is slightly annoying that we have to wait.

Another feature of the Xbox One, that Microsoft has expanded on from the 360, is Smartglass. Smartglass is an app that you download on your phone or tablet that gives you another way to control your Xbox One. It lets you control things like Audio, or play or pause a show. On a tablet, it also lets you control the OneGuide which is a nice addition. It also lets you view your friends list, achievements, and game clips, as well as letting you send messages when you are away from your Xbox. Another feature it has, but hasn't been used much so far is a second screen experience for games. Dead Rising made the most use out of this feature and gave you options like an in game map, as well as calling in backup, and gaining additional missions. Tom Clancy's: The Division has already showcased a second screen experience using connect, that will allow gamers to pilot drones during battle to spot enemies and call in attacks which will earn you additional achievements.

Some things I love about the Xbox One. The snap feature is great and gets a lot of use in my household. When playing a game, I can snap tv on the side, or snap the music player to control my music. When I am watching a movie and want to look up an actors name, I can snap internet explorer on the side of the screen and browse to IMDB. The only problem I have with it right now is that you have to have the music app snapped to listen to music while playing games. This is a problem because it makes your game smaller to share the screen with the snap app. Another thing I love is the facial recognition. It is very cool to just sit down on the couch and be signed in to Xbox Live. After a minute or so set up at friends houses, you can also be signed in to their consoles as well when you go to their house. The controller is a big plus for me as well. The Xbox 360 controller was my favorite controller design of all time, and the One controller took an already great design and made it better. The buttons are slightly closer together which makes button smashing sessions of Killer Instinct much more comfortable. The battery pack has also been removed from the back, which should help those of us with bigger hands hold the controller more comfortably. The main change to the controller is the triggers. The triggers now have rumble packs in them to provide haptic feedback during games. A few examples of how its used are for example in Forza, when you skid out of control, or rev the engine, your triggers vibrate to give you a more immersive experience, or in Dead Rising 3, the triggers vibrate as you pull the trigger once you are low on ammo to let you know without even having to look at the screen.

Things I hope to see fixed. The lack of 3d Blu Rays, which limits it as an all in one device for people who enjoy the format as well as it's limitations with audio. The Xbox also lacks full DLNA support, and instead uses Microsoft's Play To format and currently cannot accept media off of external hard drives. The party system has a lot of problems. For instance, one time I was in a party playing NBA 2K14 and my friends were all playing Battlefield. I decided to change games to Dead Rising and for no reason, the Xbox moved all my friends to dead rising and quit their game. To be fair, Microsoft has already stated that this will be patched in March, so it will not be a problem for long. A small annoyance is a lack of voice control while in a blu ray menu, which requires use of the controller.

Overall, The Xbox One is a great machine that performs well as a game console, as well as a media player. Some features are missing that would make a truly must buy, but that is generally the case for game consoles as they are first released. This console has a lot of potential and given the long life cycle of game consoles, and the great games slated for the next few years, the next generation of gaming is off to a great start.
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