Pros: Voice commands, controller, SmartGlass, application snapping, ease of use
Cons: Buggy, lack of software, missing AV features
The ability to perform voice commands is by far the best feature on the Xbox one. When you walk into my room and say "Xbox on!" it turns itself on, and can turn the TV and Receiver on as well. Then the Kinect recognizes your face and signs you into your account. When using the "Xbox select.." command, you can navigate the xbox menus without the use of the controller or hand gestures. When playing a game you have the ability to snap applications such as party chat with a simple voice command. With the same feature you are able to add people to the party chat, remove them, and mute the chat, etc. As per the voice commands, if you swear at the ref in FIFA 14, you will be reprimanded by your club. Also keep your potty mouth to yourself when on the field, or the red cards will come flying at you. NBA 2K14 has similar features, BF4 allows you to call in support with voice commands. As for the controller it is a slight improvement over the 360 controller. The analog sticks are comfortable and the redesign is most welcome. Bumpers and triggers are solid, and over all the build quality of the controller is superb. The Operating System interface is really easy to navigate, the layout is basic and makes a lot of sense. It is very hard to get lost in the menus. When signing in to the console by way of Kinect facial recognition it will recognize you in a completely dark room lit up only by the ambient light of the TV screen. The ventilation on the xbox this generation is a huge improvement over last, it runs really cool even when placed in an AV cabinet with front doors. Overall The hardware doesn't really heat up much. I guess Microsoft learned something from the previous generation. The application snap feature is handy, having two applications side by side really works on this console, and it doesn't distract or pull your attention from the gaming or watching a movie. This is especially useful when trying to start a Party Chat while in game. Xbox smart glass is a companion app for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It is completely free and works on Windows, iOS, and Android devices. You can use your smartphone or tablet to type in the text fields, when sending text based messages to your friends or entering your credit card information to make purchases. Most of us have smartphones and tablets so this naturally makes sense. This app is also a companion to some games such as Dead Rising 3, it enables extra features and in game content. It's an extension to the users video game experience and adds another level of interaction with the software, in some cases it is easier to type with the smartphone than using the on screen keyboard. Something no one is talking about, perhaps because they don't understand it, is the "server farm" Microsoft has stashed away for it's developers. I'm not talking about the Xbox Live military grade servers, I'm talking about the server that can offload some of the XBOs processing to the cloud. All of the rendering and computing does not need to be done locally anymore, and any non critical computing can be done on the servers and sent back to the system. In my opinion this has a lot of potential, and the systems processing power is no longer limited to the local hardware specs.
The Xbox One is not DLNA certified, unlike it's predecessor. This took me by surprise and is kind of anti next-gen for a device that wants to be the media centre hub of the living room and that calls itself next-gen. DLNA streaming is important to me, especially for my music library. One of the crowning features of the 360 was the ability to listen to your music library while playing games. Also, at the moment the games are not there, Dead Rising 3 looks like a 360 game. Forza 5 is full of micro transactions, $59.99 for a game and micro transactions on top of that seems a little excessive. It will take the developers a longer time to get familiar with the XBO dev kits than the PS4 dev kits. The XBO has specialized hardware, like the Kinect, the ESRAM, and the render server farm, whereas the PS4 is esentially an underpowered PC. Xbox 360 users and Xbox One users can not communicate properly over Xbox Live. If you're on the Xbox One you can not receiver voice messages as the XBO does not have this feature. Party Chat is not possible with 360 and XBO users either. The camera is unable to identify my face sometimes and as such it does not sign me in automatically into the system. I particularly noticed this when reclining in a bean bag chair on the floor. Perhaps the Kinect has a hard time recognizing the skeletal structure when in a reclined position. The lack of proper CEC integration is also surprising. The Xbox One uses some form of CEC an IR blaster to control the television and receiver, however this is not true CEC as one can not use the receivers or televisions remote to navigate the xbox menus.
The gesture based navigation needs a lot of work. It is one of the worst features to use on the XBO. I'd say it works properly 50% of the time. The audio is another problem, it cuts out in certain menus and even though the XBO set to PCM 5.1, sometimes the XBO decides to output DTS. Other times the XBO boost the volume by itself and then decides later that it is too loud and turns the volume down. There is no Bitstream option for the audio output either, and only Stereo, 5.1 PCM, 7.1 PCM, and DTS sound output options are available.This does not work, I would like the option to have the receiver do the audio decoding, specifically DTS HD MA or Dolby TrueHD. My home cinema would appreciate that. No 3D Blu-ray support yet either, for a system that is trying to take over the living room this is unacceptable. Despite the critics ramblings about 3D, it is here to stay, and consumers are slowly adopting said technology. There are other small glitches and hiccups when switching between menus and screens too. Sometimes the xbox goes all Ghost in the Machine on me, and starts launching applications and navigating software on it's own... Rise of the machines?
In conclusion this next-gen console launch was and is very underwhelming. The underwhelming part is mostly due to the fact that both Microsoft and Sony released beta products into the wild. But if I were to decide between the new Xbox or the new PlayStation, I'd pick the Xbox. Voice commands, gesture based browsing, a stunning 1080p camera, smart glass, server farm, skype and other app within app integration, superior controller, and system that shows promise providing the software comes out of Beta soon. There are a lot of bugs in the software, and a lot of features that need tweaking and revision, this is true for both Sony and Microsoft alike. But if the 360 was an indication of how MS functions, is that they listen to their community, and that their gaming system and it's software will evolve over time.
Features: Xbox Live offers an online gaming service that can not be rivaled by anyone, not PC, not Nintendo, not even Sony. This is really where the Xbox family shines, their online services. The social aspect of Xbox Live with users provides a nice new way of interacting with your friends list. The Xbox One is loaded with features as far as the social aspect is concerned, and with more on the way. Skype and Skydrive Onedrive integration is a welcome addition to the gaming system. The Kinect has a powerful high resolution camera which can be used for Skype calls or to sign in to an account via facial recognition. With an HDMI input one can run their PVR or Cable box through the Xbox One, and even control the PVR box, Television, and Receiver, via the Kinects powerful IR blaster. The voice commands are very comprehensive and give the user a new way of navigating the system, snapping applications, searching, adding users to game parties, changing channels, and even turning on and off entire AV systems. The hand gestures fail on the Xbox One for the most part. Despite the Kinect being able to recognize a skeletal structure, it is unable to distinguish between the predefined gestures and it quickly becomes a very frustrating experience.
Value: For $499 the value is somewhat underwhelming at the moment. The system lacks basic functionality and features that it's predecessor was capable of. The lack of of backwards compatibility is understandable, however the inability to communicate with users on the Xbox 360 via voice chat or voice messages is unacceptable. The lack of 3D Blu-ray support and DLNA server connectivity is also missing. For a device that aims to be the center of the living room it has a lot of growing up to do. Right now it is hardware lacking the software. But queue the incoming monthly updates.
Design: Physically it looks like a large VCR like box with a thick cable running to the Kinect 2 sensor which is also quite large, and a fairly sizable power adapter to boot. The system may be large but it does provide great ventilation and even in enclosed spaces it runs very cool, so one can understand why they opted for this design choice. The core system design is somewhat reminiscent of the NES, perhaps the Xbox gaming devision was feeling somewhat nostalgic during the design process. The controller is very comfortable and somewhat ergonomic, it is a pleasure to hold and hours of gaming should not be a problem with it. Microsoft opted to use WiFi direct for the communications technology in the controller, and the added speed and bandwidth should be welcome to any hardcore gamer. Also since all headset voice communications go through the controller, WiFi direct has more than enough bandwidth to provide clear and crisp voice communication.
The OS has a tile like structure, similar to what the Xbox 360 and Windows 8 Start menu offers. Each page or pane of the OS can be quickly switched by using the left and right bumper buttons of the controller. On the very left pane (Pins) are all the snapped, or rather pinned user applications. The center or main OS pane (Home) has a large central tile which shows the game or application that is currently being run. When the user is playing a game or running an application, pressing the Xbox button on the controller will bring them to this (Home) view. While navigating the OS, if there is no running application in teh background, the main tile shows an image of the last game or application that was run. Under and to the right of this main home tile are persistent applications. Some of these include the disc drive app, last app launched, installed Games&Apps, and other important apps. To the left of the main home tile, is the profile tile which allows access to the users account, friends list, followers, etc. Pressing the menu/options button while having the profile tile highlighted on the main pane will bring up a menu and one can gain access to the settings from here. To the right of this grouped collection of tiles on the Home pane are 3 random advertisements.
The right pane (Store), houses the Games, Apps, Television, Movies and Music that the Xbox Live service provides. All Game and Xbox Market place offerings and purchases can be made viewed here.
Video Quality: Video quality on the Blu-ray player has improved with the recent Xbox One update, the quality is great but not excellent. As for the video quality in games, most are currently either running 1080p @ 30 frames per second or 720p @ 60 frames per second. To be honest the 1080 vs 720 argument is a little tired. The Xbox One sports a superior video scaler that does a stand up job of upscaling the 720p resolution to 1080p resolution. The difference between the two is not noticeable unless you put it under a microscope. The detail and quality level in games such as Forza 5 and Ryse: Sone of Rome really shows of the Xbox One's capabilities, capabilities which can be achieved provided the developers utilize the systems resources properly.
Remote: Voice commands allow a user to turn the system on, off, and navigate menus with out the use of a physical control device. If voice commands are not your thing the Kinect has an IR receiver and any IR universal remote can be used.
Audio Quality: Your options are DTS, PCM 5.1, PCM 7.1, or Stereo. For a device that plays back Blu-ray not having a Bit Stream option is questionable. Other than the lack of Bit Stream the sound reproduction is excellent.