Microsoft Xbox One Game Console Page 2

Which brings us to SmartGlass, Microsoft’s Windows 8/Windows Phone/iOS/Android app for controlling the Xbox One as well as experiencing second-screen content on your tablet or phone. SmartGlass can do things like show you an interactive map of the kingdoms of Westeros while you’re watching Game of Thrones. But it also makes for a fantastic remote—one that lets you quickly and easily navigate the console’s menus and settings as well as play games, browse content, and manipulate apps. Most important, it has a virtual keyboard that lets you input text for searches, though that feature unfortunately isn’t supported by apps that would benefit from it (such as Netflix and Amazon Instant). For most of my Xbox One control, I ended up happily using a combination of voice control and SmartGlass.

Whereas the Xbox 360 provided flexible DLNA capabilities for streaming media from a PC, NAS, or portable device, the One limits file sharing to Windows Media Player’s Play To feature. Using this, I was able to right-click a music or movie file on my computer to add it to a playlist of stuff I wanted to stream to the One. It kinda does suck that there’s no way to access a media server from within the One’s UI, although Microsoft has suggested that this feature could be added in the future.

Web browsing with the Xbox One is incredibly easy to do using voice commands. After launching Internet Explorer, you call out a keyword to search or a Website by name (such as “New York Times” or “The Onion”), and the browser will navigate to it. You can use voice commands to easily scroll up or down on a page, bookmark it to Favorites, or select a link by speaking a word that it contains—“Syria,” for example. As with other functions, Web browsing is most efficient via a combination of voice control and SmartGlass; the latter adds the benefit of being able to type in URLs using its onscreen keyboard and “throw” that info to the Internet Explorer app. I usually find using Web-related features on TVs to be a total drag; I’d rather just walk over to my computer. But I didn’t mind browsing with the One at all because it made the process seamless enough—especially when I used its multitasking-friendly Snap feature so I didn’t have to stop watching TV or playing a game.

Game Time
Having already lived with an Xbox 360, I found games designed for the new console to have a notably more sophisticated look and feel. Characters, objects, and environments were rendered with lots more detail, and there was more activity going on in backgrounds. When I launched Kinect Sports Rivals( the 360 version was one of my favorite titles for that platform), the play of light on the water as my jet ski careened across an aquatic track looked incredibly realistic. Same thing with Forza Motorsport 5 and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition—the level of detail in both games provided a strong sense of being in a “real” environment. I also got a chance to play a beta version of Titanfall, a Microsoft exclusive that, specifically, is intended to show off what the Xbox One can do. After a training session where I learned to do stuff like parkour and pilot giant robots, I was thrown into a battlefield scenario with mechanized adversaries attacking me from all angles. It was so intense that I had to stop playing the game or risk a cardiac incident.

Movie/Music Time
One reason I wanted to test the Xbox One was to check out how it would perform as a Blu-ray player. Turns out Microsoft did a great job on that front as well (see Test Bench). Reference Blu-rays and DVDs that I watched with the One all looked great. And video passthrough via the console’s HDMI input also showed no reduction in luminance or color detail.

When I played discs and streamed WAV files via WMP’s Play To feature, the sound quality was perfectly fine. And compared with the Xbox 360, which has such a loud fan that I couldn’t imagine ever using that console to play music, the One is extremely quiet. During CD playback, it retrieves cover art to make the experience both an audio and a visual one. Things get even better when you use Xbox Music: You browse the service’s extensive catalog of tracks using any of the remote control methods described above, building a collection and playlists by adding albums and tracks. It also has music videos, though the selection is limited, and there’s a radio feature that functions much in the same manner as similar features on Pandora, Spotify, Slacker, Rdio, and iTunes. When playing songs, Xbox Music serves up cover art and full-screen artist photos that it slowly zooms in on, an approach I found more visually engaging than the static graphics that Spotify uses in its otherwise excellent TV-based app.

Xbox Won?
Is the Xbox One worth getting? My gut reaction: “Hell, yeah!” Still, there are some points to consider. The main concern is that, at $499, the One is expensive compared with the PlayStation 4, a first-rate next-gen game console. And if your idea is to simply play games and watch movies, all the extra stuff that Microsoft piles into the One could very well be overkill. (The PS4’s features are limited to games and BD/DVD playback.)

I personally like playing Kinect games, but more serious gamers may not have any use for that apparatus—or for the voice and gesture control features that it enables. Also, given all the cool things that the One can do, it’s all the more frustrating when you butt your head up against something it can’t do—schedule a DVR recording, for example. Or recognize a voice command to tune to the Turner Classic Movies channel. (No matter how many times I tried, I could not get it to do this!)

Those grumbles aside, I’m very impressed by the Xbox One. If Microsoft really does want to take over the living room, this is a strong step forward. The One’s Smart features generally smoke what’s found in most Smart TVs, with voice control and SmartGlass integration in particular standing out. What’s more, the console’s Blu-ray performance is solid, games designed for it look hyperrealistic, and the Xbox Music service turns out to be surprisingly good. I don’t imagine that the Xbox One is the right solution for every living room, but it’s more than welcome in mine.

Editor’s Note: For another take on the Xbox One, see Barb Gonzalez’s content focused review.


jnemesh's picture

I apologize in advance to fans of MS or their consoles...but this is a TERRIBLE purchase with DEEPLY flawed design.

First, Kinect DOES NOT WORK 100% of the time! If you really want to repeat yourself over and over again, sure try the voice control. Users of Samsung's recent sets can also attest to how USELESS the voice control really is. Not to mention how much "fun" you will have when someone sees you watching TV or playing a game and randomly shouts "XBox Off!" just to annoy you. Good times!

Second. HDMI pass-through? Really? Not only does it degrade your picture and sound quality, but you STILL have to have a separate cable box! Where is the "Media Center Extender" functionality? Not here. (but present in the older Xbox 360) Why couldn't they actually make the Xbox One have a cablecard and work as a DVR? This is half baked technology here.

Third, IR control functionality is limited. No learning capability, not a complete IR set. Have an older or more obscure TV or surround sound processor? Forget about having it controlled by the XB1! No support either for adjusting delay times or other adjustments to macros...and most damning of all, no discrete codes for power on and power off! Say "Xbox On" when your TV is already on? TV turns OFF! FAIL!

Also, how do you award 5 stars to "Performance" when the less expensive Playstation 4 has BETTER PERFORMANCE!?!? The most damning thing about the Xbox One it is not as good as it's competition when performing what SHOULD be it's CORE FUNCTION...PLAYING GAMES! Argue about it all you want, but EVERY SINGLE GAME that has come out both for the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 has looked SIGNIFICANTLY better on the PS4!

I would avoid this box at all costs. It is not selling very well, and outside of exclusive titles that MS has to BUY, most developers are focusing on the PS4 this generation. "Multimedia" functionality can be replicated with a $35 Chromecast or a $99 Apple TV. STAY FAR AWAY.

notabadname's picture

So PS4 has no cable card either, where the XBox One has an HDMI pass thru and IR blaster that allows it to control your cable box by voice, and that makes the XBox worse? The system works, quite well actually, I own and use it, do you? And why is HDMI pass thru so bad? It is used in plenty of high-end receivers as well without issue. It isn't an analog signal that is going to suffer signal loss. Digital pass-thru either works or it doesn't generally. I see or hear zero defects by passing my HDMI thru my One.

The other internal components of the systems are really matched up perfectly, with only a negligible difference in RAM that is likely not noticeable between consoles due to how developers create multi-platform games such as "Call of Duty". (They are putting the same graphics resources and code into either version to simplify game development and ports to various platforms) - so if you think you are going to see some difference in a side-by-side comparison of the two consoles playing the same title, you are likely to be disappointed.

XBox currently has more streaming sources lined up, such as HBOGo, as well as their own material coming (much like Netflix and "House of Cards". The amazing Kinect (that can even monitor pulse as well as recognize all the users in the household for auto signin or tracking fitness in compatible games) is now optional if people hate it or want to pay the identical price as on a PS4 for the console minus the Kinect. And as a user posted below, the 3rd party hard drive compatibility is awesome - if you want to add a 4TB harddrive, you can next month on the One. Not with PS4, only their pricy proprietary drive is compatible to expand the console storage with.

So virtually identical core hardware, same price if you don't want a Kinect, more steaming options on the XBox, both pay-to-play live multiplayer now. They frankly sound quite equal at worst. Certainly no runaway lead by either, as you clearly seem to think. I really do wonder if you own an Xbox One? Seems unlikely based on your post. I do, since launch day, and I love it. All the features work, including voice commands. Oh and by the way, if you live in a household or environment were people would some in and say "Xbox Off" as a regular joke, you need to find a new residence. I have yet to have that happen in my home. The same pranksters could also throw the breaker that powers your entertainment, hit the "system off" button on your smart remote or randomly push power buttons as they walk by your equipment. Certainly having an home full of immature jerks is not best resolved by buying a PS4 instead of an XBox One.

Cos's picture

Really? Can you please submit this to the Video Games Forums where Fan Boy Bashing garbage posts like this belong.

notabadname's picture

I think I was pretty balanced about capabilities being well matched of the 2 consoles. I was not bashing, only countering some very slanted opinions by the OP.

Cos's picture

My apologies, it was for the first poster, and as can be seen below he continues his rant. It's unfortunate that people like that are on these review forums.

xgrifter's picture

Its $399 with out the kinect
The June update will allow the use of external Hard drives
There is a Plex app in the works

To the other commenter do you even own a xbox one

jnemesh's picture

Fanboy? No, NOTHING I said was inaccurate.

re HDMI pass through..You may not notice the degradation of picture and sound through the HDMI pass through, but it IS measurable.

Kinect? First of all, I would NEVER install a camera that is always on (it IS always on, unless you unplug it...things that are turned off in SOFTWARE can be turned ON in software!)...I would never install a camera that is always on in my bedroom or living room! Yes, I have a cell phone and tablet, neither of which have the camera facing me at all times. The NSA has ADMITTED that they were "looking into" tapping the Kinect, and it's been also confirmed that they monitor Skype. I don't invite the NSA into my home...they can pry, but I am not just going to give them the keys to my home!

Additionally, I don't have my equipment located near my TV. Even if I WANTED to use the (flawed, broken) Kinect, there is no possible way to locate my Xbox in the equipment rack and extend the PROPRIETARY connection to my TV location! So, I would either have to use TWO HDMI over cat5 extenders (expensive) or live without Kinect completely. If I am doing without Kinect, what advantage does the Xbox have over the PS4? None whatsoever. What advantage does a PS4 have over the Kinectless Xbox One? Better graphics, more powerful hardware, more games (google it if you don't believe me), and a better interface.

re PS4 not having cablecard. Unlike the Xbox One, the PS4 isn't attempting to take over your system, it's just a game has video apps, sure, but it has no pretentions of being the "One box" for everything.

Xbox vs. PS4 in GAMES...PS4 has a better GPU and faster RAM, end of story. REAL WORLD performance has the PS4 able to display most of it's games at 1080p and at high frame rates...almost all Xbox games are 720p (or 782p). If there is no difference, why do we all have 1080p sets instead of 720p sets? Sure, 720p looks good, but 1080p looks better! PS4 wins on hardware power HANDS DOWN, it's not a "subtle" difference in performance, it's something like 33% overall more powerful!

To xgrifter...why do I have to own the inferior product to know that it is indeed inferior? There are plenty of honest reviews and comparisons available online that tell me everything I need to know.