While I owned both a PS3 and a XBOX 360 last generation I definitely considered myself more of a fan of the 360 overall. Going into this generation I honestly wasn’t so sure how I felt about what Microsoft was offering up as it’s new entry into the console world. Truth be told my initial reaction was if I was only getting one console at launch that it was going to be the PS4. As time went on some circumstances worked in my favor and I was able to purchase a XBOX One at launch. The big question would of course be rather or not it was worth it. Something that is obviously a big factor as the holidays rapidly approach
Out of the Box
Those of you who purchased the 360 the out of the box contents is very similar. Included are one controller, the system itself, the Kinect 2.0, the power brick, and a very sturdy HDMI cable. In terms of durability, this has to be one of the best HDMI cables I’ve seen. You also get a headset that is very identical to the one that came boxed with the 360. You also should see a coupon good for two weeks worth of XBOX Live. As is the standard for non-bundle packs any games and extra controllers are sold separately, so be mindful again if this is bought as a Christmas present for someone.
While using the Kinect is entirely optional, if you chose to use it be aware that there is nothing packaged inside of the box that lets you know all of the commands. There is some walkthroughs the system itself has built into the dashboard but even they don’t cover everything. Microsoft and a few other sites have made the list of commands online though so if you plan on using the Kinect for some of the more advanced features it may be worth it to download the PDF file. In fact I think that’s probably the biggest thing I feel should have been included in the box, a manual that walks you through all the features. While the XBOX One certainly has a lot you can do with it, it feels that some of the features you are left to learn on the fly rather than have a detailed guide.
As is the norm for consoles nowadays the XBOX One does require a system update out of the box. Takes a couple of minutes depending on your internet speed. Setup in general is a breeze, simply follow the on screen prompts and leave the system sit idle while the update downloads. As is the case on the other systems, remember to be patient and do not power down during the update.
I will definitely say that the XBOX One’s User Interface isn’t my favorite thing about the system. It seems that in an effort to condense the dashboard screens down to three they have inadvertently made some options that were easy to find on the 360 a little trickier to locate. Looks wise it is very similar to what the 360 looked like but it seems that more content is put into less space making it appear more cluttered. I certainly won’t call it bad, but it feels like a step backwards from the sleekness of the 360 dashboard. The main thing you’ll notice is how much more difficult it is to access your friends list while in game. What used to be a simple button bush now requires a little more effort that includes going completely back to the dashboard and navigating through your friend activity feed. If there was one thing I felt like I’d like to see Microsoft clean up it would be this, which given their history of dashboard improvements I fully expect.
Of course one of the biggest features is the improved Kinect 2.0. Being about as indifferent as you can be to the original Kinect I have to admit that the new designs and overall improvements on the hardware are very nice. First off the Kinect itself is a lot lighter and smaller than its predecessor and seems far less out of place in your entertainment setup. I will suggest picking up a tv mount for the Kinect if you have a flat panel television. PDP makes a good one for $20 that is easy to install and doesn’t involve any type of tools or screwing something onto your t.v.; takes about 2 minutes to set it up. The voice controls on the Kinect is pretty in depth and can literally be used for absolutely any XBOX One command from powering the system on/off to launching games/apps. For me I primarily use it to power the system on/off and control Blu-Rays (yes Microsoft opted to include a blu-ray player this time). Being able to play,pause, rewind and fast forward a movie without having to weaken the charge on your controller is a huge plus for me. In instances like this it tends to actually be quicker to use the voice function over the controller as well. I’ve only briefly used the motion control portions of the Kinect but have already been able to see that it’s a lot more responsive than the original Kinect and won’t randomly lose track of where you are. Biggest example of this is the free XBOX Fitness app you can download (pretty fun if you are looking to add variety to your workouts) the game seems to read all your motions very clearly.
Also included on the XBOX One itself is an HDMI in port which allows you to run other devices through the XBOX One. Most notably this is designed to run your television through the device allowing for simultaneous gaming and t.v. viewing using the Snap function. For example if you wanted to have a football game play while you were in a game of Madden you could easily do so and instantly switch to the game on t.v. if a big play happened. While the Kinect can control every base function on your cable/satellite box it can not currently control your DVR so you’d still need to have your remote handy for those functions.
The Snap function could also apply to other apps and games. For instance I decided I wanted to listen to Pandora while playing Killer Instinct. While there isn’t currently a Pandora app for XBOX One you can still access it through the internet browser and Snap it that way. My only complaint in this scenario is that the ability to Snap things into the background doesn’t currently exist so doing so will sacrifice a portion of your screen. Still a pretty nifty thing for those wanting to multitask and the ability to unsnap via Kinect is pretty much instantaneous.
The XBOX One controller looks a lot like the 360 controller on the surface but has had a few overhauls. Both analogs are noticeably smaller and have better thumb grips added to the top. They also feel a lot tighter on the control while maintaining the same responsiveness. The biggest change that seems to divide people is the change into the bumpers and triggers. Both have been slightly repositioned and the bumpers are noticeably “less springy” which makes them feel a little awkward if you are used to using the 360 controller. A rumble feature has also been added directly into the triggers now and comes into play during certain parts of games. There is certainly an adjustment period because of these changes but overall I didn’t feel that things were so drastically different that it took more than a couple of sessions to get used to it.
XBOX Live functions the same as it always. If you have already purchased a membership through your XBOX 360 then that membership applies to your XBOX One as well. You can either purchase a 1-month, 3-month, or 12-month subscription with pricing at $10, $25, and $60, with the best overall value being the 12-month subscription. The two free games a month program that was available late in the 360’s life is also carrying over to the XBOX One though it won’t become available until sometime in 2014. A paid subscription is not required for online downloading but is required for playing games online and access to some Apps.
Speaking of apps, XBOX has always been pretty good about constantly adding apps and has already in a very short span doubled the amount of ones available. The usual suspects such as Amazon, ESPN, Hulu Plus, and Netflix are there but there is also an official NFL app that is a must for those trying to multitask through football season.
There are only a handful of arcade games available for download at the moment though that will drastically change in the months to come. Killer Instinct is available for free though the free version only allows you access to one character. Though I do highly recommend the XBOX Fitness app that I mentioned earlier. While it has content you can pay for there is some pretty solid free workouts from a variety of trainers and even more offered to those who are XBOX Gold Members.
If you are a fan of the XBOX consoles or have been thinking about getting one, then I have to say that the XBOX One is a BUY.
XBOX One gets a four out of five: GREAT.
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