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Microsoft Xbox One, The Full Review
Date: Nov 19, 2013
Author: Marco Chiappetta
Introduction and Specifications

The Xbox One is more than just a game console. We know that may be blatantly obvious to many of you, but we want to drive that point home from the get-go. The gaming, home entertainment, and mobile/computing industries are vastly different than they were when the previous-gen Xbox 360 launched in late 2005. Since then, there’s been unprecedented intermingling and consolidation across these markets and Microsoft took it all into consideration in the design of the Xbox One.

Of course, the Xbox One plays games—really well, actually. With its updated hardware, more refined controllers, new Kinect sensor, and a wealth of developer support, the Xbox One is an excellent gaming platform. But Microsoft’s incorporation of a hypervisor that allows the Xbox One to run the Xbox OS and Windows 8 kernel simultaneously opens up a world of additional possibilities. Couple the new hardware, innovative software implementation, and capabilities of the included Kinect sensor and you’ve got a device that’s equally as adept at running a cutting edge game as it is playing back HD video, browsing the web, or video conferencing.

Xbox One with Kinect Sensor and Wireless Controller
The Xbox One with Kinect Sensor and Wireless Controller

In some ways, the Xbox One is like a small form factor Windows PC, that also happens to run a close-to-the-metal gaming OS. While there’s plenty to talk about today, it’s clear that Microsoft will evolve the Xbox One over time and that the device you’ll all be able to buy in a few days, won’t be the same next week, next month, or even next year, at least in terms of its features and capabilities. If the last-gen is any indicator, however, the Xbox One’s hardware specifications shouldn’t change all that much for quite a while. Check out our hands-on coverage of Microsoft's cutting-edge console below in our quick-hit video review, then dig in with us for a deep dive look at the Xbox One on the pages ahead.

Microsoft Xbox One
Specifications & Features

CPU 8 Core AMD semi-custom APU
  Frequency: 1.75 GHz CPU
GPU 768 Cores (GCN Architecture)
  Frequency: 853 MHz GPU
RAM 8GB DDR3 + 32MB eSRAM embedded memory
Flash Storage 8GB Flash Memory
Bulk Storage 500 GB Internal HDD, External HD Support
Optical Drive Blu-Ray (DVD compatible)
USB USB 3.0 (2 x Back, 1 x Side)
Network Controllers Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Support 802.11 (A/B/G/N dual-band at 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
Game DVR Yes, Upload Studio
HDCP Encryption Yes (Not for games)
Second Screen SmartGlass App on Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Windows 8
Cloud Storage Yes, Skydrive
Internet Connection Required No (Yes for on-line play)
Used Game Fee None
Live Streaming Yes, With Twitch.TV
Backwards Compatible w/ 360 No
Chat Capabilities Skype, Party Chat
Motion Controller Kinect 2
Voice Commands Yes (w/ Kinect)
Subscription Services Xbox Live
Inputs/Outputs HDMI input and output (w/ 4K support)
API  Xbox API / DirectX 11.x
Pricing MSRP $499

The Xbox One's specifications read somewhat like a mainstream PC. At the heart of the Xbox One is an AMD-built, semi-custom APU (Accelerated Processing Unit), featuring 8 low-power "Jaguar" x86-64 CPU cores clocked at up to 1.75GHz and a GCN-based GPU with 768 stream processors, clocked at 853MHz. The APU also features a 32MB eSRAM cache. All told, the chip, which is built on TSMC’s 28nm process node, is comprised of roughly 5B transistors and has a die size of approximately 363mm2. Though it leverages many technologies employed in AMD’s PC-centric products, make no mistake, the APU in the Xbox One is unlike anything you could put in a PC today.

The APU is paired to 8GB of DDR3-2133 memory and the storage subsystem features 8GB of flash memory, a 500GB hard disk drive for game installs and bulk storage, and a slot-loading Blu-Ray drive. The Xbox One also sports a trio of USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band 2.4GHz + 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and a dedicated audio off-load processor.

In a way, the Xbox One is returning to its roots. If you remember, way back in 2001, the original Xbox featured a Pentium III-class central processor with NVIDIA graphics. The Xbox 360 was a complete departure from the original, however, and featured a PowerPC-based triple-core CPU with custom ATI Xenos graphics processor. With the Xbox One, x86 is back, though the hardware is far more powerful than its predecessors.

Xbox One Retail Packaging
Xbox One Retail Packaging

If you’re one of the lucky folks to have pre-ordered an Xbox One, you’ll be receiving one of two editions this coming Friday, November 22—which incidentally is exactly 8 years since the Xbox 360 was released, to the day. The two versions shipping this week are the “Day One” edition, which will be going out to early pre-order customers, and the “standard” edition, for those that jumped on the bandwagon a little later.

Both of the editions include the Xbox One console itself, a Kinect sensor, a chat headset, a power supply, a category 2 HDMI 1.4 cable, and various pieces of documentation like a quick start guide and user’s manual. There is also a single wireless controller included in each package, though the “Day One” edition’s controller it outfitted with a chrome D-Pad and is emblazoned with “Day One 2013”; the standard edition has a regular wireless controller. The “Day One” edition will also include a "digital achievement," though it’s not exactly clear what the digital achievement is at the moment.

The Xbox One Hardware

The Xbox One has a much boxier, more angular design than the Xbox 360. In terms of its actual footprint, however, the Xbox One is not much larger than an Xbox 360 Slim. There is no confusing the two consoles though; the Xbox One has flatter surfaces, glossy accents, sharper angles, larger vents, and a look that is all its own.

Xbox One, From The Front
The Xbox One, From The Front

The front of the Xbox One is simplistic and utilitarian. It’s completely flat, with a matte finish on the left and a glossy finish on the right. The left side houses the console’s slot-loading Blu-ray drive—which will also play standard DVDs, but not 3D Blu-Ray movies—and on the right, the Xbox logo acts as a touch-sensitive power button.

Xbox One Has Flat Surface, Vents, And Sharp Angles All Around
The Xbox One Has Flat Surface, Vents, And Sharp Angles All Around

Swing around  the sides and you’ll also find additional perfectly flat surfaces. The top section on the right is devoid of any markings, while the bottom section is vented to allow air into the console, and beveled at the front. We should point out that there are dust filters on the inlets, so the inside of the Xbox One should stay relatively clean over time. You’ll need to clean the filters occasionally, though. The right side of the console is devoid of any features, other than the vents, while the left side houses one of the unit’s USB 3.0 ports.

The top of the unit is also somewhat two-tone, like the rest. Again, it’s completely flat, with a glossy finish on the left side and a giant row of vents on the right. It’s right under these vents where the APU cooler is mounted. The cooling fan is just barely visible if you look down into the Xbox One and tilt your head at just the right angle.

Xbox One's Rear Port Cluster
The Xbox One's Rear Port Cluster

Around the back of the Xbox One, however, there is a lot to see. There is yet another long vent that runs along the top edge, and just below it reside the rest of the Xbox One’s various input and outputs. From left to right you’ll find a two-pronged power connector, an HDMI output, an S/PDIF output, an HDMI input (for the TV pass-thru), two USB 3.0 ports, the custom Kinect Sensor connector, an IR blaster output, and an Ethernet port. The Xbox One can be hard-wired to a network, but as we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s got Wi-Fi built in as well.

New Xbox One Kinect Sensor
The New Xbox One Kinect Sensor

The angular design cues and mix of glossy and flat finishes from the Xbox One console itself carry over to the new Kinect sensor too. Unlike the original Kinect, this new sensor does not have a motorized base and it does not move to track users throughout the room. It has a pivot adjustment, but once it’s positioned, it’s meant to stay in one spot. In fact, if you move the Kinect Sensor, Microsoft recommends re-calibrating the voice controls on the Xbox One. We found that even moving it a few feet makes a big difference, so consider the recalibration a necessity if you move the sensor, not an option.

On the left side of the Kinect Sensor is the device’s wide-angle, 1080p camera. And on the right is an Xbox logo that lights up when the unit is powered on. In the center, behind the translucent, glossy surface is an array of IR (infra-red) transmitters and receivers, which work in conjunction with the camera to track movement and also blast IR signals throughout the room to control your cable box or track the game controllers. Along the bottom edge of the Kinect Sensor is an array of noise-isolating microphones which do a decent job catching voice inputs, even when there’s plenty of noise in the room—like, while gaming.

Xbox One Controller
The Xbox One's New Controllers Feel Great In The Hand

The new controllers for the Xbox One look very much like the controllers for the Xbox 360, but there are many refinements under the hood. The general shape is similar, though the finish is much nicer on the Xbox One controller and it stands up very well to the smudges and muck that can build up during heated gaming sessions. The joysticks are very responsive and feature knurled edges for better grip. The buttons are solid and offer excellent tactile feedback, and the controllers are well balanced too. There is no longer a large bulge on the bottom for the battery pack (at least when using alkalines) and the general fit and finish is of high quality. The right and left triggers also offer haptic feedback now, so it’s not just the palm grips that shake and vibrate in-game. In Forza 5, for example, the triggers respond like gas and brake pedals and provide different levels of feedback depending on your speed, the terrain, etc.

Setup, Noise, and Power Consumption

Setting up the Xbox One could not be any easier. Microsoft has done a good job with the setup-wizards and the physical connections are as simple as can be, thanks to HDMI. Despite its myriad of capabilities, you can go from a sealed box to a working console in a matter of minutes, not counting the download times that will be necessary to update the console the first time it connects to the web.

Assuming you want to use the Xbox One’s TV pass-thru feature, connecting up the console requires little more than attaching and HDMI cable from the Xbox One’s output to an input on your TV (or receiver) and attaching a second HDMI cable from the output on you cable/set-top box to the HDMI input on the Xbox. You’ll then need to connect power (obviously) and plug-in the Kinect sensor, which uses only a single cable. The only other optional cable to connect would be an Ethernet cable if you want the console hard-wired to your network, otherwise it’s got WiFi if you prefer to use a wireless network connection.

After all of the physical connections are made, simply power up the console and follow the on-screen wizard to create an account or sign-in with an existing Microsoft account and technically you’re ready to go. You can customize your avatar or gamertag photo as well if you so choose, but it’s not a necessity. If you’re using the TV pass-thru, you’ll have to run through another wizard the first time you run the TV app, but it’s quick and easy too. You simply enter your zip code, pick your cable provider, and select your brand of TV, and that’s it. The Xbox will try a few IR codes to make sure the IR blaster is correctly controlling your TV and set-top box and then you're done.

We should point out that he Kinect sensor DOES NOT have to be in line-of-sight with your set-top box for the IR blaster function to work (watch the video on page one to see how our setup was configured). Because the Kinect is powered, it can transmit a much wider and stronger IR signal than a handheld remote control. As such, the reflections throughout the room should allow the Xbox One to control things even when they're not very close to each other. In our setup, we found the IR blaster to work well, though it was a little slow selecting high number channels. Check out the video on page one of this article to see what we mean.

Inside The Xbox One
Inside The Xbox One

Much has been said about the Xbox 360, the thermal issues of early revisions of the console, and the dreaded Red Ring of Death that could crop up as a result. As such, there have been concerns that the much more powerful Xbox One may run hot and loud, but we can say that is absolutely NOT the case. Discs spinning in the Xbox One produce more noise than the system’s cooling fan, and the relatively large heatsink/fan mounted to the custom 8-core AMD APU is more than capable of cooling the chip. Remember, the Xbox One’s APU is based on AMD’s low-power Jaguar core, and it’s clocked at only 1.75GHz (with an 853MHz GPU). Roughly equivalent chips of that type on the PC side fit in thin and light laptops, which would have coolers a fraction of the size of the Xbox One’s thermal solution.

Heat and noise are of no concern on the Xbox One, but to quantify power consumption we whipped out the ol' trusty power meter to see just how much juice the Xbox One would use under various conditions.

We monitored the Xbox One’s power consumption with the device in standby (off, but monitoring the Kinect sensor for the “Xbox On” command), while idling with the Kinect Sensor unplugged and the TV dimmed, while sitting at the dashboard not running any apps, while running a game but sitting idle at the game's main menu, and finally while gaming with Killer Instinct.

As you can see, the Xbox One uses only a single watt of power when sitting in standby. If you want to use the Xbox One’s voice controls to power it up as soon as you walk into a room, you can do so without fear that the device is using a lot of power.

Power shoots way up from there, however. While on, but idle, the Xbox One used 53 watts of power. While sitting at the dashboard with the Kinect enabled, the Xbox One’s power consumption jumped up to 69 watts, while sitting at an in-game menu, it hit 86 watts, and then while actually gaming, power consumption went up to 103 watts. All told, the system is not a power hog, but idle power seems high, even in comparison to a relatively high-end PC. For example, a Haswell-based Core i7-4770K powered rig will idle in the mid-30 watt range, though that's with integrated graphics.  Remember, though, this is power consumption for the Xbox One and the Kinect sensor combined.

We put together the image above to show just how the Xbox One's power consumption translates into heat production. We fired up a game of Ryse: Son of Rome (which is probably the most visually taxing of the system's launch titles) and played the game for about 20 - 25 minutes. While the game was still running, we then used a Mastercool IR Thermometer to sample temperatures from various points around the Xbox One. Room temperature during this test was about 66°F.

As the image shows, the only parts of the Xbox One that heat up significantly are the areas immediately surrounding its APU. The warmest point was directly above the APU, which peaked at 106°F (41.1°C).

Xbox One Dashboard and Apps

The Xbox One’s dashboard seems like somewhat of a cross between the Xbox 360’s and Windows 8. It is essentially comprised of nothing but tiles; to the left of the main menu (Home) users are able to pin the shortcuts for their favorite apps and games. The Home screen will show an array of featured items and most recently used items, as well as a preview for any app or game that’s paused in the background, and at the far right are the various stores where users can procure content.

Xbox One Dashboard
The Xbox One's Dashboard Can Be Customized With Different Pins and Colors

Navigating through the dashboard can be done using a controller or with voice controls or gestures courtesy of the Kinect. Simply saying “Xbox” will show an overlay with app-names and/or a list of voice commands that are available. Right from the Home screen, users can check to see who’s logged in, see notifications or friend activity, see which disc is in the Xbox One’s drive, snap an app, or launch anything in the recent activity list.

Scroll left and your pins are immediate available. Scroll right and the Games, Movies & TV, Music, and Apps stores are listed, as well as a search field for Bing.

Expect The Xbox One's App Store To Grow Quickly In The Coming Months

As of launch day, there will be an array of digital-only games available for download in the game store (more on this later), and the app store will offer a decent assortment of apps as well. The list of available apps includes: Netflix, NFL, ESPN, Amazon Instant Video, Machinima, Hulu Plus, FOX NOW, FXNOW, Vudu, Crackle, Redbox Instant by Verizon, TED, Xbox Video, Xbox Music, and SkyDrive. We expect the Xbox One’s app store to grow significantly over time, especially since the console is running the Windows 8 kernel alongside the Xbox OS. Many current Windows 8 apps are likely to migrate over to the Xbox One, once Kinect and proper “snapping” support is worked into the app and it passes qualification, of course.

Internet Explorer Running On The Xbox One

Although we weren’t able to try every app in the store with our pre-release hardware (and software), we did spend some time browsing the web with Internet Explorer, video-chatting with Skype, and bouncing between them, other apps, the dashboard, and games. All told, the Xbox One feels snappy and responsive when running its native apps and it handled multi-tasking very well. With that said, voice control is not perfect yet, should you want to snap an application or return home, especially when there’s background noise. We found that it’s best to pause for a moment between commands. For example, if you're watching TV through the TV app, saying “Xbox”, then waiting just a moment to ensure the console is ready to accept a command, and then saying “Snap Internet Explorer”, you’ll have the most success. if you rapid-fire a bunch of voice commands, within an noisy room, the Xbox One is likely to miss a few.

The Xbox One also has the ability to record in-game action upon the user’s request, with its build-it Game DVR function. While in game, simply say “Xbox – Record That” and the Xbox One will capture the last 30 seconds of action. The Game DVR app can also be snapped to the screen and pre-configured to record up to 5 minutes of in-game action. Clips can be saved to your SkyDrive, for easy sharing later, or users can leverage Microsoft’s Upload service to share them out right away. Upload Studio can also be used to add themes to the videos and do some basic video editing.

We should also mention that keeping the console on for hours on end, jumping between multiple games and apps, video conferencing, etc., doesn’t seem to have any negative effects on the Xbox One's overall performance. Whether the machine was just powered up or running for the whole night, it remained snappy and responsive.

Kinect Performance and Features

The original Kinect was a huge success for Microsoft and proved to be as versatile as it was useful, even for applications not even remotely connected to gaming. The number of research projects spurred on by the original Kinect sensor was impressive to say the least. And the new Kinect sensor included with the Xbox One is better in a number of ways.

Gestures Available On The Xbox One With Kinect
Gestures Available On The Xbox One With Kinect

As we mentioned earlier, the new Kinect sensor does not have any motors or moving parts. The 1080p camera in the device has a wide field of view and has active infra-red sensors, which essentially enable the Kinect to see in the dark. The new Kinect sensor also features a faster, more accurate time-of-flight camera, which vastly reduces motion blur. Time-of-flight cameras act somewhat like range-finders, and can resolve distance based on light measurements. The ToF camera in the new Kinect has a shutter speed of 14ms, which is a big improvement over the original’s 65ms.

Kinect 2.0 also has a more accurate Microphone array, with better noise isolation.

In practice, we found the new Kinect sensor to react to gestures and motions much faster and more accurately than the original Kinect. Simply reaching your hand out and “grabbing” something on-screen is infinitely better on the Xbox One than it was on the Xbox 360. There is simply no comparison.

Voice Commands Available On The Xbox One With Kinect
A List Of Voice Commands Available On The Xbox One With Kinect

The Kinect 2.0 enables a wide array of system commands, which can be invoked via voice control. The chart above lists all of the commands available, which include simple things like powering the Xbox One on or off, launching or snapping apps, invoking the Game DVR function, and simple navigation (scrolling up, down, etc.). There are also app-specific voice controls for things like Skype and the TV app, and we presume as new apps are released for the Xbox One, they too will offer similar controls.

Gaming On Xbox One

At its core, the Xbox One was designed to be a game console. As such, we’ve had high hopes for the Xbox One’s gaming prowess, ever since Microsoft first announced the console back in May.

For the last week or so, we’ve been tooling around with our Xbox One, playing an assortment of games, which included Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, Killer Instinct, Zoo Tycoon, LocoCycle, and Powerstar Golf. There are, however, quite a few other titles arriving with the Xbox One in a few days. The full list of titles arriving with the Xbox One include:
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Digital, Disc)
  • Battlefield 4 (Digital, Disc)
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts (Digital, Disc)
  • Crimson Dragon (Digital Only)
  • Dead Rising 3 (Digital Only)
  • FIFA 14 (Digital, Disc)
  • Fighter Within (Digital, Disc)
  • Forza Motorsport 5 (Digital, Disc)
  • Just Dance 14 (Digital, Disc)
  • Killer Instinct (Digital Only)
  • Lego: Marvel Super Heroes (Digital, Disc)
  • LocoCycle (Digital, Disc)
  • Madden NFL 25 (Digital, Disc)
  • NBA 2K14 (Digital, Disc)
  • NBA Live 14 (Digital Disc)
  • Need for Speed: Rivals (Digital, Disc)
  • Powerstar Golf (Digital Only)
  • Ryse: Son of Rome (Digital, Disc)
  • Skylanders: Swap Force
  • Xbox Fitness (Digital, Disc)
  • Zoo Tycoon (Digital, Disc)
  • Zumba Fitness: World Party (Digital, Disc)
Note that some of the titles will be available only as digital downloads, while others will also be offered on disc. This is an important consideration, if you're the type that likes to sell or trade old / used games.
Before we get to our experiences with a few of the games we played, we want to point out some of the associated behaviors with gaming on the Xbox One. When downloading or installing a game from disc, for example, we found that virtually every title was playable before the installation was complete. Forza Motorsport 5 was playable once the installation hit the 15% mark. Ryse, however, wasn’t playable until the installation hit the 50% mark. We’re not sure of the exact percentages for each title, but wanted to point this out should those of you that pre-ordered the Xbox One witness similar behavior. Don’t walk away should an installation be taking longer than you’d like—you’ll probably get to play the game sooner than you think.

With that said, we also found load times to be somewhat long for most games, though we’re not ready to draw and conclusions about that since our Xbox One (and a few of the games) were continually receiving updates over the last few days. Microsoft and its software partners are still tweaking code, and likely will be right up until the last second before launch.

Of the games we did have a chance to play, Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome were easily the most impressive. 

Forza Motorsport 5 on the Xbox One

Unfortunately, due to embargoes that remain in place on these two titles, we’re not able to show you any new game assets or discuss the story lines and game play. We felt compelled to show some previously released video footage here, however, to help drive home how good these games looked.

Ryse: Son Of Rome On The Xbox One 

Keep in mind, we’re PC gamers here at HotHardware, and we have access to some killer hardware. A decked out PC, connected to a high res screen (or screens), is able to produce visuals that exceed the capabilities of either of the “next-gen” consoles. There is no denying that fact. With that said, the attention to detail, fidelity, and graphics and animation quality of Forza 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome were still jaw-droppingly excellent. Really, the videos posted here do not do the games justice. Ryse in particular sucked us in like few games have done before. The story telling, voice acting, graphics, and fun factor are awesome.

Gaming On Xbox One (Cont.)

We may not have been allowed to reveal any new details regarding Forza Motorsport 5 or Ryse: Son of Rome, but as we’ve mentioned, we also got our hands on Dead Rising 3, Killer Instinct, Zoo Tycoon, LocoCycle, and Powerstar Golf.

LocoCycle is exactly like its name suggests. You drive a funky motorcycle that acts a little crazy. In the very beginning of the game, you’re actually being dragged by the cycle, and have to steer your way though some wild obstacles, while mowing down others for bonus points. While the game was fun in short spurts, we didn’t feel like LocoCycle really showcased the Xbox One’s capabilities.

We felt Zoo Tycoon and Powerstar Golf fell into a similar category. Both games ran and played perfectly well, but the graphics and mechanics in both games weren’t indicative of what the Xbox One can really showcase in our opinion. With that said, if you’re a fan of golf games, Powerstar Golf will likely rank high on your list. The controls in the game are easy to get a hang of, the graphics are decent, and the game is challenging, without being overly difficult. Much of the same can be said about Zoo Tycoon. If you like the Tycoon titles, Zoo Tycoon may be up your alley. It’s just not a title you’d use to show off your Xbox One.

Killer Instinct In Action

Killer Instinct, however, will likely get tons of playtime and be a staple among early Xbox One owner. If you’re unfamiliar with the Killer Instinct series, it’s a fighting game in the same vein as the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series, but with a much more “colorful” cast of characters and completely over-the-top combos. Though we found the graphical-style to be a little cartoony and brightly colored (fighting games should be grittier in our opinion), Killer Instinct is definitely fun and offers up some fast and furious action on the Xbox One.

Dead Rising 3 (Xbox One Exclusive Launch Title)

Dead Rising 3 is another winner in our book. The whole zombie apocalypse thing is getting a little old at this point, but the sheer variety of weapons and attacks in Dead Rising 3 and the world itself make for a really fun game. The voice acting is also very good and the storyline unfolds like Hollywood movie. If you’re a fan of survival / horror games, and like to be startled from time to time, you’ll probably get a kick out of Dead Rising 3.

Xbox One In-Game Imagery

We’re sure many of you are most interested in how the Xbox One’s games look and play. With that in mid, we quickly captured some in-game action and screenshots using an Avermedia Game Capture HD II device. (Note: this could have been done with the Xbox One’s built-in Game DVR function, but the ability to share the Game DVR’s clips to SkyDrive wasn’t enabled until late in the review process.)

Killer Instinct:

Click To Enlarge

Dead Rising 3:

Click To Enlarge

Loco Cycle:

Crimson Dragon:

Click to Enlarge

Powerstar Golf:

Click To Enlarge

Zoo Tycoon:

Click To Enlarge

As good as some of this may look, we want to re-iterate that Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome are the best looking Xbox One titles in our opinion, at least in the small group of titles we were able to play. Unfortunately, due to embargos that are still in place, we’re not permitted to post new assets for those games.

Our Summary and Conclusion

The arrival of the Xbox One, and its chief rival the PlayStation 4, are important on a number of different levels. For starters, even though the PC is considered by many (myself included) to be the premiere gaming platform, game consoles drive much of the industry. The fact that the previous generation of consoles are roughly 8 years old at this point has held back many game developers—or more specifically, game-engine developers—from releasing true, next-gen engines, simply because the mass market hardware just wasn’t out there to drive them. With the arrival of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, however, expect to see more cutting edge games arrive in the not-too-distant future, that push the envelope in terms of their graphics fidelity. Because the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are both powered by x86 APUs, it should also be easier to port titles over to the PC. The new consoles may be getting the lion’s share of buzz as of late, but rest assured their arrival is a good thing for PC gaming.

Xbox One's New Controllers Are Among The Best We've Used To Date
The Xbox One's New Controllers Are Among The Best We've Used
Find Microsoft's Xbox One At Amazon

A lot still has to unfold until we can fully digest everything the Xbox One has to offer, but our initial impressions of the device are very good. Aesthetically, the Xbox One will probably be somewhat divisive; you’ll either love or hate the mix of glossy and matte finishes and the sharp, angular lines. The hardware itself seems well made though, and Microsoft has clearly paid attention to detail. The new Xbox One controllers in particular should please most console gamers. Many of the updates and refinements to the controller are subtle, but they ultimately offer a better overall experience in our opinion.

The new Kinect sensor is also a clear upgrade over the previous generation. Video quality, responsiveness, and the ability to discern voice commands in noisy environments have all been improved. With that said, there were still a number occasions where we found ourselves repeating commands, because they weren’t picked up on the first try. This is an area that will likely be continually refined over time, however.

The Xbox One games we got to play were expectedly a mix of bold and bland. The hottest titles like Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, and Killer Instinct are likely to sell a ton of consoles. They simply look good, play well and will provide lots of fun. Ryse and Forza in particular look incredible in our opinion. Yes, you can technically produce higher-quality frames on a gaming PC, but these two games still impressed us. If you have the ability to go play Ryse or Forza live, please do so, and report back in the comments. We want your opinion as well.

It’s not all sunshine and roses for the Xbox One, though. Technically speaking, the PlayStation 4 features more powerful hardware, including a beefier GPU and a unified memory architecture that offers more bandwidth. Sony’s wunderkind is also off to a roaring start, reportedly selling 1M units in its first day of availability. Microsoft owned the last-gen console war in terms of sales, but early missteps, a higher initial price tag of $499 MSRP, and fierce competition from Sony could spell trouble in the long run for Redmond. No matter what, Microsoft is going to sell a boatload of Xbox Ones, but whether or not it turns out to be the leader its predecessor was remains to be seen.

What Microsoft has on its side is a growing mobile ecosystem, a huge existing user-base of devoted Xbox fans, and dominance on the desktop. That’s a lot of technology the company can leverage, which will allow to Microsoft to offer unique synergies and experiences across many devices, that no one else can. There is still lots of work to be done on the software side (the SmartGlass App for Xbox One just became available as we were writing this, for example), but the foundation is there for some really cool stuff. Regardless of whether or not Microsoft pulls it all off in the long run, the Xbox One is here today and it’s an impressive piece of gaming and entertainment gear. We may have access to all of the latest cutting edge PC technology around here, but we’ll be glued to this Xbox One for a while, and that’s saying something.

  • Great Controllers
  • Kinect 2.0
  • Multitasking
  • HDMI Pass-Thru w/ TV Control
  • Some Great Games
  • Voice Commands
  • Some Launch Titles
  • Fledgling App Store


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