The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten higher with age

Engadget is re-reviewing the present era of recreation consoles, every of which has benefited from main firmware updates, worth drops and an improved choice of video games. We’re kicking off this collection by revisiting the Xbox One. Although we have modified our minds on some issues and raised the rating to eighty four, you possibly can nonetheless discover our unique assessment right here, for those who’re curious to learn what we stated at launch.

The Xbox One is the product of two totally different Microsofts. The console debuted in 2013 following a disastrous six-month-lengthy PR marketing campaign that finally led to then–Xbox head Don Mattrick leaving the corporate. Initially Microsoft stated that the Xbox One would require an web connection even for single-participant, retailer-purchased video games. The corporate backpedaled on that forward of the console’s launch, cobbling collectively bits of code to make sure that video games performed at launch. Even then, the Xbox One arrived with a large day-one patch.

Months of incremental publish-launch updates added Twitch streaming, a controller battery-life indicator, customized wallpapers, get together chat and a few a lot-wanted UI enhancements. The most important modifications, although, have come since Phil Spencer assumed Mattrick’s previous place. The Kinect sensor is not a requirement for the system, neither is Microsoft packaging it with each console bought. Due to that, the Xbox One is now priced decrease than its most blatant rival, the PlayStation four: $299 with an included recreation and 500GB exhausting drive. At launch it value $500 with simply the 500GB console, a controller and Kinect within the field.

Gallery: The Xbox One revisited | 28 Photographs

Engadget Rating
Poor

Uninspiring

Good

Wonderful

Key

from $299+

eighty four

Execs
  • Home windows 10 makes the console extra responsive and simpler to navigate
  • Most backward-suitable Xbox 360 video games run properly on Xbox One
  • Now prices lower than the PlayStation four
Cons
  • Kinect voice instructions nonetheless don’t work reliably
  • Navigating the console stays sluggish in comparison with the PS4
  • Nonetheless lacking options from the Xbox 360 like system-broad recreation defaults

Abstract

Within the two and a half years because the Xbox One first got here out, it’s grow to be a basically higher product, because of final yr’s Home windows 10 replace which made the UI quicker and simpler to make use of. That stated, the console continues to be saddled with numerous quirks it’s had since day one.

Spencer’s focus is on video games — an about-face from Mattrick’s “providers and leisure first” strategy. Notably, Microsoft discovered success in January 2015 when it debuted the forthcoming Home windows 10 replace that introduced Xbox One–to–PC recreation streaming, improved velocity and backward compatibility. That rolled out final fall, however should you poke across the Xbox One among at this time, there are nonetheless some skeletons from the console’s previous lurking within the corners.

Hardware

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

Except for Kinect not being a requirement, nothing has modified concerning the Xbox One’s hardware. Till a attainable mid-cycle hardware refresh occurs, the system nonetheless has HDMI enter and output sockets on the again, an awkwardly positioned USB three.zero port on the left (plus two extra on the again), gigabit Ethernet and a Kinect-particular USB enter.

Design-clever, it is nonetheless an enormous, black field, however now you will get it in several recreation-themed colours if that is your factor. There at the moment are fashions with 1TB onerous disks (and even hybrid arduous/strong-state drives), however all of them value greater than the usual 500GB configuration, starting from to $four hundred to $500. And with help for USB three.zero exterior HDDs, it is nonetheless extra economical to go the 500GB route than for an Xbox One with extra inner storage.

Stepping as much as the $500 Elite console with the 1TB hybrid drive has a unique sort of profit, although: It consists of Microsoft’s superior Xbox One Elite controller within the field. Whereas the gamepad that got here with the console at launch suffered from sharp edges, stiff shoulder buttons and a usually unfinished really feel, the Elite is an enchancment in each means.

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

For starters, it sports activities a rubberized grip on the underside, a regular three.55mm headphone jack for headsets and voice chat microphones, gentle-contact end and better high quality thumbsticks. It is modular, too, supporting interchangeable thumbsticks, management levers and directional pads.

You may also remap almost every part on the controller (save for the “menu” and “choices” buttons) to customise the gamepad even additional. Within the run-as much as launch, Microsoft promised that we would see totally different controller configurations on a per-recreation foundation from builders, however there have not been any new ones launched but past the preliminary providing.

So is it well worth the $one hundred fifty premium? That is dependent upon your priorities. However for somebody like me who felt the unique pack-in controller felt low cost and unfinished, it is a smart funding — particularly if the Xbox One is your console of selection.

UI

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

Probably the most seen change to the Xbox One is its consumer interface. The Home windows eight tiles that made up the console’s dashboard at launch have given option to a extra streamlined expertise that is simpler to make use of and quicker than what got here earlier than it. The great factor with Home windows 10 is that the huge window that dominates the house display and shortly will get you again to no matter you have been doing beforehand hasn’t been altered only for the sake of change.

Gallery: Home windows 10 on Xbox One | 29 Pictures

However the alterations we have seen are extremely welcome. Beforehand, it felt like utilizing a controller to navigate the system was an afterthought in favor of utilizing Kinect voice instructions. Widespread options and duties have been hidden beneath layers of unintuitive menus, however that is totally different now: Navigating with a gamepad feels completely pure.

Maybe the most important change is what occurs whenever you scroll left from the house display. Doing so brings up the fast-entry menu launched in final yr’s software program replace, which is populated with the buddies record, get together chat, achievements, messages, notifications, system settings and, on the very backside, app snapping.

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

I can’t overstate how massive a change that is. Accessing any of those options beforehand meant exiting out of no matter recreation or app you have been utilizing to do one thing easy like ship a good friend request or verify how shut you have been to incomes an achievement. Otherwise you’d need to snap your chosen app onto the suitable aspect of the display, leading to a smaller window for the sport you have been enjoying. It was clunky, time-consuming and ugly. Fortunately, that is gone now, and the brand new fast-entry menu works properly.

What’s odd is that it is out there provided that you pull to the left from the very prime of the house display. Making an attempt to entry it after scrolling down one panel to the 4 most up-to-date apps used, or from the redesigned space for pinned video games and apps, does not do something. Nevertheless, double-tapping the information button on the Xbox One gamepad brings it up wherever you are inside the dashboard or in a recreation. It is not instantaneous, nevertheless it’s nonetheless fairly fast.

Social

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

Greater than earlier generations of consoles, the present crop are all about being social, whether or not within the type of sharing in-recreation screenshots to Twitter and Fb or broadcasting your gameplay by way of Twitch. Even for those who’re not leaping into multiplayer, interacting with others is an enormous a part of console gaming nowadays. The Xbox One handles this in a number of alternative ways. To the correct of the house display resides the group tab, which was additionally launched as a part of final yr’s Home windows 10 replace. It is a feed that exhibits your and your mates’ current actions, together with achievements unlocked plus screenshots and movies shared. It is elegantly designed and straightforward to make use of.

Maybe most necessary, the multimedia content material within the river masses shortly, which inspires truly testing that clip of your buddy nailing six kills with out dying in Halo 5: Guardians. You’ll be able to simply re-share one thing that you’ve got seen, too. That stated, importing a screenshot or video clip when you’re in-recreation is one other matter completely. Double-tapping the information button brings up the fast-entry menu after a slight delay. Press the “Y” button to seize a nonetheless or “X” to document video. In contrast to on the PlayStation four, you possibly can seize solely gameplay, not menus or anything. After you get your screenshot, you must open the Recreation DVR app, hover over the content material you need to share after which press the menu button to open up the choices for the picture.

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

The Xbox One’s screenshot library interface.

From there you’ll be able to select to share it to the exercise feed, profile, Twitter or OneDrive or as a message to a good friend. You will discover that the most important social community on the planet, Fb, is not a share vacation spot for some purpose. A Microsoft spokesperson tells Engadget that the corporate is working to repair that, however did not specify when which may occur. As soon as you’ve got shared, it’s a must to manually exit the DVR and return to the sport. It is also extremely irritating you could’t share to multiple platform at a time.

Examine that with the PlayStation four, the place importing a screenshot to Twitter or Fb (however not each concurrently) takes all of 5 button presses, and you then’re mechanically transported again to no matter you have been doing previous to hitting the controller’s share button.

Utilizing the Add Studio app for chopping shareable video clips is fairly painless, a minimum of. However once more, sharing immediately from the app the place one thing was created is not potential and requires one other journey again to the Recreation DVR, sifting by means of a number of menus after which lastly importing it to whichever platform you select.

Twitch

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

The magnificence of the Xbox One’s Twitch app is spectacular, and it is also simpler to make use of than Chromecasting from Android or iOS. The primary points of interest (video and chat) reside on a broadcast’s major display, with channel information, previous broadcasts, highlights and choices to comply with the streamer all off to the best.

Broadcasting from the system works fairly properly, too, although you are caught with the sluggish legacy app-snapping function for starting a stream. It is not superb, however you’ll be able to at the very least disguise the Twitch app and keep your present broadcast with none onscreen muddle. For a fast stream with a number of buddies it really works, however basing your fledgling broadcasting profession round it is not the most effective concept. Apart from, likelihood is, should you’re critical about streaming, you are already utilizing exterior strategies to take action (e.g., a seize card and PC software program).

Kinect

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

When the Xbox One launched, the second-gen Kinect was touted as a big enchancment over the unique. It was additionally important to utilizing the console itself. However ever since Microsoft determined that the sensor would not be required to make use of the system, the Kinect has turn out to be increasingly more irrelevant.

Almost the whole lot the sensor does can now be executed with a number of button presses. And whereas the voice recognition continues to be temperamental, button presses imply every little thing works the primary time, each time. The Kinect was purported to be probably the most pure solution to conduct Skype calls, flip the console on (“Xbox: On”), seize a screenshot or video clip (“Xbox: Report that”) or snap an app (“Xbox: Snap Twitch. No, snap Twitch. Xbox: Snap Twitch. Xbox: Are you even listening?”).

Greater than two years since launch, nevertheless, saying “Xbox: On” nonetheless does not activate the console on the primary attempt. Even when my condominium is lifeless quiet and I say it in a loud, forceful voice, the Xbox One will nonetheless typically refuse to energy up.

It is irritating, and most of the time I do not use the voice instructions, apart from “Xbox: Use a code” to redeem a downloadable merchandise. Ya know, as a result of saying the identical factor time and again to my console makes me really feel fairly foolish — even once I’m alone in my condo. Maybe when the Cortana digital assistant makes its option to the Xbox One the state of affairs will change, however for now I am completely satisfied to stay with what works.

Backward compatibility

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

By far the most important change because the Xbox One got here out — when it comes to truly, you already know, enjoying video games — is the arrival of backward compatibility. Within the run-as much as the console’s launch, Don Mattrick infamously stated, “In case you’re backwards suitable, you are actually backwards.” Quick-ahead to June 2015, when Phil Spencer decreed that over one hundred fan-requested Xbox 360 video games can be playable on the Xbox One by yr’s finish. The newest console replace even permits you to purchase backward-suitable Xbox 360 video games proper from the Xbox One’s market.

That stated, you possibly can’t simply put your properly-beloved copy of Murderer’s Creed II within the One’s slot-loading Blu-ray drive and begin enjoying off the disc. As an alternative, that solely begins the method, as a result of the previous video games depend on software program emulation to play on the Xbox One. After inserting the disc, you will need to obtain a free backward-compatibility replace, which is actually a barely modified model of the sport designed to run on the newer hardware. Need entry to your previous saved information? Hopefully you had automated cloud saves activated in your 360; if not, I hope you continue to have the console round so you possibly can manually add your development knowledge after which obtain it to the Xbox One.

It is from a seamless expertise. The Xbox 360’s interface for transfers is not nice, and importing a bunch of previous saved knowledge directly is a sluggish-going course of even with a speedy web connection. However as soon as it is arrange, it really works as promised. Grabbing screenshots, making video clips and broadcasting by way of Twitch works with no hitch — however because it’s software program emulation, the standard of the expertise varies on a recreation-by-recreation foundation. Murderer’s Creed II runs nice, as does South Park: The Stick of Fact, however the Gears of Conflict aspect story, Judgment, and Halo: Attain endure from slowdown points that would render the video games unplayable for some.

Video games

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

The excellent news is that for all of the console’s modifications, the Xbox One nonetheless performs video games fairly nicely. Putting in every part to a 500GB HDD stays a ache, however there’s help for exterior drives now, which renders that grievance principally moot. Armchair pundits love griping each time a multi-platform recreation comes out and runs at a decrease native decision on the Xbox One versus PS4, however until you’ve got each variations operating aspect by aspect, it may be troublesome to inform the distinction. Positive, there are edge-case situations, however I have never seen any situations of video games being unplayable. Actually, the extra recreation builders work with the Xbox One and familiarize themselves with the hardware, the higher the efficiency might be.

In reality, shopping for a multi-platform title on Xbox One is turning into an attractive worth, as a result of publishers are packing in free variations of earlier video games for upcoming sequels. Bethesda Softworks did it with a backward-suitable Fallout three for Fallout four consumers, and Ubisoft did one thing comparable with its Rainbow Six: Vegas collection for Rainbow Six: Siege gamers final fall.

Recreation choice

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

Quantum Break from developer Treatment Leisure.

When it comes to unique video games, the Xbox One continues to be lagging behind the competitors. Whereas the Forza racing collection stays superior, like so most of the different video games you possibly can play solely on Xbox One, up so far they’re principally sequels to lengthy-operating franchises that, whereas greater and prettier, aren’t something you have not seen earlier than. That would change this yr, nevertheless, with Microsoft’s new concentrate on really unique, unique video games like Sea of Thieves, from Uncommon, and Quantum Break, from Treatment Leisure. Solely time will inform, although.

Microsoft’s contentious angle towards indie recreation builders beneath Don Mattrick continues to be hurting the corporate to today. Each the Xbox One and PS4 supply free video games to obtain each month as a bonus for subscribing to Xbox Reside Gold and PlayStation+, respectively. The distinction is the choice: Microsoft’s “Video games with Gold” was a reactionary providing to PS+ video games, and Redmond nonetheless cannot fairly match the standard or consistency of free titles that PS+ subscribers get. Indies are an enormous a part of that three-free-video games per-month technique on PS4, and whereas they could already be out on PC, they’re nonetheless new for people who do not personal a gaming rig.

Xbox PC app

One other a part of the Home windows 10 expertise on Xbox One which wasn’t out there at launch is the power to stream video games from the console to a PC. I am not precisely positive who the audience is right here, however as long as your Xbox One and PC are on the identical community, the setup is straightforward. In fact, streaming does not look fairly nearly as good as operating a recreation off the console itself (compression artifacts aren’t unusual), but when somebody’s hogging the TV in the lounge and you’ve got an itch to play Sundown Overdrive, there is a answer.

It is value noting, although, that if the TV hog in your family is utilizing the Xbox for Netflix or HDMI passthrough, recreation streaming is not potential. On the flip aspect, Microsoft promised final July that it’ll quickly be potential to stream PC video games to the Xbox One, with full help for mouse and keyboard controls. When that may truly occur is anybody’s guess.

TV

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

Pre-Spencer, there was all the time some extent throughout Microsoft’s E3 press conferences the place the speak would go from the subsequent Halo or big recreation announcement to leisure choices and providers. Whether or not it was introducing the now-defunct Xbox Leisure Studios or issues like Xbox Health, it by no means did not suck all the thrill out of USC’s Galen Middle, the place the briefings are held. That manifested in the course of the Xbox One’s debut on Microsoft’s Redmond campus, too, the place a majority of the time was spent speaking concerning the console’s goal to switch your set-prime field — not your ageing Xbox 360. If the brand new “video games, video games, video games” strategy from Spencer, together with consumer tweets and web remark sections, are any indication, that path to regulate your TV’s fundamental HDMI enter was a failure.

The Xbox One’s huge TV drawback: It isn’t a DVR (cable and antenna DVR help is at present in testing), and it will probably’t speak to at least one to seek out recordings, set one up or play them. And that is most of what I want a information to do. That makes it principally ineffective for cable TV subscribers. For twine-cutters, a Sling TV app, a TV tuner add-on and help for streaming video from different units have all did not make the Xbox One right into a alternative in your cable or satellite tv for pc field.

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

One factor that is higher now’s the preliminary setup. An replace alongside the best way added some help for HDMI-CEC, which suggests the Xbox One can acknowledge a number of the TVs or packing containers it is related to and cargo the IR codes for them routinely. Sadly, precise management continues to be potential solely by way of the IR-blasting Kinect. One other welcome change is that final yr’s Home windows 10 replace ushered in a quicker, simpler-to-use OneGuide with higher image-in-image and a full-display information that makes good use of your TV’s display actual property.

In any other case, with the ability to flip channels or pause a video with out looking for a distant is nice … when it really works. And, you understand, when Kinect is not getting confused by sounds from the tv itself. The opposite nice function is the power to take heed to TV by way of headphones. It means plugging them right into a controller, which is somewhat worse than the Bluetooth choice now out there by way of Apple TV, however on Xbox One I can use it for late-night time cable TV or Blu-ray watching with out waking anybody up.

Microsoft’s concentrate on Xbox One TV options has shrunk because the console’s poorly acquired reveal at E3 2013, which makes it appear unlikely that issues will change a lot sooner or later. There is no indication that Microsoft plans to launch something like PlayStation Vue streaming service for twine-cutters, and even because it tweaks, many of those issues need assistance from outdoors events. Until an organization like Comcast or TiVo decides to offer the XB1 direct entry, for instance, the information will nonetheless be principally ineffective for cable house owners with DVR. In the meantime, people ditching cable or satellite tv for pc can get a lot of the TV options on cheaper bins.

Wrap-up

The Xbox One revisited: Microsoft's console has gotten better with age

The Xbox One has come fairly far in a comparatively brief span of time, nevertheless it nonetheless has a methods to go. The UI can nonetheless be sluggish to load in spots, controllers nonetheless disconnect from the console seemingly at will, and we’re nonetheless lacking Xbox 360 options like default recreation settings making use of to your consumer profile (digital camera viewpoints, problem settings, automated or guide transmissions for racing video games). Every time the Xbox 360 was up to date, the console did not nonetheless really feel prefer it was lacking issues. As an alternative, it all the time felt like new options have been being added on prime of every thing that labored so nicely within the first place. The Xbox One hasn’t reached that time but, nevertheless it’s getting there.

Richard Lawler contributed to this evaluate. Images by Will Lipman. Unwatermarked software program screenshots courtesy of Microsoft.

from $299+

eighty four

Earlier than becoming a member of Engadget in 2013, Timothy spent half a decade freelancing for all method of retailers writing about all types of (principally online game-associated) issues. Timothy’s an A/V fanatic who adores bodily media, a lot to the chagrin of his obtainable shelf area. He loves music by Amon Tobin, Run the Jewels and the Deftones most of all. Oh, and he has a tough time not shopping for all of the overpriced Calvin and Hobbes stuff on Etsy.

Shares

Share

Tweet

Share

Save

Feedback