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XBox One: Early Impressions

by Mr. Gin
Hardware, Software, Technology
Review of: XBox One
Console:
Microsoft
Version:
One (6.2.10210.0 (xb_rel_launch.131118-1159) fre)
Price:
$499.90

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
4
On November 27, 2013
Last modified:November 27, 2013

Need To Know:

Size is a little bigger than the XBox 360, a little stouter, certainly blockier. There were early reports of optical disks (bluray, DVD) that I haven't been able to confirm with my own model - everything seems to be working properly. The Snap-In (picture in picture) functionality seems magical. Launch day games are okay but not fantabulous. I am wondering whether to hang on to my 360 until I'm sure I won't want to play 360 games or at least until we see the promised legacy game playing features. Overall, hardware, graphics, performance (Forza 5) are spectacular and definitely a step up from the 360. I always say my contentment with the 360 was content (and content curation) driven. Let's see if Microsoft steps up again and makes a mountain out of this molehill.

I’m probably not allowed to talk about this too much, but I didn’t sign no NDA so I’ll be circumspect but not entirely uninformative. I have a friend who had Beta access to the XBox One. During that Beta period there was a point where Microsoft encouraged him to invite his friends (like me) over to try it out.

I was immediately impressed by how much better the Beta XBox One Kinect was than the Xbox 360’s Kinect (it could discern facial expressions, eyes open and closed, hands open or grasping, and its recognition and discernment of faces and IDs was stunning compared to the dopey’s 360’s Kinect) and that the overall game and Dashboard graphics were oh-so-pretty. (Even though I know the Dashboard is just another implementation of the Windows 8 interface.) Updates during the Beta left a WHOLE LOT to be desired (at one point, if you tried to update while already booted up, updates would always fail – at the 3/4 mark, but if you powered off and unplugged and then plugged back in and started, updates were flawless – very poor design and of course in Beta totally undocumented). Also, during the Beta, there were just constant updates and you never knew if you’d need to update for an hour or two (on a 20 Mbps Internet link) before being able to play, so my friend was understandably feeling kind of limited in his ability to invite friends over and promise a good time.

Since the one meaningful Beta experience I had with my friend (other attempts were thwarted by our mutually busy schedules and by technology issues not entirely the fault of the XBox One) the dashboard and snap-in experience haven’t changed but the content has improved and of course in Release mode, the behavior of the console is far more predictable and the user experience far glossier.

Things that have impressed me since launch:
– Only a 0.5 GB OS update required out of the box – not bad. Not great, but not bad.
– It works with my Logitech Harmony One remote. Apparently they kept the IR control codes standard. Nice.
– That I purchased Forza 5 entirely for digital distribution, it started installing immediately and I was able to play it in a limited mode for a couple of tracks after it was only 19% of the entire game downloaded/installed.
– The Snap-In functionality is a little weird, doesn’t work for everything but it’s still awesome that I can sort of keep tabs on a game while doing other stuff on the console.
– In general the experience is good, smooth, consistent. There are some exceptions and I keep getting confused about how to manage the two halves of the screen when in snap-in mode, but it’s neat anyhow.
– Digital distribution ftw. No additional stores to patronize. Feels like it’s caught up with the iOS platform in that regard.

Things I’m sort of underwhelmed by:
– Many of the launch-day titles I was looking forward to have been significantly delayed, so I’m left with feeling like I have a limited Day One experience.
– I keep getting sort of confused by the controls for the dashboard experience (for example, the B button, which usually goes “back” doesn’t always do what I expect it to. I suspect the issue here is human error and I just need to watch a training video and pay attention but I’m not used to intuitive controls not being intuitive to me. I’m a very experienced, highly geeky, very observant user, so it’s weird to me that this is so tricky for me. It’s also interfering a little with my programming my Logitech remote. Not a huge deal, just sort of irritating.
– I was looking for more punch! Including it not being clear if there are any easy one-off Kinect games/utilities to start playing with that tech in a meaningful way.

Open questions:
– Can I hook up my AppleTV to the HDMI incoming port and play all the crypto-DRM protected content from the AppleTV through the XBox one and free up an HDMI port? Better yet, can I hook my HDMI switch to the incoming port of the XBox One and play everything through it? I’m all kinds of curious but don’t really have time for fiddling just yet.
– Will the “Launch Window” games (that come out before the end of 2014 Q1) really kick enough butt that I will have a fighting chance to feel superior to PS4 owning friends?
– Will I be able to tell when I’m driving against the AI in Forza 5 that was informed by my friend, K, when he bumps me off the road and into a spin into the wall? Or will I just think it’s the normal AI?
– Do I want to buy Just Dance 2014?

The Bottom Line on XBox One

Size is a little bigger than the XBox 360, a little stouter, certainly blockier. There were early reports of optical disks (bluray, DVD) that I haven't been able to confirm with my own model - everything seems to be working properly. The Snap-In (picture in picture) functionality seems magical. Launch day games are okay but not fantabulous. I am wondering whether to hang on to my 360 until I'm sure I won't want to play 360 games or at least until we see the promised legacy game playing features. Overall, hardware, graphics, performance (Forza 5) are spectacular and definitely a step up from the 360. I always say my contentment with the 360 was content (and content curation) driven. Let's see if Microsoft steps up again and makes a mountain out of this molehill.
4

Mr. Gin

Mr. Gin has written 9 FGEC articles.

I'm just this guy, you know? I am also kalessin on MetaFilter, Tsao Mao on XBox Live, tsaomao on minecraft.net, Otter Jenkins on my lexicon server (lex.malcolmgin.com), sometimes also known as Malcolm or aciel (if I'm feeling naughty). Older aliases: perigee, Trubl, Perihelion and (gasp) Logan Five. Oh yes, I've been AROUND.