Xbox One Review: A $499 Microsoft’s PC for Your Living Room

Microsoft’s new console – the Xbox One – releases Friday.

The console has a built-in and improved Kinect motion and voice sensor, and an HDMI pass-through, so you can watch and control your TV through it. Microsoft’s new toy retails for $499, 100 bucks more than for Sony’s device. Photo: Headlines & Heroes/ Flickr

The Xbox One is Microsoft’s first new gaming console in eight years. It’s a quality piece of hardware but it’s also noteworthy because Microsoft is using it to make a statement. Despite a rocky announcement this past summer, the successor to the Xbox 360 may initiate a gaming revolution.

Xbox One’s E3 conference this year in Los Angeles may go down as one of the worst opening gambits of any console in history. As well as announcing an eye-watering $500 price tag, Microsoft stated that the new console would require an always-on Internet connection, and would strictly limit the ability to play used games.

However, the new a console is almost purely focused on being a games machine. Microsoft clearly wants to make its next-gen console a living room hub.

The Xbox One is a big unit, dwarfing most consoles in recent history. A simple black box, it is unimpressive but not bad looking. Families with large living rooms will find it unassuming, students living in tiny dorms may struggle with its size.

Similar to the PS4, the Xbox One is quicker at navigating through the various things on the dashboard, and one great gamer benefit is the ability to install and start playing a game long before it has completely finished downloading.

The Xbox One controller is a tidy revision of the Xbox 360 gamepad, which is largely regarded as the best console pad ever designed. Even though the new controller lacks in the looks department, it feels great in the hand, as it is light without feeling flimsy, and the prominent matt grips are very comfortable.

Xbox One is called the One for a reason. According to the CNet review of the Xbox One as a living room device, Microsoft wants to bring all your living room entertainment – cable TV, gaming, and streaming-video – to a single user interface with the help of a sophisticated second-generation Kinect camera/motion sensor and video pass-through functionality that’s included with every $499 Xbox One.

“That’s a stark contrast to Sony’s gaming-centric PS4, which has jettisoned — at least at its launch — many of the living room features that endeared it home theater enthusiasts, including support for DLNA, CDs, MP3s, JPEGs and any type of digital video file,” Matthew Moskovciak says.

The Kinect camera/voice system is upgraded to the point that it is barely recognizable from the glitchy, low quality version that was an optional extra for the Xbox 360. Voice recognition still stumbles and players will find themselves repeating themselves here and there.

Fortunately, in terms of how it works, Kinect is far more reliable. Facial recognition, which loads up the profile of whoever is sitting in front of the machine, was consistent, movement tracking is more fluid than before and infrared sans that it will work in low-light.

Beyond gaming, Xbox One’s other main draw is TV compatibility. Owners can run their cable box through the console, allowing a convergence of television and gaming. In practical terms it means you can control both your TV and Xbox through voice commands, as well as through the Xbox controller. Additionally, you can switch instantly between games, apps and TV, and even split the screen, playing a game while watching TV at the same time.

Last year’s update to the Xbox 360 adopted some of the design from Windows 8 and Windows Phone. The Xbox One interface is now fully assimilated into that world: it is all about brightly-colored tiles.

In many ways that’s for the better. You can pin your favorite apps and games to the console’s dashboard. But you can also do that for favorite albums and TV shows to allow quick access to things you regularly consume, says CNN.

The Xbox One’s revolution nearly failed at the first hurdle. But now it has recovered with fervor and the revolution is underway, albeit imperfectly.

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