Microsoft recently introduced Xbox One as its solution to 'input one' for multi-tasking media consumers. This ambitious new system intends to streamline the digital entertainment lifestyle, uniquely allowing live TV to run simultaneously alongside gaming and apps that include Skype.
This already positions Xbox One as far more than a traditional games console in the vein of Xbox 360, and arguably more progressive piece of kit than Sony's PlayStation 4. On top of all that though, Xbox One is bundled with an advanced version of the motion sensing Kinect camera, updated with the ability to read biometric data and see using infrared.
With new ways to combine entertainment, plus the novelty of gesture- and voice-control, Xbox One makes strides toward its own vision of the future. Though it's not without a few trips and stumbles as we discovered during our road test. See also: Xbox One vs PS4 comparison.
Xbox One: specification
AMD is the maker of the SoC comprising both CPU and GPU and powering the Xbox One. The Xbox One processor is an x86 64-bit chip with 8 'Jaguar' cores and an estimated clock speed of 1.75GHz. The Xbox One graphics chip has 768 cores and a peak shader throughput of 1.23 TFLOPS. The Xbox One comes with 8GB of DDR3 RAM inside, coupled with 32MB of eSRAM embedded memory to be used by developers as a cache. You get a 500GB hard drive.
The Xbox One has a Blu-ray/DVD drive as standard, and offers Wi-Fi, Ethernet, optical out and USB 3.0. There is HDMI out and an HDMI in port on your console, which supports 4K output (of which more later). For more buying advice see: Should I buy a next-gen console: Is the PS4 and Xbox One worth it?
Xbox One: Kinect performance
You must connect to broadband internet before powering up Xbox One for the first time otherwise your console is nothing more than a chunk of plastic and metal. Booting-up initiates a Day One patch that takes a few minutes to install. For most people this process should provide no challenge.
With this done, it's decision time. Firstly Kinect: would you like the sensor to remain on or off? The former allows you to interact with Xbox One using gesture and voice control, affecting dashboard and in-game functionality. Related to that, Xbox One has two power states; Instant On or Energy Saving. The latter is a traditional set-up in which you manually boot the console. Instant On is where Microsoft intends for the true potential of Xbox One to begin.
Xbox One can respond, via Kinect, to basic voice commands that begin by saying "Xbox…" followed by specific instructions. Stating "Xbox On" impressively powers up the console before you even sit down on the sofa. Kinect also swiftly signs-in users whose face the camera has recognised. Saying "Xbox Select" highlights in green the names of on-screen icons for you to clearly enunciate. The problem is, if you do not employ a commanding voice and articulate words in the manner of a strict teacher, Xbox One rarely cooperates on the first or even second attempts.
Gesture control accuracy is actually worse, and the practice of using hands and arms to sort through menus is torturous compared to the instant success of pressing a button. We experienced a 6/10 success rate, which became exasperating. See also: Xbox One release date, specs and its backwards compatibility issues: What you need to know about the Xbox One.
Xbox One: TV and Skype
With room for improvement regarding Kinect, this leaves the 'HDMI In' slot to add value for Xbox One, primarily integrating your TV set-top box into the Xbox One suite of dashboard options. After correcting some minor settings issues, watching TV via Xbox One was problem-free though we did notice slight image judder on some programs.
In the US, Xbox One features an app called the OneGuide that overlays the TV signal, allowing for voice-activated navigation and channel search. Sadly for UK customers, the Xbox One OneGuid app is not available until 2014 (TBC). Until then, Xbox One TV integration adds nothing more than picture-in-picture style presentation via the dashboard's 'Snap' function.
Finally, on the subject of video, Xbox One will support 4K resolution video output at a later date TBC. For now though, 1080p is the highest you'll see on your HDTV. Gamers should not get their hopes up regarding 4K interactive experiences, since 1080p already seems a stretch for existing software. (See also: How to stop the display juddering when you are watching UK TV via the Xbox One.)
Skype was the most pleasant surprise among all the applications available for Xbox One at launch. Once signed in, voice-activating a call with your existing contacts is quick and easy. While talking, Skype can run in the background while you play a game and/or watch TV, or explore other apps. See all games console reviews.
Xbox One: Gaming prowess
As a gaming console Xbox One is more stable, though lags behind PlayStation 4 in raw performance stakes (also see: Sony PS4 hands-on review: Is the next-gen console any good?). Both consoles use an AMD CPU and GPU, but the Xbox One chipset is geared toward complex media functionality whereas Sony allotted its silicon budget in favour of gaming. That said, any visual differences seem negligible across most games available for both, and only affect a handful of launch titles. Call of Duty Ghosts runs at twice the resolution on PlayStation 4, but FIFA 14 is identical. (See also: How to record, edit and share Xbox One gameplay footage.)
Our only quibble with the traditional gaming side of things is that the Xbox One controller requires AA batteries, or a rechargeable battery pack, to function wirelessly. PS4 controllers charge directly via USB as you would a smart phone. In the context of everything else being so forward looking on Xbox One, worrying about batteries seems a step back.
Microsoft claims over 40 revisions to the popular Xbox 360 controller design. We noticed that the 'throw' of the sticks is now more pronounced, which may take some getting used to, meanwhile subtle refinements to the rumble feedback are harder to distinguish. If it ain't broke… (See also: Xbox One vs PS4 games console comparison review.)