Xbox One Review

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Xbox One
Created by: Microsoft
MSRP: $499.99

It’s been 11 years since the Xbox 360 debuted on shelves. And in case 2005 doesn’t seem like that long ago, keep this in mind: this was the same year that the number one movie was Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George W. Bush was starting his second term, and Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch. In other words, it was a while ago. When the Xbox 360 landed, it was accompanied by forgettable games like Perfect Dark Zero, Gun, and Amped 3.

Over the next near-decade, however, Microsoft managed to increase its market share. While Nintendo’s Wii handily dispatched both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4 in terms of units sold, the Xbox 360 still managed to move 79.3 million consoles – even with widely reported hardware failures and other problems. Now, with the launch of Xbox One, Microsoft is looking to expand its grasp on the market by snagging the kinds of people that may not already have a console: TV fanatics.

It’s a gamble, to be sure. But it just might work.

A New Generation
On the surface, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are quite similar. They’ll receive mostly the same games. They have roughly the same capabilities. And while the PS4 is slightly more powerful on paper, it’s unlikely that gamers will notice much difference between cross-platform titles. The real difference between the two systems comes not in their hardware, but in their focus. Sony is dedicated to building a machine for games. Microsoft, however, is looking to be the center of your media universe.

The Xbox One includes an HDMI-in port so that you can connect your cable box directly to the device. And the One’s built-in IR remote enables you to power on your entire home theatre system by simply stepping into the room and saying, “Xbox On.” You can watch TV or movies while you game, snapping the screen to the side or instantly swapping between media while waiting for a match with friends. Xbox One’s dashboard is based on Windows 8, and the core design philosophy is enabling you to do more than game. It provides silky-smooth multi-tasking that really does feel futuristic.

Kinect support is a big deal for Xbox One. Microsoft’s voice and motion control device is included with every console, and you’ll need to have it connected to use the system. To navigate the One and its multi-tasking features, you’ll mostly be giving voice controls. This is one big drawback to the system – Microsoft seems to have focused primarily on voice interaction, making gesture and controller methods for interacting with the system’s menus a bit cumbersome. A move that takes one voice command takes several gestures or button presses.

It’s tough to predict a future for a console. So much of what happens with hardware depends on software. The Xbox One offers cool functionality, a great controller, plenty of horsepower, and innovative cross-media synergy, but it’s unclear if non-gamers will want to pay $499.99 for another cable box. And gamers, of course, will go where the games are. That being said, Xbox One looks like it’s on the right track. Remembering the way the 360 grew from its release until now, it’s safe to say Microsoft will find new and compelling ways to keep the One appealing for some time to come.