The Windows Club

Xbox One Launch: Roundup, review and everything you need to know about this gaming console

While new smartphones and tablets keep arriving every few months, things are a little different when it comes to gaming consoles. Whether it is Microsoft’s Xbox line of the series, or Sony’s PlayStation, or whatever Nintendo is up to recently, they take years before releasing a successor to the existing model. This also means that the expectations from these devices are pretty high.

Sony released PlayStation 4 last week, and now was the time for its rival Microsoft to unfold its cards with Xbox One. From the launch event, to the review roundup, to what is inside this device. Here is everything you need to know about the Xbox One.

Xbox One Launch

Reportedly, many of Microsoft’s websites, including the parent Microsoft.com, and the spotlighted Xbox One’s site itself went down. After a few minutes and patches later, the show went on ahead. There wasn’t any one event, but Microsoft had hosted several Xbox events across the globe. But, the prime focus was on its event that was held at New York City’s iconic Times Square.

What’s inside the Xbox One

The description of these devices is always confusing and misleading, that is why we love the good folks over at iFixit. They tore down the Xbox One to find some interesting facts about it,

The HDD inside the Xbox One is a 500 GB Samsung Spinpoint which spins at 5400 RPM. The game console is powered by AMD Jaguar CPU and AMD Radeon GPU. There is a replaceable cooling solution inside, which is a very cool thing from Microsoft’s part. Inside there is one 8GB eMMC NAND flash memory. What makes it different and special from others, Eurogamer explains,

We use it as a cache system-side to improve system response and again not disturb system performance on the titles running underneath. So what it does is that it makes our boot times faster when you’re not coming out of the sleep mode—if you’re doing the cold boot. It caches the operating system on there. It also caches system data on there while you’re actually running the titles and when you have the snap applications running concurrently. It’s so that we’re not going and hitting the hard disk at the same time that the title is. All the game data is on the HDD. We wanted to be moving that head around and not worrying about the system coming in and monkeying with the head at an inopportune time.

The teardown also made it clear that you can in fact expand the hard-drive storage or even swap it with a SSD for performance improvements.

Xbox One isn’t just a gaming console

Microsoft has put a great emphasis on how this device isn’t just your gaming console. They are convincing you to buy this $499 console to use it as the most important thing of your living room, your TV. We will get to this in a while.

Starting from what you will be holding the most, the controllers have got massive improvements. A few things like circular D-pad have been swapped with a tight and responsive plus-sign button. If you found Xbox 360’s controller a little untidy to hold and use, this one can even fit right in the big palms. There are a few glitches to it too, firstly the controller still uses AA batteries if you want to go wireless. The other thing is the headphone port that is provided on the controller, it doesn’t support any non-Microsoft brand.

Interface and Voice command

Right from turning on the device to switching it off, thanks to Kinect, everything can be commanded through your voice. Say “Xbox, go to” followed with the name of the app, and Kinect will make it possible.

Microsoft wants Windows 8 user interface everywhere, whether it is the Windows Phone, or the Xbox One itself, every road has been carpeted with tiles. There is Skype, there is SkyDrive, Internet Explorer, apps to help you watch TV, listen to music, radio and many other things that you do on your computer. There are also apps to make screen recordings of your game. In fact, when officials were asked about this, they hinted that this might as well as be a computer someday.

Xbox One comes with HDMI input port which can be used to connect your set-top devices. Watch TV and do multitask, receive and check messages, browse the internet, if that is what you want.

As one would expect, the system isn’t very well polished and equipped yet. But given that this device is going to be there for about 5-7 years, a few updates will fix most of things for you. From what we have read and heard so far, the voice commanding, and the way Xbox One is controlling your TV and number of steps you are required to go through to do some specific task, a few updates are really required.

Review Roundup

Gaming website Polygon didn’t approve the design and looks of this device, they say,

There’s no sugarcoating the console’s lack of visual flair. Microsoft has created a system designed to blend into the other components of your home entertainment center, and it does that … for better or worse.

Kotaku points out the troublesome with using Kinect, it reads,

After a couple of weeks of testing in a couple of different rooms, I’d say the Xbox One’s Kinect works about… 80-85% of the time. Not a terrible percentage, but not enough to call consistent, either. The camera mishears me frequently enough to be annoying. Each time I have to repeat myself—”Xbox. Xbox. Xbox go to Skype”—I’m that much closer to just ditching it and picking up the controller.

The Verge had strong opinion about Xbox One’s TV integration, they said,

You’ll see your cable box’s interface every time you change channels, and the Xbox doesn’t actually know what your cable box is doing or how to control it directly, so nothing works if you’re on your cable box’s menu screen or DVR listing. Speaking of the DVR, there’s just no way of watching recorded shows using the Xbox One, so you’re back to your cable remote and the cable UI. Same with On Demand — the Xbox just doesn’t know about it, so you’re back to the cable box UI.

Cnet reviewers find the game performance of the device very pleasing, they wrote,

Most of the Xbox One games I tried out look great and perform mostly well. Dead Rising 3 is capable of displaying a dizzying amount of zombies on screen at once — way more than its hardware predecessor was physically able to do. Ryse: Son of Rome and Forza Motorsport 5 are the best-looking eye candy among the initial crop of exclusive titles.

Is it better than Sony’s PlayStation 4?  The Verge thinks it is,

When Microsoft says it’s building a console for the next decade, it’s not lying. Where the PlayStation 4 is designed to simply become an ever-better version of itself, the Xbox One is poised to turn into an entirely different, entirely unprecedented device… Virtually everything Microsoft is trying to do is smart, practical, and forward-thinking.

TechCrunch concludes its review by suggesting you to wait for a while before you bring it home,

Would I recommend buying the Xbox One? If you already have a 360 and aren’t absolutely dying for any of the launch titles, I would say hold off for now. Give developers a bit of time to figure out the console’s inner workings. Let the must-have titles get made. If your 360 is on its last leg or you skipped the last generation, however, it’s a solid buy as is.

Incidentally, XBox One has been very well received. Its initial launch sales have exceeded 1 million consoles – all within a period of 24 hrs