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Xbox One tips, tricks and secret features

Andrew Williams by

Xbox One
Xbox One

The Xbox One has been out for over a year now, with Microsoft adding new features with each monthly update. There might even be a few new features that have slipped through without fanfare.

Here are our Xbox One tips and tricks, to help you uncoverall those extras and make the most of your new console this Christmas.

Speed up your game installation

Every game you play on your Xbox One, whether it’s disc-based or a digital download, you’ll need to install on your Xbox One’s internal (or attached USB 3.0 external) hard drive. It’s a great thing once you’ve got it all installed, but it can take an absolute age to install the bigger AAA games.

If you want to speed up this process, there’s currently an easy work-around that should speed up the install progress. Download the game or insert the disc into your Xbox One, and then disconnect from the Internet and Xbox Live. Either turn off Wi-Fi or detach your Ethernet cable to do so.

Once it’s installed, simply reconnect to the Internet and you’re away.

SEE ALSO: PS4 vs Xbox One

Get free games every month

If you’re looking to bag a couple Games with Goldof free Xbox One games every month, you’ll want to sign up for an Xbox Live Gold membership. It costs £5.99 a month or you can pay £39.99 for a year's subscription, saving you over £70 in the long run.

Each month, Microsoft will offer you one or two free games for your Xbox One as part of the Games With Gold initiative – one released at the start of the month and the second a fortnight in. It’s a great way to get new games for your Xbox without paying a fortune for the digital downloads. It’s also fantastic for highlighting indie games you might not have heard of before.

Freeview TV on your Xbox One

Natively, the Xbox One is compatible with satellite and cable TV services such as Sky or Virgin Media, but you won’t be able to feed any Freeview signals into the Xbox One media monster.

Well, unless you buy the affordable Xbox One Digital TV Tuner. This £24.99 piece of kit runs between your aerial socket and your Xbox One to deliver Freeview and Freeview HD into your Xbox One.

So now people who haven’t got the luxury of premium TV services can turn their Xbox One into the all-in-one entertainment system it always promised to be. That means your Xbox One can turn your TV on and off, too.

SEE ALSO: Best Xbox One Deals

Turn your Xbox One into a media streaming device

Since the Xbox One was launched at the tail end of 2013, Microsoft and other third-party companies have worked steadily to increase the media support on the console. So now the Xbox One has a lot more media streaming features than it did at launch, and far more than its rival, the PS4.

First up there’s DLNA media server streaming support, meaning you can stream content over your network from your PC. You can also save media on a USB memory stick and play it on your Xbox One by simply plugging it in.

The Xbox One was also one of the first consoles – the second being it’s older brother the Xbox 360 – to get access to the Plex app. Anyone with a Plex subscription can also access all their content from their Xbox One via Plex too now.

SEE ALSO: Plex on Xbox One – How to stream from your PC to your Xbox One

Xbox One Menu Button

Master your menu button use

You might have noticed, but any content shown is the menu button options is context sensitive. That means the options available change according to which app or game you’ve highlighted in the UI, or which game or other content you’ve currently got full-screen.

Press the menu button for a quick way to bring up hidden menu options that could be evading you. Like finding DLC for games, the general settings menu or just the share options for that latest victory.

You get achievements for more than just games

Not only can the Xbox One port over all your Xbox 360 achievements, but you can also earn achievements on Microsoft’s latest console for more than just games.

Take Amazon Prime Instant Video, for example. You’ll be gifted with an achievement for watching three and then five episodes in a row – trust us, we’ve tried it. We just wonder what else you can pick up achievements for…

You can have loads more Xbox Live friends

The Xbox One expanded the maximum number of Xbox Live friends each player can have. Now, you can have up to 1000 friends on your list, if you’re that popular.

You can have an unlimited amount of followers, though.

SEE ALSO: Upcoming Xbox One games 2015

Xbox One controller requires two AA batteries

Sadly, unlike the PS4, the Xbox One Wireless Controller is powered by two AA batteries straight out of the box. There’s no recharging options as standard, so you’ll need to buy the Play and Charge kit separately – priced around the £20 mark at the time of writing.

Of course, you can stick to AA batteries if you prefer, especially as you can pick up rechargeable ones for reasonable prices nowadays.

Xbox One supports external hard drives

Xbox One USBAlthough the internal 500GB Xbox One hard drive might sound like a bit of beast, it can actually get filled up pretty quickly if you’ve purchased several AAA titles this year.

Although, in June 2014, Microsoft added support for external hard drives for the Xbox One, meaning you can spill over from that internal hard drive if necessary. In fact, the Xbox One actually supports up to two external hard drives at once, along with the internal 500GB hard drive.

There are a few caveats, though. Each hard drive will need to be USB 3.0 compatible and be at least 256GB in size.

Once you’ve plugged in your external HDD, your Xbox One will ask to format it, which will make that drive your default install location for games, apps and other content. You don’t have to make it the default, though, as your Xbox One will allow content to automatically spill over from the internal one if it happens to get too full.

You can access your save files on your friend’s Xbox One

All game saves are saved into the cloud if you’re connected to Xbox Live, so all you’ll need to do is sign into Xbox Live to access your save files on an Xbox One away from home.

Install the Xbox One Blu-ray player app to watch Blu-ray discs

In order to play Blu-rays on a new Xbox One, you need to install an update. As long as you’re connected to the Internet, the console will prompt you to download the update when you insert a Blu-ray disc.

However, you can also install it manually – useful if you’re planning on taking the Xbox One somewhere where you’ll be without Internet. Go to the Store from the main menu, then head to the apps section. Type in ‘Blu’ or ‘blu-ray’ in the search bar to find the app. Then simply select it to install.

Xbox One Fitness

Xbox One FitnessA mysteriously hidden part of the Xbox ecosystem is Xbox Fitness. It’s an app that any Xbox Live Gold subscribers can use for free. However, it’s not that easy to find on the Xbox One store. Try searching for Xbox Fitness using the Bing search and you’ll root it out, though.

Xbox Fitness gives you workouts to perform, which you can tailor to your own needs. There are lots of different training types, too, each available to download for free as long as you’re signed up for Live Gold.

It uses the Kinect sensor to monitor your pulse, giving two-way interactivity – and it's surprisingly good.

What is SmartGlass and how do I get it?

SmartGlass is one of the most poorly explained parts of the Xbox world. It’s the Xbox companion app, available for phones and tablets. It was originally only available for Windows phones, but you can now download it for iPhones and Android phones, too.

There are separate apps for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, so if you already have SmartGlass, make sure you give the Xbox One version a download. Its most basic functions just let you check out your achievements and so on, but if you use it while connected to the same network as your console, you can use your phone or tablet as a ‘second screen’.

The most useful function is as a keyboard. You can use your phone or tablet’s touchscreen to type in URLs in the Xbox One’s browser, making it far, far more enjoyable to use. You can also load apps using your phone, and set up a load of ‘favourite’ apps on your phone to make using your Xbox even quicker.

Use your phone as a remote for Xbox One

Phone becomes a remote control for the Xbox One with the SmartGlass app, too, allowing you to navigate apps such as Internet Explorer more easily. You can pinch, zoom and click on links far more easily than you can with a controller.

How to get cheap Xbox Live credit and Xbox Live Gold

Xbox LiveThe Xbox Live Gold subcriptions for the Xbox One are the same as those used with the Xbox 360. So if you already have one on the old console, it’ll carry over to the Xbox One.

Occasionally Microsoft offers sales where you can get pretty cheap Xbox Live subscriptions. However, most of the time you’re better off buying a redeemable code online. CDKeys offers 12-month subscriptions for £26.29 at the time of writing, down from the recommended price of £39.99. There are a few other sites like CDKeys on the web, but it's generally the cheapest of the lot. ‘Like’ them on Facebook and they’ll send you a 5%-off code, too.

Getting money of Xbox Live credit is a bit trickier, but once again CDKeys offers vouchers for a quid or two off.

Using Xbox One Snap

Xbox Snap is one of the neatest new features of the Xbox One. It’s the console’s multitasking feature, and it lets you open up another app on the side of the screen while playing a game.

Things you can open up include Xbox Music, the Internet Explorer browser, the video player and the Xbox Party chat interface. It’s a handy extra that’ll stop you having to open up your laptop should you get stuck in a game.

To use Snap, you can either say "Xbox, snap" while you’re playing to bring up the Snap menu, or go to the menu by pressing the Home button and then select the Snap tile. This brings up the Snap menu, too.

How to use Snap without a KinectSnap Menu

When the Xbox One was first introduced it was bundled with the Kinect, meaning Microsoft had focused on navigating the UI using voice commands. It got to the point that the Xbox One was near impossible to successfully navigate without the Kinect and using the controller alone.

However, because you can now buy the Xbox One without the Kinect, Microsoft has tweaked the accessibility of the UI when you’re Kinect-free.

That includes big changes to the Snap feature, which lets you run two apps or an app and a game side by side.

When viewing content or playing a game in full screen, simply double tap the menu button to bring up a Snap menu. This allows you to snap an app to the right-hand side of the screen, snap a different app, switch between the two snap segments, and even exit the Snap feature.

Plus, if you double tap that menu button and press the X button in the Snap menu, you can record the last 30 seconds of gameplay – just as the “Xbox, record that” Kinect voice command functions.

How to change your Xbox One avatar

Your avatar is the little character than represents you within the Xbox Live ecosystem. You had better make sure you like how he/she looks.

To customise your Xbox One avatar, go to the Home menu then select My Games and Apps. Now select Avatars > Customise > My Style. Here you’ll be able to choose what your avatar looks like.

Xbox One Kinect commands

Unless you’re clued up, Kinect can seem a bit of a mystery. However, there's a fairly concrete list of commands it will understand – here are the main ones. Each needs to be preceded by "Xbox" for the command to be understood.

  • Go Home – head to the home menu
  • On, turn off – power toggle
  • Snap, unsnap – switches the Snap feature on and off
  • Bing – Perform a web search
  • Sign in – Signs in when on a sign-in page
  • Use a code – lets you redeem a code or scan a QR code
  • Play – play a video
  • Next song, previous song – easy voice commands when listening to music
  • Mute, unmute – silence your Xbox One
  • Volume up, volume down – control the volume of your console
  • Invite (insert name) – invites a selected contact to play or chat

Next, check out of round-up of the Best Xbox One Games

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