Home / Gaming / Games / Xbox One / Half year update, Design and Specs

Xbox One review

By Stuart Andrews

Updated:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Xbox One

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Xbox One – Software

The Xbox One’s interface was previously a love it/hate it kind of thing. In fact, you could easily do both at the same time. On the one hand, it was clean and the tile-based design looked great on a big-screen telly. On the other, navigation and organisation were messy, the social aspects seemed unconnected and it wasn’t quick enough to get you to your games and media content.

Now, Microsoft has replaced it with a new experience based on Windows 10. It loads faster, your most recently accessed content sits at the top, and all the stuff related to that game is just a click away. Click the right trigger and you’re taken straight to your pinned games and apps, while your friends list, messages and notifications are easily accessible from the new side panel. You can still get to the games, music and movies in the Store, but flogging you content and services no longer seems like the most important thing. Suddenly, the Xbox One feels like what it should have been all along: a games machine.

Related: 6 things you need to know about the new Xbox One UI

Xbox One UI 5

The Kinect-powered voice controls still work, of course, making it easy to find a movie, take a screenshot or capture game footage. Meanwhile, the OneGuide remains a key part of the package, enabling you to view and explore the week’s TV through a connected set-top-box or the USB Freeview HD adaptor. You can already pause live TV and we’re promised recording features next year too.

The new software’s benefits extend beyond speed and ease-of-use, with the major one being backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games. If you owned a digital copy of a game you can download it and play it on your Xbox One, while supported discs will simply play when you insert them. The tech actually made its debut with the Rare Replay collection, and while some much-loved titles aren’t yet supported, you can now have another crack at Fable 2, Fallout 3, all four Gears of War games, Mirror’s Edge, Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed 2 and DiRT 3, not to mention many more.

Related: Xbox One tips, tricks and secret features

Xbox One UI 7

Xbox One: Apps and Services

For a long time, Xbox Live sat proudly as the king of online gaming services, but it’s had stiff competition recently both from PlayStation Plus and Steam. Microsoft has fought back, and the Game with Gold program has seen the likes of Rayman Legends, Assassin’s Creed IV, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition given away free. That makes Xbox Live an even better deal.

Microsoft has also taken big strides forward on the apps front. Netflix, Twitch, NowTV, BBC iPlayer, All 4, Demand 5, YouTube, and Amazon Instant Video are all in place, along with Microsoft services like Skype, Groove Music and OneDrive. The Xbox One also hosts EA Access – EA’s service which combines free games, cut-price bargains, early demos and limited preview access to the latest titles. Get it and, along with Games with Gold, you could probably get away without buying any games at all.

There’s one other app worth mentioning, though it doesn’t actually run on the Xbox One itself. Download the Xbox app for your Windows 10 laptop or tablet and you can control your Xbox One remotely, or even stream games directly from your console to your device’s screen. To make it work effectively you need your Xbox One networked through Ethernet to your router, but do so and you can stream games at very reasonable quality with manageable lag. We occasionally use it to sneak in games of Forza 6 or Gears of War while the TV is in use.

Related: How Windows 10 will upgrade your Xbox One

Xbox One: Games

Games are the best reason to buy any console, but that goes double for the Xbox One. Sure, joining the Microsoft team rather than Sony means putting up with a reduced resolution when you’re playing Call of Duty or even the odd spot of jerky performance in some games, but the recompense comes when you can play Halo 5, Forza Horizon 2, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Forza 6 or Rise of the Tomb Raider – all fantastic games that you can’t play on PS4. Of course Sony has its own exclusives, but it’s hard to get too excited about The Order: 1866 or really anything bar Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection or Bloodborne, and only one of those is really a mainstream hit.

That’s great news now, but what about the future? Well, how about Quantum Break, Fable Legends and the next chapter of Gears of War? How about a new Crackdown with larger, destructible cities (at least in multiplayer), the fantastic-looking ReCore, Scalebound or Halo Wars 2? Microsoft still needs to convince us that the Xbox One is tomorrow’s console, not just today’s, but we’d be surprised if the Xbox One well runs dry during the next few years.

Related: Best Xbox One Games 2015

Two Year Anniversary Verdict

It’s amazing to think how Microsoft has managed to transform the Xbox One from a no-hoper to a hit in the last two years, chiefly by concentrating focus on the thing that mattered most: the console’s games. If you don’t want to play the likes of Halo, Forza 6, Rise of the Tomb Raider or Gears of War, then the PS4 remains our games console of choice, but providing the graphics gap in third-party titles keeps diminishing and the first-party titles keep on coming, the Xbox One is a fantastic gaming platform.

Cameron

May 22, 2013, 1:50 pm

This could be a big setup for Microsoft if we get the xbox one for a good price, seen pre orders at £399.99, at that its a bit much but if you can get a good bundle deal at lunch then it could work out for everyone

Spike Black

May 22, 2013, 2:51 pm

With no back catalogue to play it could mean a slow start, will it also mean MS keeping the 360 in production to prevent peoples old games being coasters or as older models get the rrod in their old age.
Would I use this new model as bluray player, well probably not. Having experienced a rrod recently on my original white 360 I wouldn't want to push my luck by using this as a player even with a long warranty. It was an utter pita to get my saves transferred over to my new slim line one.
And regards the rrod of the 360 any details on what warranty they'll be offering on this?

The elephant in the room is still MS charging for online gaming when the PS3 and 4 will remain free.

rybo1

May 29, 2013, 5:45 pm

I'm staying away from any gaming console that detects my heartbeat or those of my guests.

Lacerz

June 12, 2013, 2:16 pm

Actually, Sony has stated that online play for the PS4 will require a PS+ subscription, but you won't need a + subscription to watch your streaming movies online. I've been a + subscriber since the service launched, so I can say that the service has slowly eveolved into a very worhtwhile one. Initially all I got were a couple of crap games, early betas, Qore episodes and not much else. Now I have a ton of games from their instant game collection.

Oh, and PS+ subscribers get Drive Club at launch. That's pretty sweet if you like racers.

David Hale

June 12, 2013, 2:22 pm

I wonder if Microsoft has it right with the Xbox One. I agree that the PS4 appears to be a better console for the gamer and being an Xbox 360 user (although previously an avid PS1 and PS2 user) I am seriously torn between which console to get.

Despite all that though, there are a lot more consumers who are after that all in one home entertainment system than there probably are hardcore gamers. Look at how popular Smart TV's and streaming services have become.

I suppose what I mean is they might lose the "console" war but win the one for the living room!

torjs99

June 12, 2013, 2:58 pm

was it abnormally cold? was there a feeling of creeping evil?

Tony Anderson

June 13, 2013, 2:33 pm

Just imagine what the NSA could do with your heartbeat information!

another

September 29, 2013, 1:55 pm

PS+ is just not in the same league as XBOX Live! and will never be able to compete, XBOX Live has evolved into a 300,000.00 server monster of an experience, this is servers we are talking and the MS servers are dedicated number crunchers that if utilised right by developers will add so much to the end user experience, Games could have multiple paths as could Thriller movies etc

talha Sohail

October 15, 2013, 2:14 pm

I admit that ps4 has a better design but xbox one have better games and more specs

fourtywater

October 21, 2013, 5:59 am

In addition the Xbox One eliminates AI in games. It uses the cloud to remember how you play. When you are offline, your player plays games while you are away and report how you did virtually when you were away. It learns new patterns as you get better as well. You will NEVER play against a computer again. Can PS4 do that?

fourtywater

October 21, 2013, 3:52 pm

Lets break it down. If you want the latest and greatest technology and can afford to use an HDTV Broadband Internet and a budget to purchase virtual content the Xbox One is the best. If you want a good console without the bells and whistles and you are on a budget, you should get the PS4. I hope this helps all you people in video game land.

da Boss

November 13, 2013, 3:47 pm

My main complaints with X1 are simple but crucial. If Microsoft came to me and said i have the option of an X1 with Kinect and the DVR bs or an X1 with the same hardware capabilities of the PS4 for the same price, god knows i'd choose the better hardware. Kinect is a large, ugly, useless chunk of plastic that is insanely priced at a 100$ and is forced upon the consumer. The DVR feature, nothing but a useless gimmick that most people won't use and nobody will need anyways. The X1 is large, very large and heavy, same can be said for the very large power brick that comes with this behemoth. Things like entertainment apps and most console features are locked behind a 60$ pay wall. Things like fucking Netflix that i'm already paying for. And when you compare the cameras, yes the kinect is of better quality as it can record 1080p/30fps video, which is great. BUT the PS eye is 40$ cheaper, smaller/lighter and flexible due to its smaller size, and comes equipped with not 1 but 2 camera lenses. This adds for a much larger field of view, which for a piece of hardware that promotes getting up and moving around, is crucial for its success. Xbox Live pales in comparison when compared to PSN+. It's 10 bucks cheaper and is spread across 3 platforms, not just the PS4. It offers you free games for all 3, every week on top of discounts, themes, avatars, exclusive betas/demos/trials and early releases of dlc's and games. Its value is unquestionable and nothing but online gaming and the features i just said are locked behind a pay wall. But for some games, like the F2P games, it wont be. And finally, the controllers. As much as i loved my 360 controller, the X1 falls short when compared to the PS4 controller. I personally enjoy the DS4 controller more, due to its ergonomic design and matted grip, but that is all preference. My opinion on how the controller feels means nothing to another person as it is only my opinion, but there is something we can compare. Controller features. What the X1 controller fails to do is bring anything new to the table. It looks similar to the 360 controller (note the X1 controller is a slightly sleeker and lighter) and feels similar, which is a good thing, but thats about it. Microsoft has added a new rumble mechanism that adds better feed back to the triggers which is great for racing games and shooters, but i found it was more of a distraction than anything and will probably eat away at your controllers battery life fast. Other than that, nothing new has been added. But when you look at the DS4, many things are there that weren't there in the previous gen. Sony has added much better triggers, tighter, better gripped and designed analogue sticks and a slightly improved D-pad. The stick and triggers are greatly improved. The analogue sticks sport a concave design, similar to the 360 controller, with smaller, rubber gripped sticks placed slightly farther apart for better handling. There is no dead zone, which is probably the best improvement. The triggers fell great and very responsive. The D-pad is also a little better. These are all great, but nothing Xbox gamers haven't already been enjoying (except for the d-pad, its still pretty terrible on the X1), whats new are the features. Well before we dive into the features, lets take a look at the specifications. The controller weighs about 3 ounces, which is slightly heavier than the PS3 controller, which will feel nicer. The controller is also slightly larger, which is a great improvement. Especially for adult gamers who are tired of the cheap, SMALL piece of plastic that is the DS3. The controller has a nice matted grip at the bottom which will also feel nice. The controller has a nice, well placed clickable, multi-touch pad for RTS games and web browsing (among other things), it comes with a share button which will make sharing clips and screenshots of games a lot quicker. The controller also has a PlayStation move light at the top of the controller. Which will be great for game feedback, controller recognition and over all use in motion games (note: most of these features will be lost without the ps eye camera, something i still will not be getting). The controller also has a mono-speaker in the bottom middle of the controller. This will make games more immersive, providing sound feedback such as a bullet zooming by or a command from a general in-game, similar to the speaker on the wii mote. The controller also has built-in sixaxis/gyroscope similar to the DS3 for better motion controls, which will probably go great with the camera and the move light. The controller also has well placed extension/headphone ports which will look very similar to the 360. The rumble has also been greatly improved, but i will not be using it as it will kill the controllers 8 hour battery life. Yes, 8 hours. Not much, but at least now you can charge your controller in standby mode with the insanely priced (20$) micro usb cable. The controller will also be using Bluetooth 2.1 instead of the outdated Bluetooth 2.0 on the PS3. Allowing for better, faster connectivity. This is probably the reason why the DS4 and the PS3 are not wirelessly compatible. With all these new additions its a wonder this controller is only 6$ more expensive than the over priced PS3 controller.
I spent a lot of time on the controller because i know it is the most important aspect of a gaming console, along side its hardware capabilities.
In my opinion i believe the PS4 is the superior console at this point, with a feature packed controller, cheaper console, more focused on games and gamers, and a more powerful hardware.

da Boss

November 13, 2013, 3:48 pm

lol "latest and greatest technology". Thats a massive joke

da Boss

November 13, 2013, 3:51 pm

Yes it can moron. Cloud computing is nothing new and is certainly not exclusive to the X1. Have you done any research what so ever? Microsoft just touted it because they knew idiot American consumers would eat that crap up like bad propaganda. Anybody can do cloud computing, have been doing it for quite some time now. But even in the states, the PS4 is leading 2:1 in pre orders.

CSViper

November 21, 2013, 9:13 pm

Wow, no Digital Dolby on Optical ouput??? I can't even believe they just announced this on launch day!!! Looks like it is stereo only for my Denon receiver until they fix it.

Guest

November 22, 2013, 12:11 am

"My main complaints with X1 are simple..." - Phew, good job you complaints weren't complicated or you would have written loads! ;-)

da Boss

November 22, 2013, 1:34 pm

More specs? What does that even mean? And no it does not have more games. It has 1 more exclusive than the PS4. X1 has Forza, Ryse and Deadrising. Forzas a racing game, Deadrising was very mediocre and had terrible graphics, and Ryse sucked ass. So comparing that to Knack and Killzone, its pretty much a tie. I'd definitely choose Killzone over any of those games anyday.

Pg

November 22, 2013, 1:54 pm

Hmm..I get the feeling your rant isn't without bias.

The only major complaint I have with either, is with the xbox1. The tv functionality which is only ready for the US (is this really true?), it's a major feature that one country can benefit from. Yes, they will update for other countries, but don't hold your breadth.

And being in Ireland,means we are so much further down the pecking list of countries for this functionality.

The best advice is to wait before buying one, assuming you can do that.

Pg

November 22, 2013, 1:56 pm

I thought the "on a budget" was the funniest part. Seriously people, they are both expensive.

I guess if you don't have a budget, then get both.

Pg

November 22, 2013, 2:00 pm

Ha. More specs? What does that even mean?
PS4 is the more powerful, just have to wait and see how big that advantage is and whether it makes a difference in games.

Pg

November 22, 2013, 2:01 pm

Telling when we are lying? Dectect a congenital heart defect?
Tell me!

da Boss

November 22, 2013, 7:09 pm

Its not about the budget. The Xbox is charging you more for less. Yeh you dont get a camera with the ps4, but its just a gimmick anyways. I would probably never use it for any real gaming.

Johnnypg01

November 22, 2013, 11:50 pm

Joke- does not work- totally reliant on internet connection- which Microsoft denied before going to launch- I wish I had not bought this.....

Unhappy mother

November 23, 2013, 9:43 am

Can't believe you can spend that much money on a console you can't play as it immediately requires 2 gb of data updates! My son has been waiting for launch day for months, god help anybody that's bought this for their child for Christmas, they might get to play on it by new year. Forza 5 needed 6 GB of updates and CoD ghosts needs 1.2 GB !

L4lefty

November 23, 2013, 9:59 pm

Surely you aren't serious? Of all the reasons to avoid a console, this is yours? Fair enough if so, it's your prerogative and choice of coarse, but you can't think of a workaround for this if it is indeed your main concern?

comments powered by Disqus