Release Date: 11/22/2013
MSRP: $499.99 (Kinect Bundle), $349.99 (Core Bundle), $399.99 (1TB HDD Bundle)
Colors: White, Black
I’ve finally done it. I know have all three current-generation gaming systems. What’s the positive side to that? Being able to enjoy each console’s strengths and exclusives. The bad side? More games than I can play in a week. Why did I wait so long for the Xbox One? Its game exclusivity release windows were far and few between and it didn’t offer anything the PS4 couldn’t…well that anyone cares about anyway. There are a lot of nice features on the Xbox One that no other system has, but are they what sells the console? At this point, Microsoft doesn’t really have anything to sell the Xbox One outside of its already built-up user base as well as its three trump cards: Halo, Forza Motorsport, and Rare. While Microsoft used Killer Instinct, Forza 5, and Halo 5 to get people excited about the launch, Microsoft’s launch was very weak outside of a few strong games.
Let’s face it, the look and design of a console can really matter. Just look at the Atari Jaguar with the CD add-on…it looks like a toilet. The original Xbox was geared towards PC gamers who were already used to bulky cases. While it wasn’t as sleek as the PS2 or cute as the GameCube, the monster box meant power — and power it had. Being the first system to have an online infrastructure and having a built-in HDD, the Xbox shipped with an 8GB HDD, but Xbox LIVE wasn’t up and running until long after the console’s release. Then a little game called Halo swept the gaming and entertainment industry by storm and Halo 2 helped kick start and raise the bar for first-person online gaming. It was massively successful and even made Nintendo and Sony rush for a proprietary FPS. Sony made Killzone (stank), and Nintendo made Metroid Prime (awesome). However, neither garnered the attention that Halo could, and Killzone was quickly forgotten. What else made the Xbox so successful? It’s hardware. It had a whopping 733 MHz CPU based off of Intel’s Pentium III Coppermine chipset and a 233 MHz GPU made by Nvidia. This meant off-the-shelf parts and was easily programmable similar to a PC. While the PS2 was extremely completed to develop for, the Xbox had great-looking games from the start. From Halo, Forza Motorsport, Blinx, and Fable, the Xbox had a great lineup, but it quickly died out towards the end of the life cycle. The Xbox showed its age and games we’re looking better on PS2 for some reason (God of War, Shadow of the Colossus) and Microsoft quickly lost interest from Japanese developers and thus the PS2 made waves.
With that little history bit, the Xbox 360 had a year’s head start and was powerful, but met the same fate as its little brother. Great games from the start, but many exclusives jumped ship and Microsoft lost steam once the PS3 sales were climbing. While still a good system, it doesn’t have the exclusives it did 5 years ago and isn’t as unique as it was at launch.
Out of the Box
The Xbox One takes the original design and the Xbox 360 S design and smashes them together. You have the sleek box shape the like 360 S and the hard lines of the original system. The Xbox One is huge, bigger than the PS4, and somehow less powerful. More on that later. The Xbox One logo on the front brings subtle attraction along with the glossy panels and chrome disc drive bezel. The box is sleek and Microsoft’s best-looking one yet. It’s also surprisingly light for the size of the system.
Under the Hood
The Xbox One is actually a little weaker than the PS4. I know fanboys are going to scream and have a tantrum, but the numbers and facts don’t lie. Sure, it’s powerful, but not as much as you’d like to think. While the Xbox One and PS4 both have an 8-core AMD CPU that is similar to that in phones, the Xbox One is clocked at 1.75 GHz while the PS4 is clocked at 1.6Ghz. Yeah, go ahead and laugh but the GPU is probably more important in consoles than you think. While the Xbox One has an 853 MHz AMD GPU the PS4 has an 800 MHz one, but has more compute units. The PS4 has 18 while the Xbox One has 12 meaning the PS4 can outperform the Xbox One with this. To make it easier the Xbox One has a GPU equivalent to an AMD 7790 or Nvidia GTX 650 Ti. The PS4 has a GPU equivalent to an AMD 7890 or Nvidia GTX 670. While those GPUs have now been left in the dust, the PS4 and Xbox One are stuck with them. Sadly, this means lower resolution on Xbox One, and due to only having 8GB of DDR3 RAM, loading times could be much longer towards the end of the life cycle over PS4 which has 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. The Xbox One also has 3 USB 3.0 ports, one is cleverly hidden on the left side rather than being in the front. I also have to commend Microsoft for making this the very first console to have 5 GHz WiFi which is a huge win over any other console for download speeds. I could download a 62GB digital game 5 times faster than I could on another console. I love this.
I hate to say this but…Xbox One looks too much like Windows 8. I know, I know, go ahead and say it. It is the most difficult system I have ever had to navigate. For starters, I couldn’t find the system settings. Why is it an app? Why is everything an app? I like apps on consoles, but everything on the Xbox One is an app and it relies on the internet more than any other console. If you pin your favorite stuff to your Home area you can’t use them when you are offline. It doesn’t end there, I couldn’t find anything in the game store. Yeah, that’s probably important, right? The game store looks empty and completely unintuitive. There’s a small featured section as well as Top Paid, Free, Newest Games, etc. However, I could NOT find the Games with Gold section anywhere except at the home dash in a featured box. That’s completely ridiculous. I still don’t know what’s for sale for gold members and I can’t find it. This is the WORST game store setup I have ever seen.
Let’s talk about some of the Xbox One exclusive features. Microsoft is seriously trying to push the set-top box thing, however, this is probably only something that less than 10% of users will use; mainly sports fans. The Xbox One does feature a TV-Out HDMI option so you can plug in your HD set-top box or even another console while plugging in consoles isn’t recommended due to lag, it’s an option for people short on ports. Hell, you can play Killzone via the Snap app on your PS4 while someone is playing Halo right next to you…God forbid. There are features in the system to set up your TV and sound system to use voice commands via the Kinect, but only users who bought the launch consoles will have a Kinect. I feel many people from here on out will never see this feature happen.
Another function is the Snap app. This is actually really nice as it cuts out a quarter of the screen for using other apps on the Xbox One. This includes TV, walkthroughs, web browsing, the media player, you name it. This comes in handy for people who love to multi-task but I noticed some bad slow down when playing graphics-heavy games. Another feature that is new to Xbox is Blu-Ray. Yeah, Sony fans are saying “Ha Ha” but it’s a smart choice. Games are just too big for dual-layer DVDs these days, so with their own high-capacity media disc being burned out by Blu-Ray, Microsoft didn’t have a choice. This means you no longer need a separate Blu-Ray player or PlayStation 3 or 4 to play Blu-Ray movies.
Another small feature is the Xbox One Smartglass app you can use with your phone or tablet. The layout is pretty much the same as the Xbox One itself and was responsive and worked well as something that can be used to control your console. This is great for watching videos or listening to music so you don’t have to keep turning on your controller.
Outside of these features, I did find something disturbing and is probably the Xbox One’s most fatal flaw. Slow install times off discs. The PS4 takes less than a minute and you can play the full game right away. For some reason, Microsoft thought it was cute that you can play what’s installed, but that’s literal. I booted up Killer Instinct and all characters were locked until the game finished installing. Wonderful, so now I can stare at the menus for 3 hours while the game installs. Oh yeah, another thing, games are fully downloaded from Xbox LIVE rather than installed off the disc. This is one of the dumbest things I have ever had to deal with. I booted up the Xbox for the first time at 5PM on a Saturday and I left Killer Instinct installing all day; took forever. The trick is to disconnect from Xbox LIVE before installing so it only takes roughly 15 minutes. Connect again to download the current update. Even if you have a fast connection the games take forever to install as they need to download then install rather than doing both at the same time like on PS4. One positive thing came out of this and that’s being able to play digital downloads while you wait which is something that can’t be done on PS4.
I won’t talk about the controller much as I already did an extensive review on that, but I will say that the controller is amazing and is an evolution of the Xbox 360 controller. I also want to mention the DVR and capture feature that the Xbox One has. The Xbox can snap moments when you unlock achievements, and even the father of the achievement system has evolved. They are more informative when they pop up no longer leaving you puzzled as to what caused the achievement to unlock. Outside of the name, a description of the feat will also appear.
It all boils down to the games, right? I played Forza 5, Killer Instinct, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection and was seriously impressed. Microsoft actually released better-looking games at launch than Sony. Forza 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome are truly impressive launch titles. They look absolutely amazing and wipe the floor visually over any PS4 launch title; even Killzone: Shadowfall. Games played just like you expected they would, however, Microsoft has a trump card that will come in handy towards the middle of the Xbox One’s life cycle and that’s cloud computing. This allows AI and even graphical features to be processed on the Xbox One which is a super powerful tool that no other competitor has. Forza’s Drivitar AI is computed on a server rather than inside the Xbox One. While this feature is slow starting, it’s sure to bring some impressive stuff to Xbox One later on.
Xbox One for All and All for One
The Xbox One isn’t a perfect system and has many flaws in its GUI and various functionalities, but it’s a great system and a worthy successor to the Xbox 360. While it lacks the exclusives that the Wii U and PS4 have, it will grow in time and hopefully carve its own unique experience that previous consoles from Microsoft failed to do. If Microsoft can keep exclusives exclusive to Xbox One forever it will help a lot. If they can help grow the system over time like they did with Xbox 360 it will help quite a bit. It’s impressive seeing where Xbox One is now after the disastrous launch and reveal 2 years ago. Xbox One is well worth a purchase for the handful of excellent exclusives available right now.