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Xbox One review

How is the Xbox One faring a year later?

The Xbox One is a lot different from one year ago. Yes it's still Microsoft's ambitious all-in-one media center that has hopes for conquering your living room. It's still got the better console-exclusive games and paid online service.

But it's also vastly different and improved since then, too. It's $100 cheaper if you're buying a system without a Kinect and the changes to Snap, Game DVR and the interface were all welcome, coherent upgrades.

It's still not perfect, though. At its core, the Xbox One is an Internet-dependent box that needs a subscription to Xbox Live Gold to get anywhere. And while the constant updates from Redmond have given gamers good reason to choose Xbox over Sony, I have reservations whether any software - DirectX 12 included -will be able to improve the inferior hardware.

Decoupling Kinect and the price drop will ultimately save the system, but doing so was a slap in the face of early adopters.

Being many million units behind in sales has put a fire under Microsoft, leading to more updates and more exclusives than its closest competitor. So, you ask yourself, is it worth jumping in now at $500 odd, or wait just another six months to see if I can get a cheaper bundle down the road? Let's break it down.

We liked

Even though Sony has the market cornered on the whole "for gamers, by gamers" phrase, Microsoft makes a pretty compelling case for the title.

With more platform-exclusive games, an eye on the indie scene and its promotional Games with Gold deal, the Xbox One is a game console any gamer could love. Games like Forza Horizon 2 and Sunset Overdrive are a visual feast with plenty of depth and pair nicely with the Game DVR feature.

Speaking of which, the system just feels built for the 21st century. It's tapped into the social media zeitgeist where we want to share, upload and promote everything we see and do on a console.

Plus, now with Twitch we're able to stream to our heart's content, all without the need for peripheral hardware. Snap, OneGuide and Achievements have all had their fair share of improvements over the past year and are better for it.

And with the added media apps that have launched over the year, and the apps that are on the horizon, the future seems bright for Australians looking for television content on their Xbox One consoles. The Xbox One feels more like a media titan today than it did 12 months ago, and that's something everyone involved should feel good about.

Lastly, the arrival of long-overdue Australian servers for Xbox Live is a cause for celebration. We'll finally be getting some decent online connections..

We disliked

There's still a ways to go here in Australia, as we're still waiting for many of the features that Xbox One owners are probably already taking for granted overseas. When will we be able to take advantage of console's TV integration features?.

The Xbox One is big, bulky a looks like it was designed to replace the VCR, not the Xbox 360. The controllers, thankfully, are much different story. They're loads better than they were before, both tightly tuned and laser precise.

What's lacking, though, are built-in rechargeable batteries and visual indicators of who's who on the controller itself. It's easy to forgive Microsoft for forgetting these one or two minor details, but the fact that the solution - a play and charge kit - is out there and they charge an extra $30 for it, is slightly insulting.

But the controller debacle is only half as insulting as the way Microsoft handled Kinect. Once a mandatory pack-in, Microsoft heralded Kinect as the future of gaming and a vital part of the next-gen experience.

Nine months down the road, Microsoft chops the Kinect from the bundle, tells us that it actually frees up some extra memory and puts out a new package, sans Kinect, for $100 less. Kinect commands in general are very rigid and only helpful once you've taken the time to learn the syntax verbatim. We weren't expecting Siri, but you have to talk to it in very precise, often unintuitive ways to make it understand.

Xbox Live Gold is so essential to how the system operates that it should almost be mandatory at checkout. Still, Microsoft has tried to make it a better offer with Games with Gold and strives to produce consistently good online multiplayer experiences.

But, if you're not already a member, Microsoft won't let you forget about what you're missing. You'll find advertisements plastered all over your dashboards that have the same message: Get Gold and you'll have a better time.

It also doesn't help that the system constantly needs to update something. It seems like every time we go to turn it on, it needs another 70-plus MB update in order to watch a simple YouTube video. Of course the point could be made that we can always leave the system in standby mode to circumvent all the updates, but honestly, a system shouldn't need an update every two days.

Last but not least, some third-party titles run in 720p, and that simply shouldn't be the case. You might need to pause the game and have a look to tell, but there are noticeable differences between Xbox One and PS4 versions, with the PS4 coming out on top.

Final verdict

Xbox One is finally picking up steam. It's selling in some places for under $500 and there are a plethora of great, platform-exclusive games ready to pick up right now, not down the road in 2015.

It's the best place for media enthusiasts with DLNA support, and the addition of Plex support is very nice indeed.

There's still a lot of potential locked away inside the hardware of the system that developers are just beginning to figure out. So while PlayStation might have the upper hand for now when it comes to certain third-party titles, it may not always remain that way. Just how Microsoft will get it to that point, though, is still a mystery.

In truth, Microsoft hasn't had the best year. But progress is painful, and that's what we've seen. Thanks to reduced pricing and clearer consumer messaging it's likely that Xbox can brush the dust off before entering the next year of its lifecycle, which will be full of great new games like Halo 5: Guardians, Evolve and Fable Legends.

Microsoft, at least in the gaming world, started with nothing and made it this far, so anything and everything is possible if it's motivated to see it through. The world is yours, Xbox, all you need to do is reach out and take it.

Tech Specs

Product TypeGaming Console
Hard Drive Capacity500 GB
Processor ManufacturerAMD
Graphics Controller ManufacturerATI
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeBlu-ray Disc Player
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
Product FamilyXbox One
Gaming Controller ConnectivityWireless
Maximum Resolution1920 x 1080
Brand NameMicrosoft
Input Device TypeGame Pad
Processor CoreOcta-core (8 Core)
Graphics Controller ModelRadeon
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Graphics Processor Speed853 MHz
Online NetworkXbox LIVE
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameXbox One Gaming Console
Processor Speed1.60 GHz
Processor TypeJaguar
Product LineXbox One
Manufacturer Part NumberXBOXONE
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Be amazed.

Welcome to a new generation of games and entertainment. Where games push the boundaries of realism. And television obeys your every command. Where listening to music while playing a game is a snap. And you can jump from TV to movies to music to a game in an instant. Where your experience is custom tailored to you. And the entertainment you love is all in one place. Welcome to the all-in-one, Xbox One.