Xbox One review

In terms of the quantity of streaming apps available in the UK, the Xbox One is doing… OK.

The main services of note are Netflix, Amazon Prime/Instant, Demand 5, Blinkbox, Xbox Video, 4OD, Machinima, Skype, YouTube, Wuaki.tv, MLB.tv, and the TED 'inspirational lecture' channel.

There is one glaring omissions here, of course – BBC iPlayer. Supposedly this will be added soon, but until it is, the Xbox One will always be lacking from a media point of view in the UK.

There's no word on any ITV Player or Sky Go support, though, with Microsoft simply referring to Sky Go as a 'potential future opportunity' - despite the services presence on the Xbox 360 and recently being confirmed for the PS4.

Talking refresh rates

When the Xbox One first launched, the quality of the streaming experience was severely hamstrung by the lack of a 50Hz output, which meant pictures stuttered alarmingly. This is, now, thankfully fixed, leaving you with a very nice quality streaming experience, with good stability and crisp HD pictures (so long as you have a decently fast broadband connection obviously).

A big part of any household's media experience these days is playback of photos, videos and music via USB storage devices or DLNA streaming from networked external devices. In this department the Xbox One was something of a bust on launch, but not any more.

USB playback for some files, including MKV, is now supported, and that's supported by the exciting addition of DLNA and Plex support...

oneguide app store

Plex

One big advantage the Xbox One has over the PS4 is its ability to perform DLNA streaming with the help of the Plex app. Plex is a superb system that turns your personal media collection into a Netflix-type library full of images and music.

It means you can stream media across your own network or even over the internet, and it works flawlessly.

The Xbox One also has its own beta media streaming app which is nowhere near as refined as the Plex one, but it is being worked on so you can expect that to improve over time.

Remarkably, the Xbox One still doesn't even let you rip your own CDs to its hard drive. It will play an inserted CD well enough, but you can't build up a convenient archive of your music on the console. CD ripping was, of course, available on the Xbox 360.

Blu-ray and DVD

The last thing on Xbox One as media server watchlist is its playback of Blu-rays and DVDs. You'll need to install the Blu-ray/DVD app in order to play discs, but you'll be prompted to do so when you first pop a disc in the tray.

The August 2014 Xbox One update added, amongst many other things, the ability to play back 3D Blu-ray discs, so if you're keen to make use of a 3D TV, you can no use the Xbox One to do so.

With Blu-rays and DVDs the console has gone from being a pretty poor effort at launch to being a pretty decent one now. For starters, various updates have added a 50Hz playback option for Blu-rays which works much better with UK TVs than the previous 60Hz alternative to Blu-ray's native 24p format. Though 24p is also, naturally, supported.

Pictures look more detailed and noiseless than they used to as well. There are some standalone Blu-ray decks that can deliver bit more sharpness and colour resolution, but some viewers might actually prefer the less 'forensic' but smoother finish to the Xbox One's images.

Sound sound

There were significant problems with the audio performance of the Xbox One's Blu-ray player at launch. Specifically some major lip synch errors when watching at 24p, and the fact that the console could only ship out uncompressed DTS surround sound, not Dolby Digital.

Both these problems now appear to be fixed – even if the Dolby Digital issue has only been solved by converting DTS tracks into Dolby Digital for output.

Looking back over all the Xbox One's media offerings as they stand today, it's certainly true that we now have a console that's much improved from its 'bare bones' launch day status. However, it remains very much a work in progress in some key areas, and while there are glimmers of genius from the undeniably sophisticated OneGuide integrated TV functionality, for now the problems with controlling the system – especially in a family use environment – represent a significant barrier to its wide adoption.

At least until Microsoft adds a few more compelling features to make the effort feel more worthwhile.