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Xbox One review

The Xbox One is getting better with every firmware update

Perhaps more than anything else, Xbox One is a hallmark of how internet connectivity can alter user experience. It might not be the revolutionarily demanding web-box Microsoft initially wanted it to be, but Xbox One still wouldn't be what it is now without that direct line to Redmond, constantly pumping in new features and fixes.

From expensive, muddied beginnings, we're now faced with an affordable console with great games, a damn-near comprehensive set of media playback options, and the kind of extra features you'd have been calling "futuristic" a short while ago (background video calls while watching TV on a games console streamed from a laptop, for instance).

Xbox One still faces challenges, not least in proving that it can match up to the PS4 in terms of gaming power in the long-run, but it's already proved that it can overcome many of its problems. I'm inclined to think it can keep the run going. But what of the console I have now? Well...

We liked

First and foremost, I'm finally starting to believe that Microsoft is making the all-in-one entertainment box it promised.

As a games console, the Xbox can boast some of the best exclusive new-gen games yet released, with many of its upcoming exclusives bound to follow in their ancestor's critically-acclaimed footsteps. Its online service remains the most stable around, and is matching PSN for generosity now, too. It has the best controller on the market, and (whisper it) a peripheral in Kinect that could yet still offer some as-yet-unseen experiences.

At the same time, its bevy of apps and updates have made for a console that feels future-proofed. It's ready to offer those with the time a console that can seamlessly switch between TV, subscription streaming, local streaming, broadcasting, gaming and communicating with not even the touch of a button, just the sound of a command.

These two sides mesh in a responsive architecture that can handle any number of simultaneous processes, offering even the most hyperactive media consumer a machine that can handle their demands, not to mention offer multiple ways to fulfil them. There's something unique happening here.

We disliked

More than anything else, that multiformat games continue to underperform. While improvements have been made, it's becoming increasingly worrying that Xbox One may simply be incapable of matching the PS4 for power when it come to gaming.

Similarly, Microsoft's focus on entertainment as a whole has led to a few niggling problems on the gaming side. The continued lack of a screenshot function, fiddly Game DVR options and intermittent party system all point to a company that seems to be showing its priorities, and ignoring what it see as less important fixes.

Ditching the Kinect as an intrinsic piece of the console experience may offer some extra processing power, but it leaves holes elsewhere, not least in a UI that was clearly designed with voice commands in mind, and suffers hugely for losing them. Not only that, but those who have shelled out for Kinect will likely never see improvements to the voice commands, or mainstream uptake of the technology that made the camera interesting.

And, of course, the year-old problem of the console looking like a functionless Betamax player remains. It's something you want to hide away in a cabinet rather than the standalone media centrepiece it should be. It's a problem that may never be fixed. It shouldn't have been one in the first place.

Final verdict

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Xbox One is that it will probably never be "finished" in the true sense. That's not to say it will never function properly, I expect many of my problems with the console will be dealt with come the end of the year, but that Microsoft seems willing to continue with updates, add new ideas, alter others and keep tinkering forever.

This is practically a different console to a year ago, and with more updates, a wealth of games and perhaps even a wholesale UI change in the offing, it could be yet another, more accomplished one come 2016.

There's a good chance that it will never match PS4's performance focus, that its multiformat games will always suffer a little, but the combined strength of Xbox Live's sheer reliability and a wealth of ideas that sit alongside the console's gaming functions make it something a little different to a straight games console.

Purists will naturally balk at that. The PS4 is, after all, "for gamers, by gamers" but those interested in their tech may just find something a little more interesting in Microsoft's ever-evolving creation.

Those simply after a machine that meets their modern living room needs will find much to love here, too. It's a machine that can take almost anything current trends in watching, communicating and gaming can throw at it. That it will more than likely handle anything future trends can throw at it too is its true strength.

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
USBYes
HDMIYes
Product FamilyXbox One
Gaming Controller ConnectivityWireless
Maximum Resolution1920 x 1080
Brand NameMicrosoft
Input Device TypeGame Pad
Processor CoreOcta-core (8 Core)
Graphics Controller ModelRadeon
EthernetYes
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Graphics Processor Speed853 MHz
Online NetworkXbox LIVE
Channels7.1
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameXbox One Gaming Console
Processor Speed1.60 GHz
Processor TypeJaguar
Product LineXbox One
Manufacturer Part NumberXBOXONE
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.microsoft.co.uk
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.