One console to rule them all. One console to find all your devices, one console to control all your services and in the living room bind them.
That's Microsoft's plan. Gaming, cable television, music and movies all streaming into one system: the Xbox One. It's ambitious, but the hardware seems capable.
The real question is this: can the Xbox One overcome the mixed messaging, the now-canned 24-hour online dependence and the other potholes that had it stumbling out of the gate, and allowed Sony to win E3 2013 with some sharp PlayStation 4 counter-programming?
Thanks to a strong launch lineup and more than a bit of damage control, the Xbox One is repairing its reputation. Still, does it have a chance at the ubiquity of the of its predecessor, the Xbox 360? Or will it trip over its own $500/£429.99 price tag?
It's quite the legacy to live up to. For long stretches of the last console generation, the Xbox was king. While the Wii was everywhere, and millions of gamers and AV enthusiasts eventually picked up a PlayStation 3, for a while there the phrase "let's play some Xbox" was almost interchangeable with "let's play some video games."
It was the console that brought Xbox Live into maturity, setting the standard for the online experience on a gaming console. It taught couch gamers to tolerate the tech support look of a headset in exchange for voice communication, and that you get what you pay for: a year of Xbox Live Gold might have cost as much as a game, but the service was more robust than Sony's PSN.
Now at the dawn of a new console generation, the Xbox One stands before us, a combination game console and home theater system. Can it truly wrangle all the disparate devices of the living room, as well as support a robust library of games, or has Microsoft bitten off more than it can chew? Don't worry, we'll slice those facts nice and thin for you in our review.
The first thing you'll notice about the Xbox One is what an absolute beast it is. It measures 274 x 79 x 333 mm, making it longer and taller than a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox 360. You don't need a tape measure to figure that out though, the thing just looks huge.
Its size and girth harkens back to the original Xbox, an imposing black plastic beast covered in black plastic ridges. Microsoft seems to be throwing back to that design, bringing back the all black and the ridge-covered aesthetic.
When you first take the Xbox One out of its box, you'll notice an eyesore of a sticker next to the Blu-Ray drive, asking you to kindly not move the system while a disc is inside.
A good warning, as that can damage a spinning disc in any system, but an ugly sticker - luckily it comes off nice and clean. We also have hard time imagining that gamers will be moving their hulking Xbox Ones very often, especially since the system is also not designed to stand on its side.
It's massive size and black rectangular construction evoke a stereo tuner from the nineties. Its imposing bulk begs to be hidden away, with just its slot loading disc drive exposed, little white Xbox logo glowing in lonely TV cabinet darkness.
Flip the machine around and you'll see a plethora of ports. It has all your standard nodes: ethernet, HDMI out, power, S/PDIF (commonly used for optical audio), dual USB 3.0 ports and an IR out. Additionally, there are two proprietary ports, one for hooking in the Kinect, and an HDMI-in, which is how you feed the Xbox One your cable or satellite signal. There's also a third USB 3.0 port found on the system's right side.
The HDMI-in can function as a passthrough and let any old HDMI signal in, but there's a slight delay that makes it no good for hooking in another console.
You can't talk Xbox One without bringing up the new Kinect. While the system can operate without being hooked into Microsoft's magic eye, you'd be losing a lot of its most unique features and showroom wow factor.
The new Kinect is a whole lot bigger than its predecessor. It's also designed to sit in front of your TV, rather than perched on top of the screen like the PlayStation Camera. It's too big and, presumably, delicate for that.
Just like the system itself, it has a white light up logo on its right side. Dull red lights from its IR blaster intermittently glow when it's active.
The underside of the Kinect has rubber feet that provide a firm grip. It's not going to fall off your entertainment center any time soon. It can also tilt up and down, with enough range of motion that there shouldn't be any trouble finding the right angle for your living room.