If you are a serious gamer, this review is probably not for you. For the most part, you probably know more about the XBOX One than any website within our category can tell you. But if you are the casual gamer with visual entertainment needs or currently looking for an entertainment unit for your man cave, consider reading the rest of the Freshness review of the XBOX One.
The XBOX One officially drops this coming Friday November 22, 2013 at the starting price of $499. That may seem like a lot of money but here's something to consider, your iPhone is a $649 device, the iPad starts around $399 and a decent Alienware PC for gaming/entertainment purposes starts at $699. Each of the options has their strengths and their limits so it all comes down to what you are looking for. The XBOX One is probably one of the best all-in-one entertainment units on the market today and here is our first look.
In the box is the XBOX One console with a 500GB hard drive, 8GB of RAM, Kinect 2 motion controller, mono mic/headset and one controller. There are no included games and is not backwards compatible with XBOX 360 games so if you have a nice library, don't junk the 360 unit just yet. At launch there will be about 22 titles available as discs or via digital download from the XBOX One in-system store. You can buy-sell-trade those games anyway you see fit.
Also see: XBOX One Unboxing Photos
Out of box
Plan on making some room for the XBOX One but the good news, you can probably get rid of your aging entertainment peripherals. The console is similar to the previous generation's size but also consider that the Kinect 2 motion controller will take up some space as well. The set up is fairly simple with two simple ways to connect to your TV. The easiest way calls for three connections: electric, HDMI and the Kinect. The second way is just as simple as the first but asks you to unplug your HDMI compatible cable/satellite box and connect it to the console. During the first power on, you'll go through the simple on-screen setup that set up wired or wireless connection to the internet. In the initial setup and anytime Microsoft "pushes" an update, you'll be asked to download and update the system software. The process is simple, amazing and quite a departure from Windows based PCs.
We won't get too much into performance in this review but the XBOX One does offer competitive hardware, rendering some great game graphics. What's worth mentioning is the new functionality of the Kinect motion controller. Not only can it be used with games, the controller also acts as face recognition for simple player login. It can distinguish between up to six people in a room simultaneously.
While it doesn't work perfectly yet, the new Kinect can also recognize voice commands. Think of it as Siri for your home entertainment unit. Some simple voice commands include: "Xbox on" which wakes up Xbox One, turns on the television and cable box. "Xbox turn off" does the opposite. "Xbox watch TV" launches the in-system cable TV which you plugged into the XBOX One. From here you can say things like "Xbox watch CNN" which changes the channel to CNN. It takes some getting use to and you'll need to learn the new command system but once you get it down, going from activity to activity can be a snap. For example, while playing a game, you want to quickly see what's what's on Sports Center you would say "Xbox watch ESPN". Now that you've seen what you need on ESPN and want to go back to the game. Here's where you'll need to know your exact game title and might have to say: "Xbox go to Forza Motorsport 5". It would be easier if you can say "Xbox go back to game". So hopefully the commands will evolve. Another fun trick to quickly watch TV while in another activity is to "Snap" TV on to the side of the screen, think picture-in-picture. To do this, you would say "Xbox Snap TV" and to go back to your other activity just say "Xbox Unsnap".
At launch some of the biggest names in online video are available as apps within the system including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus. Youtube is unfortunately absent at launch but you can pull it up in the included Internet Explorer browser. The experience is not great so hopefully the app is in the works. Past the video services, Xbox offers TV shows and movies for sale. One thing that's unclear is play back of home movies or downloaded videos. We tried to plug in an USB drive but found no way to read from it. But we want to see if the XBOX One can play home movies so we uploaded a video into Skydrive (Microsoft's cloud storage) and was to our surprise able to play the video. From Skydrive you can also upload albums of photos and run a slideslide show. At the moment, you can only get home movies and photos into the XBOX One by uploading it to Skydrive first. We also tried uploading a MS Word file and a PDF but the XBOX One did not recognize those files via Skydrive. So hopefully apps will solve these issues soon after launch.
Everyone has different needs but if you are living by yourself or with room mates and need something to provide visual entertainment this is absolutely the best system on the market. And even if you are not, the XBOX One can be a great addition to your living room, bed room or man cave for playing games, watching TV and other video needs. Here's an unconventional use we considered, you can park the XBOX One in your conference room and use it to do Skype voice, video calls or group video calls.
For more head over to xbox.com