Xbox One quick look: What it’s like in the real world

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I had an Xbox One all to myself this weekend thanks to Jason Ashman, who you may remember from the game collecting article. What do I think about the Xbox One? I think it’s really damn good! But like any new console, it’s had its share of day one problems and annoyances. Prepare for mass amounts of photo and video.

The first minor annoyance is that it scratches really easily. Because of the many glossy black surfaces, it loses its lustre quickly, leading to a rather diminished appearance on an already no-frills box.

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It’s also really big, reminiscent of the launch PS3. Next to a 360, it completely dwarfs the older console. However, it doesn’t look out of place in a cabinet and the black-on-white lighting scheme makes it great for dark rooms such as theatre rooms.

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It has HDMI in and out for connecting to your paid television. It creates a guide for your channels automatically, and it works really well – with a selection menu of your TV channels readily available. In Australia, at least. You lot will have to wait and see if it works at all in South Africa.  The I/O hardware on the unit is plentiful and even comes with an IR blaster for traditional remotes.

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The controller is no doubt the best part of the hardware. It has a highly ergonomic feel without being radically different from the old 360 controller. The Xbox guide button has been moved from the middle to the top of the controller, which is super handy for those who have a habit of accidentally hitting the guide button instead of start.

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The back of the controller has been smoothed out so you can lay your fingers on the back comfortably without hitting the protruding battery pack like on the 360 controller.

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The connection for charging remotes has been changed to standardised micro USB which is awesome and not proprietary and evil.

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The analogue sticks have a rubber edge to them, and a bevelled top to rest your thumb on. They are slightly smaller than the 360 sticks, so they’re much easier to move to every position. The biggest improvement however, is the D-Pad, in that it’s actually useable. It has beautiful clicky micro switches and it’s just lovely to use. The controller is the crowning achievement of the new Xbox.

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Initial startup is pretty slow, even with good internet. Most of the day one games required a hefty patch. In the case of Forza 5, it was a whopping 6GB. We are looking at 30+ GB games here so it’s somewhat understandable. The 500GB HDD in the unit may not last long though. Dead Rising 3 in particular took hours to download and turned out to be corrupted or needing a new update. These kinds of teething problems are to be expected, but really dampen the excitement having to wait hours for games to update and download.

 

The interface is a reworking of the Metro UI from Windows Phone. It’s all there and very smooth. Moving from the game to the menus is quick and will resume your game once you jump back in. The interface can be customised pretty thoroughly to remove things you do and don’t want. I’m not a huge fan of the look, but there’s no denying the functionality.

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The snap function works great, especially since I tend to look up stuff or watch videos while playing games.

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Now, the infamous Kinect. How does 2.0 hold up? Surprisingly well. The camera is of a high quality, even capturing faces and QR codes in very low light.

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The voice commands work MOST of the time. It’s definitely not infallible, not that we expected it to be. But in a quiet room with properly calibrated sound, it’s serviceable. It’s good enough to the point that if you didn’t just want to use the controller, you can completely control the UI using just your voice or motions. Despite all this, I don’t think it will make Kinect games any more fun. I hope I’m wrong.

Always watching.

The boxes the games come in are simple and attractive. They are the same size as a blu-ray case, but have lost the rounded edges.

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Weirdly enough, they’ve changed the inside so that the disc is on the left, and the manuals (well, bits of marketing and an online manual) are on the right.

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Xbox One is a refined piece of hardware.  Despite its early teething problems and all the doubt and controversy surrounding its release, it’s still a worthy contender for a next generation system. Bravo, Microsoft.

We’ll have a more in-depth guide to how the system functions in South Africa closer to the system’s launch..whenever on earth that may be.

Last Updated: November 26, 2013

stephens

Once upon a time, in a land long forgotten, I wrote for this site. The details were gobbled up by an errant database, so instead you’re reading this painfully obtuse default bio.

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