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Xbox One: The Good And The Bad

Benjamin Li |
November 20, 2013 | 12:52 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Xbox One (Wikimedia Commons)
Xbox One (Wikimedia Commons)
The Xbox One isn’t simply just a gaming console anymore – it’s an all-in-one entertainment system designed to take over and replace everything in your living room.

Over the years, Microsoft has been shifting the focus of its flagship console from being a state-of-the-art gaming system towards being a far-reaching media center. 

Sure, the history of Xbox 360 games show great improvement in both quality and quantity, but slowly apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and even Amazon Instant Video became central to the Xbox 360’s functionality.

Xbox One, the next-gen console to follow Xbox 360, capitalizes on this newfound direction, aiming to provide a futuristic entertainment experience in every Xbox One user’s living room – with hands-free voice controls and integrated media.

But – does Microsoft deliver on what they promise with the Xbox One?

Here’s what the critics are saying:


The Good:


1. The Xbox One is TV compatible:

Polygon: “The television integration and One Guide work well as an augmentation to your existing cable or satellite provider. Navigating to TV shows and movies via voice commands — i.e., "Xbox, watch HBO" — is also great. These voice commands also justify the TV functionality of the console, making it so that the only time you'd have to pick up your TV remote is to watch things you have on your DVR.”

If you have cable, the Xbox One’s OneGuide is a dream for you. It allows you to hook up your existing cable system to the Xbox, and surf T.V. channels with a flick of your wrist or a simple voice command. Xbox One’s OneGuide is its own version of a T.V. Guide, with a bunch of cool features. 


2. The Xbox One’s new Snap functionality:

The Verge: “It's not a particularly quick interface, but it works, and Snap is extremely cool. By snapping the appropriate app alongside, you can watch a video, browse the web, or even consult a game's manual without ever leaving your game — true multitasking on a game console.”

Snap is one of the coolest functions on the Xbox. It allows you to multitask your activities on the game console – just imagine the possibilities using this thing: 

It’s halftime for the football game you’ve been waiting to watch forever. You don’t want to wait around, but you don’t want to miss anything. Xbox One provides a solution: use Snap to minimize the football game on T.V. to the left-hand side of your screen, and boot up a game of Madden on the right-hand side of the screen. Best game day ever.


3. The Xbox One’s new Kinect:

Gizmodo: “In optimal circumstances, Kinect voice recognition is freaking fantastic. Like, sit-in-stunned-amazement-barking-commands-and-pausing-to-squeal-with-glee fantastic. There is hardly anything you can't do on the Xbox One using voice commands. The only place I ran into a hard stop was the settings menu, and one weird button in another Kinect configuration window. Just about everything else though—switching apps, opening games, customizing your avatar, checking notifications, going to Netflix, making Skype calls, pulling up videos from your SkyDrive—is voice-enabled, and functional as hell.”

The Kinect sensor is an essential part of the user experience with the Xbox One. It allows you to just sit back and relax, while your Xbox One caters to your every command. If you want to surf a particular website: bark a command at the Kinect. If you want to play a game, or watch a T.V. show: same deal. There’s a small learning curve involved, because background noise may interfere with the functionality, but apparently once the Kinect is mastered it can be incredibly useful.

Apparently, it’s also extremely user-friendly. Emphasis on friendly:

The Verge: “Forget logging into your Xbox Live account: after a few sessions, Kinect will do that automatically whenever it sees you in the room. (It even excitedly greets you when it finds you.)”


4. The Xbox One’s games:

Gizmodo: “This thing is going to blow your gat-dang hair back. All the games we tried (Forza 5, Dead Rising 3, Crimson Dragon, and a few titles we're not allowed to talk about yet) looked beautiful, without exception. You can get graphics like this out of a powerhouse PC, sure. But in the console world the Xbox One—and the PS4—is like whoa.”

The Xbox One boasts 21 next-gen games at launch, with incredible graphics.

Read more about it at TechCrunch:


The Bad:


1. The all-important Kinect still has issues:

The Verge: “But Kinect doesn’t always work. It’s simply not reliable or flexible enough. Often, I felt like I spent more time screaming at the Kinect to follow my commands than it would have taken to just pick up the controller. I begged, I pleaded with the device to do what I wanted in the most commanding yet humble tone I could muster, and on many occasions it indeed felt like I had the robotic butler of my dreams. Most of the time, though, it felt like my butler was a little hard of hearing.”

There’s a learning curve with the Kinect, and it doesn’t always work, especially with the background noise. The Kinect offers a robust user experience, but only under the most optimal circumstances. If you have a dog, noisy roommates, or a crying infant in the house, the Xbox One may not be a good idea – the Kinect is central to navigating the Xbox One.


2. Xbox One’s greatest selling point – its T.V. functionality – also has lots of issues.

The Verge: “The TV integration is an awkward hodgepodge of menus and overlays and dead ends. The entire Xbox TV experience: it’s a little bit more complicated, but not a whole lot better.”

The Xbox One is not going to take over your living room if you think watching TV on your Xbox is too complicated.


3. The Xbox One’s price tag:

TechCrunch: “With the Xbox One, though, it’s back to level one. It’s being presented as an entirely new package, and one that comes with a $500 price tag. Faults, even small ones, are a bit harder to look past.”

The Xbox One costs 500 dollars, Kinect included, which is almost 100 dollars more expensive than its main competitor: Playstation 4. The Playstation offers many of the same functions and features, but still retains its position as a game-first console rather than an entertainment console.


4. Xbox One doesn’t play Xbox or Xbox 360 games:

This may very well be a deal breaker for anyone with a well-stocked collection of Xbox games. 


The Verdict?

TIME: “The Xbox One is a content assimilation engine, a vanguard move into a market the competition’s still toying around in by comparison. It’s an immature, somewhat glitchy content assimilation engine at this stage, sure, and it shares the PS4′s launch game weaknesses if you’re coming at it from the gaming side, but if you’re an early adopter or already invested in Xbox Live’s social ecosystem, think of it more as the jumping off point for a fascinating experiment. It’s a risk, but then all product launches are risky. If it’s successful — and I’m not saying it will be; ask me again in four or five years — it has the potential to change everything about TV and streaming media and the living room as we’ve known it for over half a century.”

The Xbox One is an experimental step into a new model of next-gen consoles by Microsoft. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on, but not all of it works that well. At least, not well enough to warrant a 500 dollar price tag. 

The game is still king – Xbox’s gameplay is arguably its strongest function, even though Microsoft’s strategy may not have intended for it to be that way.

Over time, the Xbox One may improve exponentially and truly become the all-in-one entertainment box that Microsoft wants it to be. After all, look at the Xbox 360: the last few updated models of the Xbox 360 are completely different and much, much better than Microsoft’s earliest model. 


Reach Executive Producer Benjamin Li here:



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