So the Xbox one is here and having spent a whole day with the console, it's time for Ash and Joe to give you their thoughts on their first experience at home with the next generation.
Ash: After the frustratingly long wait since the console was first announced, my Xbox One has finally arrived. Upon opening I couldn't can’t help but notice just how much attention to detail has been made just with the layout of the packaging, the Kinect peering out of its nest, its unblinking eye ready to take note of your daily activities, the console itself hidden away under well placed cables, instructions and quick scan codes.
The setup itself is relatively quick, though making space for it was another matter entirely, having to retire not only the Xbox 360 but the PS3 as well; the fight for space under the TV is already quite fierce. With just a few cables to contend with, the power supply, Kinect and HDMI cables all feel sturdy and well made in their respective sockets ( to get the "best" experience I also put my Sky HDMI through the HDMI in). The same can’t be said for the control pad, the initial thoughts of quality build and comfy where a little off the mark, the buttons and top half of the control pad feel great, a solid, comfortable and smooth build, buttons clicking and moving with real satisfaction, however the bottom half is another story, the d-pad feels a little floaty and the palm grips have a rather ugly finish, being very plastic in feel and uneven on the seams. To top it off, the controller requires batteries, just where did that reported £100,000,000 go on when it comes to R&D? Maybe if Microsoft doubled that then the other half of the controller would have been better. All said and done though, the controller does fit well, even in my spade-like hands and when playing games (the most important part) it does feel like it is the best ergonomically designed controller from Microsoft so far.
Turning on the Xbox One is also very easy; no syncing here, just load the batteries into the control pad and press the guide button and it slowly comes to life. Now here is the first real concern, as though I was fortunate for a seamless first day, the process was a little unnerving, especially for those of us who have owned a PS3 or Xbox 360 as the initial boot screen appeared to hang for a little too long. Perseverance pays off though as it all slowly comes to life, first up the obligatory day one update, which in fairness does not take too long, which then leads into a very easy setup, selecting time zones and Kinect and power settings and then, after a short advert you are set free. The machine itself seems to run very quietly, even when installing from a disc which is a refreshing change from the noisy old Xbox 360.
Each little area of the dash has its own space, some with a brief tutorial, others just waiting for you to wander through the menus and I am sure we will cover these in more detail once we have had more time with the console. Something that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed was the Upload and Game DVR functions, it is so easy to use, with a quick verbal command or use of the Snap screen you can quickly save some gameplay and share it or later edit it, already my friends list is filling up with submissions of amazing gameplay moments or achievement unlocks.
Kinect seems to work for the majority of the time, picking up most of my requests, the long list of specific orders will take a while to get used to, a quick reference card would have been a sensible addition and showing often used commands. The QR scan function however works a treat, with the Kinect taking a split second to redeem my Day One achievement.
TV control via the Xbox One is also another nice feature I am starting to use, “Xbox, Watch TV” switches to the TV screen, “Xbox home” returning to the dashboard. If you have a supported TV you can also mute and adjust the volume which is quite smart. Of course most of the TV options are USA only, leaving us out of the game there until Microsoft sees fit to offer it in the UK. Having changed the power setting to a light sleep, I am able to walk into the living room and with a “Xbox On”, turn on the console and a “Xbox turn off”, turn off the console; sadly this does not turn on or off the TV, still requiring a separate remote for this, which is a bit of a pain and will probably result in me unplugging the Sky from the console as I am not the only user of the TV in the house and the Kinect really struggles with the Mrs commands.
This is only day one, scratching the surface of what this machine can offer, but for now it’s back to the important stuff, playing games on it.
Joe: So after waiting in all day, Xbox One finally arrived on my doorstep, probably at around 17.30. Like Ash, I didn't waste any time opening the box and I also was very impressed with the attention to detail of the way everything was packed in. Having planned ahead, I already had a spare plug socket and a space on the shelf for Xbox One, with my Test PS3 relegated to the upstairs bedroom and the previous Kinect having long vacated the space underneath the TV.
Setting up the console for me was fairly simple, having followed all of the steps before upgrading the firmware and being met with the hanging green screen with the Xbox Logo. Eventually the console did spring to life and when it did the first thing I decided to do was set up the avatars for my family of five. This again was a simple process and at the end of it all resulted in Kinect recognising everyone who walked into the view of the camera. I'm pretty impressed.
What I'm not impressed about is that my Xbox One seems to take forever to do anything. Want to switch applications? Loading times. Want to play a game? Loading times? Want to do anything that involves using the Xbox One? Loading times. For me, It's hardly the seamless experienced that Microsoft promised and this particular part of the experience has left me thinking that the console has a long way to go. The potential is certainly there though.
You may have saw my video last night in which I tested if Kinect recognised a Scottish accent. The reason I did this is because the last version certainly did not. Thankfully the new Kinect is much improved; sure you'll need to learn the script of words in order to provide the camera with commands, but once you learn them it seems to work seamlessly every time. Well I say seamlessly, but what I really mean is that once you finally get the machine to recognise the fact you are saying 'Xbox' (usually six times for me) then the commands that follow (such as Turn Off, Snap, Play Disc, etc) generally work first time, every time.
There are a few features which I've tried which have impressed me on Xbox One, such as Upload Studio, which allows you to use a clip you have recorded and edit it with voice overs, picture in picture (with you in one half and the clip in the other, or even one clip in each picture) or even a series of clips strung together. The Upload Studio process is very quick and seamless and whether you are editing or uploading, it all seems to work well, although there is one major problem. The quality of the video is not the greatest, in fact as you can see in the video below, it's quite badly compressed.
What I think is probably the killer app for Xbox One could be something unexpected - Xbox Fitness. Having tried this application briefly I was very impressed. It's only free for a year if you are on Xbox Gold and then MS will start to charge a fee, however this complimentary year will be well used by most I'd say, as the application is well designed and uses the power of Kinect to track you with the ultimate precision. During any of the exercises you'll be rated and rewarded with achievements and merit badges, all of which has you hankering to go back for more. You can really feel the exercise working too, which of course is the main aim of the game. Keep an eye on this App, because everyone is going to be talking about it soon.
Another fun feature of Xbox One is the ability to switch in and out of apps. I must warn you that on certain apps, if you switch out, you could very well lose progress in any game you are playing and while this doesn't happen all of the time, it's best to save your progress anyway just in case. Problems aside, switching is a neat feature, allowing you to come out of your game if you need a break and look at achievements, read messages or check out what friends are up to, before jumping back into your game and carrying on from where you left off. You can also interact in a similar way with SmartGlass too, which I briefly checked out on my iPad. This allows you to connect with the console and use some of the apps mentioned, as well as the companion app for each game. In Ryse for instance you can read the manual, check your progress against friends and read back stories etc. It's pretty good, although was only useful because I was doing it while someone else was having a turn on the control pad.
So that just about sums up my own personal experience of Xbox One. The only real issues I've encountered are the fact that you can't take screenshots (why Microsoft?), slow loading times and the one off crash which saw Kinect go down, followed by the machine and the controller. Thankfully unplugging it and plugging the Xbox One in again seemed to fix it.
Is Xbox One worth it? So far I'm on the fence on that one. The launch games aren't exactly setting the world on fire for me and the User Interface feels like it has some way to go before it becomes the seamless experience I was expecting. But the console has potential and I have a feeling that a year from now it will be fully realising it.