Xbox One ambitious as ‘all-in-one’ entertainment system

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Microsoft had a rocky road leading up to the launch of the Xbox One.

Facing backlash over the console’s $499 price tag, always-on requirement and “ban” on used games, Microsoft had to spend months repairing its poor public relations image through several policy changes and gamer-friendly announcements.

With the Xbox One now available, it can be confidently said that Microsoft’s backpedaling has resulted in a promising piece of hardware that does indeed do more than just play video games.

Hardware

It really says a lot about your system when the most frustrating issue is the size itself. The Xbox One is large, measuring in at 13.5 inches wide and 10.4 inches long. In fact, it’s bigger than the original design of the Xbox 360 that launched in 2005. When compared to the PlayStation 4, which is incredibly compact even with a built-in power brick, the Xbox One seems like a behemoth of a system.

The size of the system isn’t without reason, though. Xbox 360 owners can probably recall the mass console failure dubbed the “red ring of death” that plagued millions of consoles. Microsoft has tried to avoid a similar issue with the Xbox One by giving the built-in fan a big empty space to release heat, which the console does really well.

The appearance of the system was another feature that received a heavy dose of criticism. Message boards and Internet comment sections called the system a “glorified VHS player” with its square design that, in all fairness, doesn’t catch the eye like the PlayStation 4 does.

However, I found that the two-toned black design featuring matte and gloss finishing makes up for the “drab” shape. And like the PlayStation 4, the system looks great on any entertainment center, barring that you have the space to fit both the Xbox One and its external power brick.

User Interface

The Xbox One both succeeds and fails with its user interface.

The “Windows 8-esque” design of the Xbox One dashboard has the ability to be neat and easy to access. But at first glance, it is a cluttered mess of icons and applications.

More so, some features you’d expect to be on the main dashboard in its own category are buried elsewhere in places that don’t make sense. For example, settings are found in the games page, rather than being its own entity on the front page.

However, the dashboard excels thanks to the “pin to home” button that allows you to put your favorite games and applications in one place on the homepage. It is also incredibly easy to navigate through the controller and voice commands via the Xbox Kinect.

The latter of these is surprisingly seamless thanks to the Kinect’s new technology. The only time I ever had an issue was when there was a considerable amount of background noise, i.e. talking and music, that flooded the device’s built-in microphone.

When it works, though, it justifies the inclusion of a Kinect, especially when you add in better body reading and the ability to read QR codes, i.e. Xbox Live codes.

Graphical Power

Like the PlayStation 4, graphics are a touchy subject at launch, as most developers are still “feeling out” the platform and its power.

Most of the early graphical leaps on Xbox One are similar to the PlayStation 4. Developers are able to display more on-screen and make backdrops and weather systems more realistic.

However, games like “Ryse: Son of Rome” and “Forza Motorsport 5″ prove that the Xbox One is more than capable of rendering full-fledged next generation graphics that meet, and sometimes surpass, the PlayStation 4.

Final Verdict

Those pre-launch woes? Forget them. The Xbox One is a solid addition to the Xbox brand and to console gaming. Its issues are less problems and more annoyances that only hinder the experience slightly, which is why I give the Xbox One a four out of five stars.

If Xbox One’s launch shows us anything, it’s that Microsoft is more than capable of delivering on the promise of an “all-in-one entertainment system.”

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