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New Xbox One Experience - Preview announced for new update

Seth Barton
14 Sep 2015
Xbox One Windows 10 update home
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The new Windows 10-powered Xbox One interface is a huge step forward for the console

The biggest update yet to the Xbox One interface is coming in November but Microsoft has just announced that members of the Xbox One Preview Program will be getting it over the next couple of weeks. The new interface is a complete overhaul, powered by Windows 10, with a much-improved menu system and many new features. If you're looking to get on the Xbox One Preview Program, then there's no easy way, you have to invited by someone on your Friends list - but it's worth asking around and seeing if anyone you know is already on the program.

It'll certainly be worth the effort. We got a walkthrough of the latest build of Windows 10 for Xbox One at Gamescom in August and it's looking brilliant. That name is a bit misleading though, despite Microsoft itself using the term in its Windows 10 announcement spiel. In reality, what we’re getting is an entirely redesigned interface for the Xbox One which is built on Windows 10 tech, but you won’t be seeing anything that resembles the flexible, new PC operating system here.

Microsoft is calling this the biggest ever update to the Xbox One yet, and as you can see from the screenshots, that’s hard to argue with. The new look is simpler, cleaner and easier to understand than the current interface. Here we’ll take you through how it works.

Let’s start with the Home screen (shown above), though many of the features we discuss here are repeated across the screens, or tabs, which are listed across the top. You can flick between these using the bumpers as you do at present. Below them is your current activity, whether that’s the game you’re playing or a Netflix show you’re watching.

As before you get from any activity to the home screen with just a tap of the Xbox button on the controller. It’s always been quick but now it feels even faster still, switching practically instantly. Below this you get a short list of your most recently used content. These entries are enhanced with various information, showing if your friends’ are playing that game for instance, videos about that game, and also provide access to Game Hubs (for news and DLC). Below that you’ll find your collection of pinned content, which currently sits to the left.

Xbox One Windows 10 update games

The immediate benefit of the new vertical content arrangement is that the tabs along the top work left-to-right and the content beneath works top-to-bottom. This is far clearer than the current muddle owith left-to-right content sitting beneath left-to-right tabs.

Our only complaint about the new Home screen is that ‘promoted content’ or adverts as we call them, still appear in a bar down the right-hand side of the screen. We’d much prefer that Microsoft kept such content in the Xbox Store, or on game pages for DLC, as Sony does on the PS4.

Earlier builds of the new interface showed fewer tabs at the top of the screen, this is because the Xbox Store has now been broken out into Games, Apps, Movies and TV and Music, this means you don’t then require a submenu within a single store option to find the kind of content you’re looking for, so we can accept it.

Xbox One Windows 10 update community

The other tabs are Community and Watch. Community contains lots of trending content from the Xbox community such as game videos and even players who are doing great things. The Watch screen includes curated picks from streaming services such as netflix, plus Live TV that’s trending now with Xbox owners, so you can see at a glance what’s new and what’s popular. From here you can get access to the new Xbox One DVR (PVR to us) features, which we’ve discussed in Watch out Sky and Virgin - Xbox One DVR/PVR is coming 2016.

The icons down the left of every screen let you get access to Search, Notifications, Messages, Settings, Friends and Parties. These options make up the Guide and this can be accessed at any time by simply double-pressing the Xbox button on your controller. it slides out from teh side, with your game pausing where possible. You then get streamlined options to complete your task in just a couple of buttons presses.

As with the settings problem in Windows 8, where they were distributed about all over, the Xbox One interface has been a bit of a mess for a while as the original was designed with Kiect in mind, which was then removed as an always bundled accessory. The new Guide really brings all the settings and tools together in one place, so you know where to start looking.

You’ll be able to ‘snap’ other tasks to the edge of the screen from the Guide, as at present, but this wasn’t ready to show. We also didn’t get to see the latest work on integrating Cortana into Xbox One today (where it logically belongs). However previous announcements have shown that you can invite friends, share videos and send messages using voice commands via a Kinect (if you have one), all using largely naturalistic language.

Xbox One Windows 10 update Cortana

The new update will be available in November, with Insider Programme members apparently getting it as soon as late September to help iron out any remaining bugs. it’s a huge improvement on the current interface and really helps put the Xbox One’s troubled launch well behind it.

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