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Microsoft Xbox One

Xbox One review: Microsoft console is a serious contender

Thomas McMullan Seth Barton
3 Apr 2017
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Microsoft Xbox One
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
280
inc VAT (console and one game)

Replaced by the Xbox One S, the Xbox One has great exclusives and additional features

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Specifications

CPU: 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU, Graphics: 853MHz Radeon GPU with 12 Compute Units Memory: 8GB DDR3 (32MB ESRAM cache), Storage: 500GB hard disk, Blu-ray drive

XBOX ONE INTERFACE

The New Xbox One Experience, as it's officially known, has now replaced the original interface and it's a huge improvement. The original interface was heavily integrated with voice controls from the Kinect peripheral and had to have extra menus bodged into it when Kinect was dropped as a standard, bundled peripheral. The new interface is far easier to understand and navigate, it's simply great.

Booting up the Xbox One takes over a minute, which feels like a lifetime but you'll only do it rarely. Once you activate the Instant On function, the console resumes from an energy-friendly deep sleep in just a tenth of the time. This speed is present throughout the operating system, letting you jump from a game, to the Xbox store, to recorded video clips and back into your game without barely a pause.

The new interface is easy to navigate with horizontal menus across the top and then content is tiled downwards within each heading. The Store is over on the right and breaks down into subheadings such as Games and Movies when you reach it. You can pin favourite apps to the main screen so you don't have to hunt for them.

Xbox One Windows 10 update games

Behind the scenes, the new interface actually runs on the same code as Windows 10, not that you'd know to look at it. The advantage is that developers can write a single app that works across laptop, desktop, tablet, Windows Phone and Xbox One. This makes it far more likely that developers will keep their apps up-to-date. For example, there's a new universal Netflix app, which lets you search for Netflix content (via text or voice using Kinect) from the main interface.

The Xbox One is designed to be a hub for all your content, and now it has the DLNA-compatible media player to back that up. You can use it to play files over the network, including the sometimes tricky MKV file format, or play content directly from a USB flash drive.

STREAMING

The best thing that Windows 10 has brought to the Xbox One is local game streaming. You can now play your Xbox One games on any Windows 10 device on your home network - and with practically any modern laptop and PC upgradeable to Windows 10 for free, it's pretty likely you have such a device to hand. This means you can play games when someone else is watching TV, or when you're tucked up in bed with a cold, or on a monitor connected to your desktop PC, or any TV you can plug your laptop into ... it's brilliant.

It's easy to get started, just launch the Xbox app on your Windows 10 laptop (for example), click the Connect button on the left and find your Xbox One. You can power up the Xbox from here and then choose to stream its video output to your laptop. If your Wi-FI connection is decently you get a high-quality 1080p video stream from the Xbox and you can either connect a control wirelessly to the Xbox (if it's in range) or connect via USB to your laptop.

There's a smidgen of lag that may irk those playing serious online shooters but for most games it works brilliantly. You can even use your laptop's keyboard to type in messages, search terms or to redeem store codes. Sony looked to be leading in the way with this tech, but by limiting its streaming to the PS Vita (not enough controls) and its own-brand Android phones and tablets, it's now lagging seriously behind.

SHARING WITH OTHERS

Since launch Microsoft has added Twitch, so gamers watch other players (very handy in conjunction with the Snap feature, so you can play and watch at the same time) or stream their own gameplay straight to the web.

You can upload screenshots to Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage, share them with Xbox Live friends or post them to Twitter. There's no Facebook option at present though, which is a shame. Video clips can also be uploaded to OneDrive and now directly to YouTube too, via the YouTube app.

It's a good range of services, but everything just hangs together a little better on PS4, with simple menus accessible from the dedicated share button that let you upload to all the available services in one place. That said for those who love watching Twitch, the Xbox One is fantastic.

XBOX ONE TV AND ONEGUIDE

Support for streaming and catch-up services has hugely improved over the 18 months since launch. BBC iPlayer, All4 (previously 4OD), Now TV, Blinkbox and Demand 5 sit alongside Amazon Instant Video and Netflix, amongst others. Sky recently added 'TV from Sky' as well, so you can essentially use the Xbox One as an extra Sky box and watches programmes in a second room, although this requires Sky Go Extra at £5 per month or is free for those already paying for Sky Multiroom.

TV integration is arguably the Xbox One's killer feature outside of games. Once connected to the console, you can use your Sky, Virgin or YouView box just as you did before, but with many added benefits. You can see notifications and invites from gaming friends, have a Skype conversation in a Windows alongside live TV, or even bring up a web browser there.

The Xbox One isn't fussy about what devices it displays through the HDMI passthrough port, happily accepting 720p, 1080i and 1080p signals. That means you could connect a PC, smartphone, tablet, digital camera or camcorder, or even another games console. However, be aware that the Xbox One introduces a significant amount of latency to the input signal that could make it difficult to play your games this way, so I wouldn't recommend it.

Xbox One DVR PVR

From next year the Xbox One will become a fully-fledged PVR with the ability to record shows, season link and even let you watch that content on other devices on the go

Most people will therefore stick to using the HDMI passthrough with a set-top box. Microsoft has UK support for the OneGuide unified program guide, bringing your set top box's TV channel listings to your Xbox One for browsing programmes and setting up recordings from the console. It's also able to put content from streaming services and even YouTube subscriptions alongside TV content and recordings, letting you search it all in one place. It's a slick system that would appear to be a no-brainer for Xbox owners, but convincing the rest of the family might be tougher, as the Xbox One needs to be turned on for the passthrough to function.

The Xbox One is by default set to a 60Hz output, to make the most of your TV, while UK TV runs at 50HZ. If you are going to watch TV through the console be sure to change the setting in Settings, or else you'll get juddery video, particularly noticeable in panning shots.

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