Xbox One – A Few Days In

Yes, I bought both consoles. I briefly gave my thoughts on the PS4 already and now some on the Xbox One.

I expected to be dazzled by the graphics and baffled by other things, I was not surprised. Of course the new console has better graphics than the console that is six years old. If it didn’t there would have been about a 98% return rate. I don’t think I need to talk about the graphics any further.

Did you like the switch to the Metro…sorry, we’re not supposed to call it that anymore…What I meant to say was – did you enjoy the change to the tile based interface on the Xbox 360 that is shared with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8? No??? Really??? Yeah, me neither. I’ve used the interface on a touch screen and it works just fine there but it is too cumbersome and clumsy when tethered to a controller. You can try to use the voice commands, that is if you connect your Kinect. Now that you don’t have to — do you want to?(More later.) They did try to simplify it but they also added confusion. The Xbox home button is used for multiple purposes now and depending on what context you are in or what you are doing will depend on what you get when you press it. They also reorganized and did some renames on things to confuse you even further. It’s not a good sign when they have a tutorial on the home screen to help you learn the new home screen.

As far as the Kinect goes, I think the jury is still out. From the reports that compare it to the original Kinect it has been drastically improved. I sit less than the previously needed six foot minimum and it seems to work fine. What I stumble over is what are the commands and when I can use them. I did the tutorial I mentioned earlier but it is not very comprehensive and some of the list I’ve found on the Internet will just make you cross-eyed if you try to read them. I am cautious of the Kinect’s potential. A lack of commitment by Microsoft was stated very clearly when they did an about face and decided not to require the device to be connected. They still required you to purchase it regardless.

Maybe I dwell on the little things but isn’t the devil in the details? Let’s just take a look at a few of them.

  • The controller has improvements and feels good overall. I can’t describe it well but it seems like the top is too narrow and my hands have to point to far inward. What really irks me though is there is still no good notification when you are running out of power. I use the same rechargeable AA batteries I have been using in my 360 controllers. Sure the 360 controller circled the rings on the controller when power was low but who is looking at the controller? I found the same issue on the new console. Smack dab in the middle of an on-line match a message comes on my screen stating that controller one has been disconnected. Did the rings circle on the controller? I don’t know, I wasn’t looking!
  • Microsoft made a big deal about their tv integration. If you are going to put it in the forefront then you need to make it work right. Submitted for your review – I connected my Comcast cable box to the Xbox One, fumbled through getting the IR blaster to work but managed to get it. Although the setup process could have worked better, I was able to accomplish a successful setup. Or did I??? Over the weekend I wanted to watch a college football match that was carried on ABC. I get the Xbox OneGuide on the screen, scroll to the channel I want to watch with the controller, press the button, and get tuned to the wrong channel. You see, I wanted the HD feed of the game but the Xbox One tuned to the standard definition feed. On Comcast, at least in my region, HD feeds have separate channels than standard definition. I had wanted 804 for the HD but got tuned to 4 for standard definition even though I scrolled to and selected the HD station. I would think that if I scroll to 804 then select it I would then be tuned to 804, not 4. If I had used the Kinect and tried tuning that way I could have given some leeway.
  • More on tv integration. Sure it works but it did not look as good. There was a noticeable lag or quality loss when watching tv through the Xbone. It had an unnatural look and motion did not look as smooth as it does through the cable box itself. This condition was worse in snap mode(a new feature where you can put an app in a small window on the right and show another app/game in a larger screen portion on the left). What caused me a lot of concern was that even though this is labeled as a HDMI passthrough, you have to have the Xbone on and running at all times to watch tv. Too many stories and worries of the dreaded “red-ring-of-death” will keep many users from actually doing this. A small issue is that if you use your cable box remote to change the channel the Xbone has not idea and still thinks you are on the last channel it tuned you to regardless. That could get confusing.
  • Some apps that worked on the 360 don’t work as well on Xbone. My case in point is the ESPN app. Several times I was watching it and it just locked up never to recover. I had to go open another app and then reopen ESPN. At first I thought this was just because I had it snapped. However, I found the freezing problems to continue even when ESPN was the only app that I was running and had it in full screen mode. Furthermore, while snapped I could not find a way to select all of the content that was available while in full screen mode.
  • Snap mode needs some work. Along with the lag and feature issues I already mentioned, I cannot find a way to adjust the volume of the full screen versus snapped app. It seems that the Xbone determines how loud it wants each app to be and you have to accept it. Small item I know but I would like to have more control in this case.

Potential? Sure, tons – just like PS4. I expect there to be patches before Christmas, heck maybe before Thanksgiving. Microsoft already said that Twitch broadcasting will not be available until 2014 even though this is a feature that PS4 launched with. I also expect patches to address HDMI capturing to address issues people are having with captures and broadcasting. I just don’t understand why both Microsoft and Sony are trying to inhibit the community that is supporting them. It is nice that they are adding integrations to Twitch and/or Ustream but that does not suit all the needs in the gaming community.

Look for updates and tweaks to be forthcoming. I will say again that this console just launched and will not be perfect. Long term potential is just as big for this console as it is for the PS4.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll do a personal comparison of the two systems after a little bit more time with each.

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