updated 06:16 am EST, Fri November 22, 2013
Microsoft Xbox One delivers a slick, engaging user experience
The console wars have begun in earnest with the launch of the Microsoft Xbox One. The new console promises to be a one-stop shop for all of your entertainment needs, from gaming and socializing, through to watching Blu-ray discs, TV and streaming entertainment apps. In this first look at the Microsoft Xbox One, we take a quick look at its user interface and its gaming chops. Microsoft may have had its hiccups ahead of the launch of the Xbox One, but all of that will quickly be forgotten now that it is in the hands of consumers. So how is shaping up so far?
The Microsoft Xbox One and the Sony PS4 both have very similar hardware specifications on paper. They both share the same AMD 'Jaguar' octa-core x86-64 CPU architecture, although the Xbox One is clocked slightly higher at 1.75GHz against the 1.6GHz clock speed of the PS4. They also both share AMD integrated graphics, although the Sony PS4 has a faster GPU capable of delivering up to 1.84 teraFLOPS of processing power against the 1.31 teraFLOPS of the Xbox One. Microsoft opted for 8GB of GDRR3 unified system RAM against the 8GB of GDRR5 unified system RAM in the PS4. It is too soon to say that the Sony PS4 outperforms the Xbox One in real world gaming performance, but it has the potential to do so if developers unleash it. Regardless, the Xbox One has plenty of performance potential to tap into for developers, with most launch titles supporting native 1080p/60fps gameplay ensuring that it delivers a truly next-generation gaming experience.
As with the Sony PS4, Microsoft has a hefty 500MB day one system software patch ready for gamers as soon as they hook up their Xbox One for the first time. Once this is out of the way, you are ready to rumble with your choice of gaming titles. All early adopters score EA Games FIFA 14 as a free download, while those who got their pre-orders in early, also snare a special Day One inscribed gaming controller to mark the occasion. When the system update installs, you are greeted with a revamped and updated version of the Windows 8-like live tile based UI that Microsoft successfully deployed on the Xbox 360 the latter half of its development cycle. Like the Sony PS4, the interface is lightning fast and is a joy to navigate and use as a consequence. An ace up its sleeve, however, is the ability for the Xbox One to integrate with your set-top-box of choice, saving you the hassle of switching between HDMI ports when you want to game or watch TV.
Microsoft recently revealed that it spent around $100 million developing the new controller and it really feels like money well spent when you get it in the hand. It looks beautiful and improves on the already outstanding ergonomics of the Xbox 360 controller in both form and function. All the new buttons and control surfaces have a genuinely high-quality feel about them, while it is also much lighter. The best thing about the new Xbox One controller is that it is both instantly familiar, yet it manages to be all-new at the same time. To the casual observer they look almost identical, yet the Xbox One controller is an improvement in every way over the much-loved Xbox 360 controller. At this early stage it's hard to say that we have a preference for either the Xbox One controller or that of the PS4; both are impressive and represent marked improvements over their predecessors.
The first two games that we have had a chance to sample are Forza Motorsport 5 (6GB day one patch!) and Dead Rising 3 (680MB day one patch). Both make excellent early use of the Xbox One's upgraded gaming credentials and certainly won't disappoint. Graphics run at an impressive 1080p resolution and at a solid 60fps and look great running on a full HD television. It's hard to say, however, that the new games represent a massive jump over the previous generation at first glance, but they are certainly more detailed and exhibit better lighting effects. It's early days of course, and as game developers become better accustomed to maximizing the gaming potential of the Xbox One, it is reasonable to expect that like the Xbox 360 before it, games will become better and even more impressive over time.
We will publish a full review of the Xbox One over the coming days, but as with the Sony PS4, if you're an early adopter, there is nothing that should stop you from taking the plunge on the Xbox One. At this stage, it's hard to recommend one over the other as we have yet to live with each console sufficiently to make that call. They are both impressive as they are; yet they will both pick up additional capabilities and interface refinements and other enhancements over time. The Xbox One offers some unique software tricks like Snap for a dual-window multitasking view, plus it integrates you STB. On the other hand, the Sony PS4 offers juiced up gaming credentials while still serving as an excellent multimedia hub with the unique ability to steam PS4 games to the PS Vita handheld. It may be as simple as picking which console has the 'must-have' exclusive gaming titles for your taste. If you have to pick between one or the other, we can say it seems that it would be hard to go wrong either way.
By Sanjiv Sathiah