Every decent piece of technology these days almost has to have two split personalities. Sure, they’re designed around specific scenarios, but any device worth your money allows you to do things beyond its original core capabilities. The iPad, for example, is an entertainment device first, but can let users stay productive. Microsoft’s Xbox consoles have had dual personalities for as long as they’ve been around. The Xbox 360 and original Xbox were gaming machines first, but they were entertainment machines too. The Xbox One is the first console in Microsoft’s line-up to wear both personalities on its sleeve.
So brashly marrying an entertainment hub and a gaming console is part of what got Microsoft into trouble in the time between its reveal and launch. Too many felt that the Xbox One’s included Kinect 2 sensor and higher price tag, weren’t justified. These people didn’t want entertainment features in their console and weren’t too happy that Microsoft had decided to built one console for everyone.
As we enter the Xbox One’s second year on store shelves its important to note, that those people were wrong about the Xbox One’s entertainment features then, and don’t deserve to be taken seriously now. For those looking for more information about the console’s gaming features, those thoughts can be found in GottaBeMobile’s Xbox One 2014 Gaming Review.
Xbox One 2014 Entertainment Review – As Long as You Have The Necessary Hardware
I should better qualify some users objections to the Xbox One having so many entertainment features at launch. To be fair, these users weren’t upset that the console could play videos or music. They were upset at the idea that Microsoft would force a Kinect 2 sensor on everyone just to enable those entertainment features. To them, the Xbox One was this gaming console that should have been priced evenly at $399 with the PS4. They had no interest in motion gaming, no desire to use voice commands and would never — they said, connect the Xbox One to their cable box.
They were right, mostly and the Xbox One Microsoft sells today reflects that. There’s still the $499 Xbox One for users to purchase. That model still comes with a Kinect 2 sensor. For everyone else, there’s the Xbox One priced at $399. The only difference between the two is that Kinect 2 sensor. Users can purchase the Kinect 2 sensor separately for $150 with a copy of Dance Central Spotlight, a motion tracking dance game.
Every Xbox One has an HDMI input port that allows you to pipe through video from a cable or satellite box. Some people even use it for connecting to the Xbox 360.
Xbox One 2014 Entertainment Review – Voice & Motion
Let’s talk voice and motion control because, they’re the key to the entertainment experience. Previous Xbox consoles sat on an input that the rest of the family stayed away from. To break down that divide Microsoft had to provide an easy way for the entire family to interact with the console.
Say, “Xbox, On.” and the Xbox One immediately turns on. Say, “Xbox, Pause” in a video and it will — there are tons of playback controls scattered in the TV app, Internet Explorer app and add-ons like Netflix and Hulu Plus. Voice commands have gotten better in the last year, multitasking and snapping is easy with a catch. You need to have properly configured your Kinect during the set-up process. Even today, failing to do so will leave you very, very frustrated.
Equally, futuristic is the gesture control that the Kinect 2 sensor provides for the entire family. If you’re not in a position to talk to the console you can place your one hand up and select what it is you want to do. Even in year two, Kinect gesture tracking isn’t as fool-proof as I would like. On TVs smaller than 40-inches it struggles. Activating it isn’t as obvious as it should be either, still.
Xbox One 2014 Entertainment Review – How it Comes Together
Motion control and voice are nice haves. What ties all of this together is the Live TV functionality, in my opinion. Each Xbox One has an HDMI pass-through port, but only the Kinect 2 sensor has the necessary infrared port that allows the Xbox One to control a cable box. I can’t tell you how great it is.
Before the Xbox One arrived on my doorstep I was a lifelong cable cutter. Since moving out on my own in 2008, I hadn’t used cable at all. I supplemented my reading time with Hulu Plus and Netflix. I picked up a cable package the Saturday after my Xbox One arrived and I haven’t regretted it.
Sometimes I Snap the Live TV app to the side of my screen and play games while watching my favorite shows. “Xbox On” “Xbox, Watch Al Jazeera,” is my standard phrase when I walk into the living room.” That’s how simple it is to change channels or adjust volume. The Xbox OneGuide, ties the experience together, letting me check what’s on other channels and the entertainment that’s available through the dedicated apps like Netflix.
Multiple users in your house isn’t a problem. The Xbox One can recognize each person and bring up their favorites when they are around. Talk in the same room as an Xbox One and you’re logged in. It’s that simple.
Update are the lifeblood of an experience like this. Microsoft proved that it understood this with the Xbox 360 and it has proven it with this console too.
In the last year software updates have added tons of entertainment features. The Xbox One supports a ridiculous amount of audio and video formats. Users can store media files on a flash drive for playback or stream it through the new DLNA Media Player app. The Xbox SmartGlass app is the universal remote every smartphone owner has been hoping for. In some countries, they can actually stream television directly to their smartphone or tablet through SmartGlass. There have been some small but crucial changes too. Originally, the Live TV app was a bit unstable and sometimes crashed. Today it runs pretty smoothly and surfaces things that are trending on Xbox Live and Twitter. An option for bypassing the Start Screen and going directly to the TV app has arrived too. You’d be surprised how much more family friendly that makes the console.
Xbox One 2014 Entertainment Review – Conclusion
There are some things I don’t like about the entertainment experience the Xbox One provides today. The Xbox OneGuide can be incredibly slow at times. The Xbox One’s slate of entertainment apps isn’t as large as what Xbox 360 users get. Not being able to mirror what I see on my Windows display is frustrating. Having no sleep timer when inside the television app makes me worry about my power bill some months. I wish I could store media files on the console’s hard drive or record television shows without a DVR.
The pluses outweigh the minuses. I can’t imagine the Xbox One without these entertainment features. Actually, I can. It’d be a better Xbox 360, which is fine, but not ideal for the people who have family members that aren’t into gaming. The Xbox One is the ultimate living room experience. If that’s what you’re looking for, plus a decent gaming machine, look no further. Just make sure, you’re ready to pay $499 instead of $399.