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New Apple TV vs. Microsoft Xbox One

“The all-in-one entertainment system.” It’s a tagline it seems like Apple should have used describe its new Apple TV console. The Apple TV has been around for years, but the App Store revolution mostly passed it by. It didn’t have access to the iTunes App Store and that meant users couldn’t play games or get any streaming audio and video apps without Apple having to work in close partnership with the maker.

That is the tagline Microsoft used to describe its Xbox One entertainment console. The Xbox One was designed by a team who had an appreciation for the empire they’d built. The Xbox started out as a video game machine, but the Xbox 360 was the first video game console to fully embrace what we think of as modern media. Hulu and Netflix were first introduced on the Xbox 360. Users could stream Netflix movies and chat with each other too, even if they weren’t on the same continent. The Xbox One kept music and video apps and added live television integration, giving users who wanted broadcast television or cable users a better experience than what was possible on lesser set-top boxes.

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Read: New Apple TV Release Date, Price & Features Detailed

The new Apple TV is a direct threat to Microsoft’s Xbox One. Here’s how the two stack up against each other.

New Apple TV vs. Microsoft Xbox One: Design & Internals

The Xbox One is huge. There’s just no way around it; the console measures 13.1-inches by 10.8-inches and stands 4.1-inches tall. The console needs all that room, Microsoft has it stuffed with some hefty gaming hardware, since it’s primarily sold as a gaming console.

Xbox One Problems - Turning Off Randomly

A quad-core AMD Jaguar processor, dedicated graphics processor 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a Blu-Ray Drive, three USB ports. Infrared audio, Ethernet, HDMI-out and an HDMI pass-through port. Every Xbox One comes with an Xbox One Wireless Controller and users can purchase a Kinect sensor or media remote if they’d like one. The Xbox One has built-in support for wireless 802.11n.

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The Apple TV is a diminutive block. It’s a 3.9 inch square with a rounded edge. It stands 1.4-inches tall. Every Apple TV comes with a wireless remote with built-in support for passing on voice commands directly to the console’s built-in Siri personal assistant and a glass trackpad.

Inside is an Apple A8 Chip processor. Ports include a 10/100 Ethernet port, 802.11AC wireless internet, Bluetooth 4.0, and a USB type C port that Apple says is only for users who visit its support centers.

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If we only judged consoles by their looks, these two devices wouldn’t be in the same league. The Xbox One is meant to be at the heart of any vast entertainment set-up. Sure, it can be used on its own, but there are enough ports there to support all-sorts of setups. Apple is banking on users wanting simplicity, on users deciding that having a large box below their television isn’t something they want.

New Apple TV vs. Microsoft Xbox One: Gaming

The real danger for the Xbox One is that Apple could be right, users could not really want a large box below their television set. Put another way,  users discover that what the Apple TV offers is enough for their needs.

The overwhelming majority of the games in the iTunes Store are designed for touch screens. Rather than set those games aside and require developers to embrace a traditional controller, Apple aired on the side of trying to emulate the experience of a touchscreen with the new Apple TV Remote. A glass trackpad on the top of the remote lets users manipulate what they see on screen with their fingers. The Apple TV remote also borrows heavily from the Wii; it includes sensors inside for motion gaming. Apple doesn’t make its own wireless gaming controller, but does have partnerships with companies like SteelSeries to offer compatible controllers for games that require them.

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Manticore Rising, Rayman Adventures, Showmatic, Transistor and Guitar Hero are all confirmed for the Apple TV. Disney Infinity 3.0, the amazingly popular toys-to-life game franchise is also coming to the Apple TV with a starter pack. Games purchased through the iTunes Store with compatible versions for the Apple TV will unlock across Apple’s iPhone and iPad, which is a key reason to game on the Apple TV in the first place. The problem for the Apple TV is going to be cultivating more games than just Angry Birds clones and free-to-play titles that focus on extracting cash from players instead of in-depth gameplay.

By compassion, the Xbox One’s problem is that its barrier to entry is so high. The console itself costs $349 for its cheapest configuration. That doesn’t include the Kinect sensor it needs for motion gaming. The Kinect sensor costs $149 extra and there aren’t too many games that use the sensor exclusively for gaming. Kinect Sports Rivals does, but most games use it as a way to navigate menus and quickly get to information. Because games on the Xbox One are so much more detailed they take up more space. That’s why the basic $349 Xbox One has 500GB of storage as compared to the paltry 32GB Apple TV shoppers get for $149.99.

Read: Xbox One Review 2014 – My Experience Gaming a Year Later

The most popular titles all cost $60, but Microsoft is embracing smaller games too. The ID@Xbox program lets small teams of gamers work directly with Microsoft on tinier titles they finance themselves. There are also free-to-play games like World of Tanks and Neverwinter. You get the full range of games with the Xbox One, in your living room. That’s something we’re still unsure about when it comes to the Apple TV.

New Apple TV vs. Microsoft Xbox One: Entertainment

Microsoft started this console generation out in front, pushing its all-in-one entertainment strategy. Slowly, it’s backed down on most of this. The Xbox One was perfect for an entire family when Kinect came with every console. Every one could play motion games even if they didn’t understand a wireless controller. Everyone could quickly switch between their gaming and entertainment profiles too since the Kinect recognized people sitting around the television.

Making the Kinect a separate purchase harms a huge part of the Xbox One’s entertainment strategy. Apple is betting that if it creates a platform for entertainment app makers, they’ll get a huge ecosystem of video and music apps not available anywhere else. Microsoft started out by letting every Xbox One communicate with television sets and cable boxes using the Kinect sensor. Even today, you buy a Kinect and the Xbox One will let you change television volume with a voice command or say “Xbox, Watch USA.”

How to Fix Stuck Xbox One Game Installs (1)

With the Kinect a separate purchase Microsoft has two strategies: Embrace and enhance cable, its previous strategy, and support cable cutters, exactly what Apple TV is doing with its apps. Today, apps on the Xbox One are curated by Microsoft. The company has said that future software updates might link the Xbox One to its Windows Store, opening up the flood gates to all kinds of entertainment apps. Current Xbox One apps support the Xbox One controller. Many support voice commands and hand gestures for easy access too. YouTube, Hulu Netflix and even Verizon are already available.

Problem for Microsoft is the sheer girth of the iTunes Store. Many entertainment companies already have apps in the iTunes Store. All they need to do is update them to make them compatible with the Apple TV. Worse, the iTunes Store is a robust entertainment store, with movies, music, tv shows, podcast and its own radio station. The Xbox One has movies and TV shows, but its music experience on the Xbox One is lacking. Podcasts are non-existent.

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Microsoft has plans to add its Cortana personal assistant to Xbox One this November, but only for users who have a Kinect sensor. The new Apple TV lets users search the iTunes Store and give commands with its remote.

New Apple TV vs. Microsoft Xbox One: Which Should You Buy?

So which is better, the Apple TV or the Xbox One? For entertainment, I’d absolutely bet on the Apple TV at this point. Microsoft has had years to deliver an open app store to get more entertainment apps onto the Xbox One. I’d expect the offerings on Apple TV to eclipse the entertainment apps on Xbox One rather quickly after launch.

As for games, it’s a question of gaming habits. The Xbox One is likely always going to have a better, more nuanced library with fewer bad free-to-play titles and better curation. If you’re into the big name titles that you see commercials for on television, the Xbox One is going to be what you want.

Apple TV launches this fall for as little as $149. The Xbox One is on sale now starting at $349.

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13 Comments

  1. Prilosec

    09/15/2015 at 1:09 pm

    This is a bizarre comparison. The two devices are totally different. A much better comparison would be Apple TV and Roku. Or Xbox One and PS4.

    Reply

  2. Infrablade

    09/15/2015 at 2:17 pm

    You’ve misquoted the One’s system specs, might wanna make some corrections…

    Reply

  3. Methods

    09/15/2015 at 2:58 pm

    I have been integrating audio-visual systems for 14 years and the Xbox On has been a huge hit with my customers. The author leaves out the fact that the Kinect functions as and IP control system with apps for on every platform including iOS, Android, Windows and Windows Mobile. There are universal control abilities for a display, A/V receiver and a Sat/Cable box. A smart guide that populates content from your service provider and your favorite streaming apps.

    Its a superior device for games with motion and traditional controller input which most will want. It has an HDMI input and integrates the Cable/Sat experience with the app streaming experience and game play better than any device on the market. I sell both of these devices very regularly because they both offer unique features. Apple TV offers Airplay for example making it great for the end user to play music and a personalized picture slideshow, if they are Apple users of course.

    Electronics should not be pit against each other in this fashion, its not helpful and a disservice to the reader. If you are in the market for a media device, do some research, maybe consider consulting with a professional. The truth is that both devices can be better for some than they are for others. There are lots of variables to consider per user and I would say the author shows his ignorance of that fact by making sweeping recommendations.

    Reply

    • Pfischer49

      01/02/2016 at 8:24 am

      Methods,

      You are so correct, this market is to be embraced on all levels if entertainment is to sustain price points and quality. Its not fair to bring one device to another level as to say “buy this one”.

      I am a end user, I have no Professional experience in this field, however, I do not like how some bloggers like to compare ones breakthrough to another’s accomplishments.

      I do like the fact there are experienced people out there like you that bring the facts that are missed in these articles that really help people like me make intelligent decisions.

      My two cents worth.

      Reply

  4. Jokester

    09/15/2015 at 11:11 pm

    Is this comparison a joke? All hail apple!?

    Reply

  5. tensix

    09/15/2015 at 11:19 pm

    Author is blinded by Apple sauce. So much so as to not know (our completely disregard) how poorly mobile to livingroom systems have performed within the past few years. Ooya says hello!
    No one wants to play phone apps on a large screen TV. The form factor is completely useless there or at least severely crippled. I realize this is a mobile site but come on. Keep drinking that Apple juice though!

    Reply

  6. shane sullivan

    09/16/2015 at 12:51 am

    Quad core? It has 8 cores.

    Reply

  7. Bryan2

    09/16/2015 at 1:28 am

    @ Methods.. I would love to learn more about what you’re doing with the XBO. I haven’t found it very user friendly in the living room and music playback is a woefully inadequate experience for users with large existing collections of music. Obviously I’m missing something if your customers are loving it… Any way to reach you for more info?

    Reply

  8. GeoMan

    09/16/2015 at 3:34 am

    You forgot to mention the November update to the Xbox One will bring Cortana integration as well. The article is skewed and more of an advertisement.

    Reply

  9. looknow12

    09/16/2015 at 3:57 am

    Not enough apps for Xbox? Don’t forget about backwards compatibility to Xbox 360

    Reply

  10. zaxkarii

    09/16/2015 at 7:16 am

    The hell is this article? The only reason you are comparing these to devices (im not even going to call the ATv a system) is because of MS vs Apple. They have nothing in common. The ATv is just an app box that can be connected to a TV. It’s literally just the concept of the Ouya from 3 years ago mashed with a Roku.
    The Xbox is literal Gaming system with entertainment apps as it’s catch. The ATv can hardly run a game even close to that of the Xbox or PS4. The WiiU even out games it. Im really getting sick of these Apple fan boy articles trying to compare a gaming system to a TV box, just because the companies are rivals. The ATv is even a second thought as a competitor in the core gaming field.

    Reply

  11. shane sullivan

    09/16/2015 at 2:44 pm

    Dont forget you can snap with the X1. I personally don’t use it but I know ppl for example who play a game with their music using snap. It’s a cool feature for X1 to have. Im not sure if apple TV has the same type of feature.

    Reply

  12. Dominik

    01/05/2016 at 11:56 am

    This tells me nothing but trash.

    Reply

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