Over the past week, I’ve been playing with the Xbox One, and I have great news: It’s better than the PS4. The console is definitely not prettier or better designed than the PS4, and the Xbox One gamepad is slightly worse than the DualShock 4, but the Xbox One wins in every other way: Launch games, functionality, and overall polish — the Xbox One is t he better console.
It’s hard to say whether the Xbox One is worth the $ 100 premium over the PS4, but I can at least tell you that the Kinect (the reason why the Xbox is more expensive) is an impressive piece of hardware that you’ll (usually) enjoy using. I can also tell you that the Xbox One exclusives, Forza 5 and Ryse, are prettier and more polished than the PS4′s exclusive launch titles.
More important than the price difference, though — which is a minor detail when you amortize it over 5+ years — is the fact that the Xbox One sets a stronger stage than the PS4. With the PS4 harboring much better hardware than the Xbox One, it will be very interesting to see how Sony retaliates — will it add features to match the Xbox in terms of overall desirability, or will go all-in on better and prettier games that might take months or years to arrive? Read on for our hands-on review of the Xbox One.
A slick, if slightly too complex, interface
Overall, I like the Xbox One’s interface. It’s certainly a little more busy than the PS4, but I prefer the Metro-style grid, rather than scrolling forever through dozens of tiles. For the most part, the tiled interface dovetails with the Xbox One’s larger feature set — but sometimes there’s a little too much depth and complexity, leaving you hunting around for the right menu to perform a certain action. It will be harder to learn the Xbox One’s interface for the first time, that’s for sure.
The Xbox One’s interface is snappy, without the slowdowns that I experienced on the PS4. Switching between games and the Xbox One dashboard is quick and painless. Setting up the console for the first time is easy, especially if you already have a Microsoft account (who doesn’t?) Overall, using the Xbox One is a lot like the Xbox 360 — just with faster transitions and less lagginess.
As you know by now, Kinect is a central piece of the Xbox One experience. From navigating the interface, to telling your archers to fire a volley of arrows in Ryse, Kinect does a pretty good job of quickly and accurately recognizing your voice commands.
The problem is, Kinect doesn’t always work — and when it doesn’t, the experience can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes, seemingly for no reason at all, Kinect simply won’t respond to my repeated (and increasingly frustrated and strident) calls of “Xbox.” Sometimes it can hear me talking quietly — sometimes I have to speak with perfect enunciation. Sometimes background noise had a detrimental effect, sometimes it didn’t. I had a lot of trouble getting Kinect to recognize my voice when I was watching TV — a problem, when the Xbox One is meant to double up as a living room media center.
When it works, the new Kinect really is quite impressive — but I worry that it’ll turn out to be more of a gimmick than anything else. In many cases, if you account for time wasted by Kinect failing to recognize your voice, using the gamepad is quicker. In the long term, I think users will opt to use the gamepad where possible. If you don’t have a gamepad to hand, though — if you’re watching TV as a family, or you’re standing in the kitchen — then Kinect is fun and useful.
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