Microsoft has revealed its new Xbox console to take on the PS4
As the new Xbox One finally touches down, Microsoft is ready to enter a new era of console gaming and take on a new generation of multimedia consumers.
The company described the Xbox One as “the ultimate all in one entertainment system – one system for a new generation.” It has the second generation of Kinect baked in nice and deep and has powerful specs similar to those of the Sony PS4.
The new Xbox wants to be the one-stop entertainment solution for your living room, integrating live TV, games, movies and web services like Skype, all controlled using Kinect’s improved voice recognition features.
Xbox One specs
No big surprises here, really. The Microsoft Xbox One comes packing an x64 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU, USB 3.0 ports, 500GB hard drive and 8GB DDR3 RAM. Connectivity-wise you’ve got 802.11n Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi Direct functionality for exchanging data between devices – specifically the new Xbox controller.
There’s also the addition of a Blu-ray drive, which marks Microsoft’s first move to embrace the disc format created by Sony et al, which vanquished HD DVD back when TechRadar was but a glint in someone’s eye.
So as expected, then, the new Xbox One is more like a mini-PC than any Microsoft console that’s come before. These specs put the console on a par with the PS4 and bode well for developers who want to make cross-platform games.
The console has not only an HDMI-out port but also HDMI-in too. This is for interfacing with set-top boxes in order to integrate the Xbox One with your TV-watching experience. As far as you’re concerned, you’ll only have one device instead of two.
Xbox One: Kinect
The new Xbox One has Kinect functionality built into its very core. To turn the console on, you need only say the words “Xbox on” – the console is always listening.
A live demo at the launch event showed Kinect instantly responding to hand gestures and voice commands. That simply isn’t possible on the current hardware with the Xbox 360 and suggests that the new Kinect v2 is the gesture and voice controller we always wanted it to be.
The demo showed the ability to switch between games, videos, music and live TV instantaneously using simple voice commands such as “Xbox watch TV”. You can even ask to watch a specific channel – HBO was an example they used – and Xbox will take you there straight away.
Microsoft says that Kinect 2 is so fast and powerful that it detects motion in just 13 billionths of a second – the time it takes light to get from you and into the camera.
The Kinect sensor as a resolution of 1080p which means its footage will look great on your HD TV, and it captures video at 60fps which means footage that’s lovely and smooth.
The camera also has a field of view that’s 60 per cent bigger than the original Kinect which means less faffing around trying to stand in the exact spot it tells you to. That combined with the more powerful processor means you’ll be able to get a lot more people gaming with Kinect all at one time.
What’s more, Microsoft says that the new Kinect uses infra-red, which means it works in complete darkness.
Read our Hands on: Xbox Kinect One review for our early thoughts.
Xbox One controller
The new Xbox controller is very much based on what’s come before, but under the hood there are 40 technical design innovations. The pad has an integrated battery which takes AA batteries.
Microsoft confirmed to us that this will work much in the same way as the 360’s, but the integrated build will obviously be a lot more comfortable. The biggest change from a gameplay point of view are that the re-designed triggers will now give you vibrating feedback in-game.
All of the other buttons and surfaces have been tweaked as well, but most of the changes are out of sight.
We were lucky enough to get some hands on time with the new Xbox One Gamepad where we got a peek at a few of the 40-plus improvements that have been made over its predecessor.
Based on our brief time with the new controller we felt that the impulse triggers possessed the most promise and potential for immersing players that much deeper in the game play, while subtler features, such as magnetic sensor-equipped triggers and a battery case that no longer protrudes from the back of the controller, hint at the many ways the controller will provide improved precision in your games and comfort in your hands.
Read our Hands on: Xbox One Gamepad review for more.
Xbox One: discs
The Xbox One games will come on Blu-ray discs but they’re only for one-time use. Once you’ve installed the games onto your hard drive, you no longer need them as the game is tied to your Xbox Live account. This is a similar idea to that employed by Steam and Uplay on the PC.
Xbox Live upgraded
Live is the most popular online gaming platform on the planet and it’s getting a huge behind-the-scenes overhaul for the new generation.
While current games servers number roughly 15,000, Microsoft is expanding that to a barely conceivable 300,000 in order to ensure you have instant access to your games and content no matter where you are.
Xbox One personalisation
You can turn on the Xbox One by simply walking over and talking to it. It turns on instantly, and Kinect will recognise you and take you straight to your own personalised home screen. Here you have access to your own personal movies and music, as well as leaping straight into your own save games.
Xbox One: always on? Nope!
One rumour that put the fear of God into many gamers was that the new Xbox would require an always-on internet connection. But this is in fact not true. “No, it does not have to be always connected,” says Microsoft, “but Xbox One does require a connection to the internet. We’re designing Xbox One to be your all-in-one entertainment system that is connected to the cloud and always ready. We are also designing it so you can play games and watch Blu-ray movies and live TV if you lose your connection.”
Xbox One games
Microsoft has announced that its own games studios will release 15 games in the first year of the Xbox One’s life cycle. Other than that, we also know that FIFA 14 will launch on the console with exclusive content, and the new COD game, Call of Duty: Ghosts, will also have exclusive content on the Xbox.
The confirmed exclusive titles are Forza Motorsport 5, Quantum Break, Halo 5 and Ryse. Many other cross platform titles have also been confirmed and you can get the full lowdown on them all over on OXM’s Xbox One games page.
Xbox One: backwards compatibility
Because the Xbox One uses a completely different system architecture to that of previous Xbox consoles, it will not be compatible with any Xbox 360 games.
However, it is yet to be seen whether the cloud might come to the rescue and allow games to be streamed over the web. Perhaps E3 has the answer…
Xbox One release date
Microsoft sadly made no mention of an Xbox One release date during its Redmond launch event. However, more details are promised for E3 in July, which is when we should find out when we can expect to get our hands on one. However, that hasn’t stopped retailers opening pre-orders already.
Many industry experts actually predicted that we’d finally get some hard Xbox info at GDC this year but turned out not to be the case.
All indications are that the next Xbox will arrive in time for Christmas 2013.
This is further backed up by a Microsoft job advert which confirms a new Xbox launch is imminent.
Further rumours of an Xbox release date of pre-Christmas 2013 was backed up at the end of November 2012 by a Bloomberg report which cites sources at Microsoft and says we are likely to see the new Xbox make its debut at E3 2013.
But then! In January, a report from Game Informer suggested that we’d actually see Microsoft bust out an all-singing all-dancing event to launch the new Xbox around Game Developers Conference in March.
Why no E3 reveal? Because Microsoft wanted to make a splash away from the noise of the mega-show. Unfortunately, the report indicated that Sony had the same idea for the PS4…
Xbox One price
No pricing info has yet been revealed by Microsoft – expect this when we get official confirmation of worldwide release dates.
That leaked document we mentioned earlier mentions a $299 (£190) price point which sounds gloriously ambitious to us.
Many retailers are second-guessing the price, with both £399 and £499 both seen online in the UK.
Strong rumours are building that Microsoft is planning a double assault on the console market. The new Xbox will allegedly be joined in the cabinet by an Xbox MIni – a small, Apple TV-like device based on Windows 8, with the ability to stream Xbox 360 games from the cloud.
Xbox One vs PS4
Aah, the eternal question. If you’re not planning to buy both, which one should you buy? We’ll have a better idea of which console is likely to lead the charge into the living room when we’ve gleaned more information at E3 2013, but looking at the specs that we already know, we’ve made an early comparison.
Check out our article PS4 vs Xbox One: which is better? for our early verdict.
- New gaming console, Xbox One debuts (fox43.com)
- PS4 and Xbox One prices could be lower than expected (trustedreviews.com)
- Xbox One: Features, Specs, Release Date – Everything You Need To Know In One Place (redmondpie.com)
- Xbox One price tops £500 mark through Amazon (trustedreviews.com)
- Xbox One (journal-online.co.uk)
- Xbox One to cost $399, PS4 for $349 says Pachter (vg247.com)