Xbox One Review: Gaming and Entertainment Successfully Rolled Into One Console


Xbox Watch TV

PHOTO: Xbox One
PHOTO: Xbox One

The Xbox One wants to be the only one in your living room. It doesn't want you to have to change inputs every time you want to play a game or watch a movie. To that end, Microsoft allows you to feed your cable box through the Xbox One's HDMI input and watch TV using the console.

Setting it up is quick, with the Xbox asking for the ZIP code, cable provider and TV model. The Xbox directly communicates with your TV and cable box, so you can channel surf either by using the controller or Kinect's voice commands. Shout out, "Xbox, watch ABC!" and the Kinect will automatically switch over to ABC. It's a fun trick, but most of the time it is faster to grab the controller and navigate through the guide.

Rather than replace your current cable provider's interface, Microsoft layered its own interface on top of the cable provider's menus. That means every time you change the channel, you'll see your cable box's menus. It's distracting and not a very clean experience.

And there are other integration issues too. Currently, the Xbox One is not capable of DVR services on its own. That means you can't set something to record. An Xbox spokeswoman said, "You will be able to access and use your cable or satellite set-top box DVR service" but you cannot record or set your DVR. As a work around, you can use your TV and cable box remote and access the menus while the cable is being rerouted through the Xbox. Still, going back to that point above, it's an ugly experience. If you rely heavily on DVR, you may be better off keeping your cable box separate from your Xbox.

Where the Xbox does a better job of being your entertainment system is with its third-party apps. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, YouTube, HBO Go and others are all available right through the main interface, which resembles Windows 8. You can also access Xbox Live Music and Videos to rent or buy albums and movies.

Xbox One Still Plays Games

Despite Xbox's shortcomings in other departments, it still remains a good system for playing video games. The controller doesn't stray too far away from the Xbox 360's controller design, though the directional pad's improved design results in both more responsive and accurate inputs.

Like the PS4, the Xbox One requires you to install games on its hard drive in order to play them. But also similar to the PS4, it will allow you to play games as they're being installed. Titles such as "Forza Motorsport 5," a racing game published by Microsoft Studios, were ready to play at 15 percent downloaded.

Like other next generation consoles, the Xbox One's graphics are top notch. "Forza Motorsport 5" looks great from the cars to the tracks and landscapes. Even games like "Zoo Tycoon," which let you build a zoo, shine with real-life looking animals and scenery. While nitpickers will be able to tease about a difference in graphics between the PS4 and the Xbox One, Microsoft's console will still have plenty of visually stunning games in the months ahead.

And if you are wondering about how third-party game selection between the two systems stack up there is a lot of overlap with games such as "Madden NFL 25" and "Need for Speed Rivals." Of course, both have their own exclusive titles. The PS4 has "Killzone Shadow Fall" and "Knack," while Xbox has "Ryse: Son of Rome" and "Dead Rising 3."

Bottom Line

Like it or not, the Xbox One is a multipurpose machine. But though the new additions to Xbox are functional, they don't always feel ready to use. In its attempt to take over the living room, the Xbox One may have spread itself too thin, at least for now. Microsoft promises a host of improvements for cable integration and voice recognition.

The new additions are functional, but not fully baked

While true gamers may prefer the $399.99 PlayStation 4 this holiday season (perhaps for the price alone), don't expect video gamers to scoff when they see an Xbox One sitting under the tree. The system provides a ton of gaming prowess with stunning graphics and more video and streaming options than you'll know what to do with. It might not be perfect right now, but the new Xbox, like the Xbox 360 introduced seven years ago, is certainly the one to carry Microsoft into the future of the living room.

ABC News' Joanna Stern contributed to this review.

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