Skip to main content

10 things that you should know about Microsoft’s Xbox One

On Friday, the Xbox One was unleashed, and Microsoft's £429 console was plugged in and fired up by many buyers across the UK. It's true that after shooting itself in the foot over numerous issues earlier this year, the Xbox One has struggled to capture the hearts and minds of customers – but now that it's finally out, all that could easily change.

The Xbox One debuts with what's arguably the stronger of the two exclusive launch line-ups. Killer Instinct brings back the classic fighting game series with a new, free-to-play model. Dead Rising 3 expands the scope, as well as the mayhem, of Capcom's previous zombie-killing extravaganza. Forza 5 continues Microsoft's critically acclaimed simulation racing series, while Crimson Dragon presents the spiritual successor to the cult classic Panzer Dragoon rail-shooting series (for more details on these games and more, see our write-up of the best Xbox One launch games).

However, while most anticipated third-party games are landing on both platforms, the Xbox One has a slight disadvantage in terms of its hardware spec. Games like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 simply don't run quite as well on the Xbox One as on the PS4 (or indeed a high-end PC, naturally). Still, as more anticipated exclusives like Halo 5 and the new mech-combat franchise, Titanfall, start rolling out, the battle will be all about the games, not (relatively) minor differences in hardware.

Microsoft is also banking on the superior media functionality of the Xbox One to help win the day. With its Kinect-powered interface, HDMI passthrough and satellite/cable TV support, alongside integration with other Microsoft services like Skype and SkyDrive, the Xbox One wants to be king of the living room.

When any hot new product makes the transition from dream to reality it's fun to gush over the advances, but it's also important to come to terms with the inevitable shortcomings. So we're presenting you with this list of 10 things, both good and bad, that you'll want to know about the Microsoft's console.

Do any of the below points surprise or excite you? Are you sold or soured on the Xbox One? Sound off in the comments section below.

Kinect is included

While the original Kinect camera was sold separately from the Xbox 360, the next-gen version is included with every Xbox One. That largely explains why the Xbox One costs £80 more than the PS4, but it also means that every aspect of the console's interface and user experience has been built with voice and gesture controls in mind.

It's big

While the PS4's peculiar slanted design rather obscures how big it actually is, compared to the monster that is the Xbox One it's downright petite. At 325 x 300 x 75mm (WxDxH), the Xbox One will dominate any entertainment centre it's placed in, so be sure to make room for the next generation.

Every unit is a dev unit

In the past, video game developers needed access to special unlocked developer console units to create games. However, functionality in the Xbox One potentially allows every device to become a dev unit. This opens the doors for more indie developers to start making fresh and interesting content for the machine.

It's less powerful than the PS4

While the PS3 was technically more powerful than the Xbox 360, its tricky Cell architecture made it hard for developers to take advantage of that extra power. However, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are both essentially PCs, so the PS4's more powerful GPU and superior quality RAM actually makes a difference this time around, allowing games like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 to run at higher native resolutions. Ultimately, it's the games that matter, but in terms of raw technical prowess, the PS4 has a slight edge.

Microsoft fixed all of its awful initial policies

Remember when the Xbox One had to always be online to function and used game sales were virtually forbidden? Well the nightmare is over as Microsoft reversed all of these horribly conceived (and received) policies some time ago. Hopefully the damage they caused to the Xbox brand wasn't permanent.

Many of the console's cool features aren't free

Xbox Live Gold is still the (cough) gold standard by which other paid online game console services are judged. However, with the likes of Sony making features like Netflix free on the PS4, Microsoft's continuing desire to keep them behind a paywall is becoming a little harder to swallow. Paid online multiplayer is one thing, but paying for video streaming you have already paid a subscription for? Really?

It's built to be a media hub

The Xbox One wants to be more than just a game console – it wants to be the definitive media solution. It unites cable TV, web apps, and Microsoft services like Skype and SkyDrive under one interface for users to easily navigate and switch between. With all sorts of other devices and services competing for our attention these days, Microsoft wants all roads to lead to the Xbox.

It's less focused on games

The Xbox One's increased media functionality we just mentioned comes at a price. All the time Microsoft spent discussing NFL partnerships over in the US, and the likes of TV deals, has led to a decreased emphasis on actual video games. Even Kinect now seems to be more about voice and gesture menu navigation than gameplay innovation. It'll be interesting to see how this grab for the broader market affects the Xbox One's relationship with core gamers.

There's no backwards compatibility

Like the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One can't play games from its predecessor, the Xbox 360. The 360 had limited support for original Xbox games that gradually expanded over time, but no such service is planned for the Xbox One. Aside from the Wii U, backwards compatibility is unfortunately a thing of the past for this new generation.

Microsoft fixed the D-pad

This truly is the generation of improved controllers. On the PS4, the DualShock 4 is a quantum leap over the DualShock 3, and the Xbox One controller fixes the infamously crummy D-pad of the 360 controller. This jump feels less substantial than the one Sony made, if only because the rest of the 360 controller was already pretty great, but whichever new console players choose, at least their hands are going to be in for a good time.

For more on the Xbox One, see our full review of the console. You might also want to have a gander at our article that discusses whether the Xbox One is a true living room revolution in the making, or a mere box of gimmicks.