Xbox One review: For gamers, yes, but you'll like it too

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You can save your game clips from Upload Studio (the free app that edits clips you save in Game DVR) to SkyDrive and then do whatever you want with them, from your computer or smartphone. That’s a welcome feature, but a lame cop-out considering the absence of any social integration at the system level.

Xbox One skydrive
Microsoft’s only kinda-sorta attempt at letting you share stuff is mediocre SkyDrive integration.

Also, you get no systemwide feature to take high-quality screenshots, which seems like a huge oversight. In this regard, a voice command may be too slow…might I suggest tapping the Menu and View buttons simultaneously?

Quiet, power-efficient, always connected

Microsoft really doesn’t want you to turn your Xbox One all the way off. For starters, the console takes an eternity to power on when you do (about 40 seconds or so). From standby mode, the Xbox One is live in less than 15 seconds. My receiver and TV take about that long to turn on, but it’s still a little disappointing that the console doesn’t wake up more quickly. In the standby state, the Xbox One will download game and system updates and the like, and is virtually silent.

Xbox OneIMAGE: Michael Homnick
Slightly warm air and a gentle hum are all that ever escape the huge vents on the top of the Xbox One.

But here’s the neat bit: The most recent game you’ve been playing stays held in a suspended state, even in this standby mode. That’s right—you can say “Xbox, turn off” in the middle of a Ryse level, go to bed, wake up the next day, say “Xbox, on,” and select Ryse, and you’re exactly where you left off within seconds. No loading screens. More than all the fancy high-definition graphics in the world, features such as this make the system feel “next-generation.”

No matter what you do with it, the Xbox One is whisper quiet; it’s certainly much quieter than the PlayStation 4 or any current-generation system. Sitting idle in its menus, the Xbox One draws about 70 watts of power and hums along at just over 40dB. Its low-power standby mode is too quiet to measure reliably, and draws about 18 watts. Playing an intense game such as Ryse, the power draw jumps to about 125 watts, but the noise stays down to around 45dB. Most of the time my DirecTV box made more noise than the Xbox One did.

Xbox Live Gold subscription required

An Xbox Live Gold subscription is not required to use the Xbox One, but it is required to enjoy the Xbox One. The service costs about $60 a year, and without it you can’t do anything good with this console. The Gold tier of Xbox Live has always been necessary to play games online. Users have also always needed Gold membership to access Netflix, Hulu Plus, and other streaming media services (even though you’re already paying for those separately, and nobody else locks them behind a paywall).

Xbox One snap
Slay hordes of zombies while you catch up on ‘Family Guy’? Not without Xbox Live Gold you don’t!

In a console so focused on seamlessly blending TV, online streaming services, and games, it’s a shame that this extremely anticonsumer policy has been extended into this new generation, and in fact, extended further. With the Xbox One, not only are the streaming media apps, and Skype, and freakin’ Internet Explorer, for Pete’s sake, locked behind the Gold paywall, but so are great new features such as Game DVR, the unified OneGuide TV listings, and even SkyDrive.

The good news is, you need only one Gold account for everyone who uses your Xbox One. Set it as your Home Console, and everyone who uses it, whether they have their own Xbox profile or sign in as a guest, will share your Gold privelages.

Bottom line

On balance, the Xbox One is a fantastic piece of technology, well worth the cost of a new iPad. There are some sore spots, which Microsoft will undoubtedly address in the coming months through software updates. Chief among them are the terrible quality of Game DVR recordings, the inability to stream game sessions, and the total lack of social media integration. People want to share their fun with the world, and “upload to SkyDrive and do what you want from there” is a half-baked solution. The ridiculous policy of requiring Xbox Live Gold to use streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus deserves to be abolished, too.

But this is Xbox One version 1.0. This is like the “Blades” interface of the Xbox 360. If this is the starting line, it’s pretty exciting to think about where the console will be in another year or two.

Even so, we’re looking at more than just a solid foundation. The launch lineup doesn’t boast a “gotta have it” system-seller—Titanfall may be the first when it arrives this spring—but it still has quite a few very good games. These games are worth your time and money, and they clearly demonstrate the power and features of the system. Buying an Xbox One is not just buying into a promise of great things; there’s a whole lot of value in this $500 box right now.

This story, "Xbox One review: For gamers, yes, but you'll like it too" was originally published by TechHive.

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At a Glance
  • $299.99 MSRP $500.00
    View

    The Xbox One smartly integrates TV, streaming video, and games. It has a few kinks to iron out, but it’s already a welcome addition to any living room.

    Pros

    • Impressive next-generation games
    • Slick TV and streaming-media integration

    Cons

    • No social integration
    • Xbox Live Gold is essentially a requirement
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