A tour of the New Xbox One Experience
What do you get when you update the Xbox One gaming console in conjunction with Windows 10? What Microsoft calls the New Xbox One Experience, or NXOE. And as of November 12, it should be rolling out to Xbox One owners everywhere.
We’ve been testing (ahem) the New Xbox One Experience for several weeks now, through various builds. It’s been surprisingly stable: I’ve noticed just a few small bugs, such as an unending download of updates for Grand Theft Auto 5. Otherwise, the notable features, such as game streaming from the One to the Xbox app on Windows 10, have worked very well.
It’s possible you'll notice a glitch or two during the transition—testing the NXOE caused my Netflix login info to vanish, for instance. And unfortunately, integration with Microsoft’s Cortana will be coming later. For a more thorough sneak peek at what your Xbox One console will look like from now on, start clicking.
Updated at 4:10 PM with a screenshot showin the Xbox 360 compatibility.
The sidebar: Friends
Like the older, standard Xbox One interface, the home screen is dominated by a large tile showing what game (or app) you played last. The left-hand sidebar provides a quick shortcut to where you want to go from the home screen itself. Just press left on the control stick and you can see your Friends, form Parties, read your Notifications, and access the Settings.
In the case of the Friends tab, you can see what your friends played last, and how long ago.
The sidebar: It's Party time
Sometimes you want to game together with your buddies, but they’re not all in the same room. The Parties tab helps you connect with remote friends specifically for chat or communal gameplay, but it pushes Parties to more of a central role within the Xbox One experience.
The sidebar: Notifications
Windows 10 introduced a Notifications tab, and the New Xbox One Experience has one as well. A notification you receive there (such as an Xbox Achievement) kicks over and also appears on your Windows 10 desktop. On a few occasions, I saw a notification appear on a nearby Windows 10 machine before it hit the Xbox One.
You won’t find too much that’s different in the Settings, although it’s nicely organized—and everything’s in one spot.
Xbox App on Windows 10
The Xbox app on Windows 10 puts a lot of information into a small, compact space, serving as a remote control for your Xbox One. Note the little Xbox icon nine icons down on the left-hand side—to enable game streaming from the One to the Xbox app, you’ll need to click that icon.
Xbox One-to-PC game streaming
Provided both your PC and the Xbox One are on the same wireless network, you can stream games from the console to the PC, and navigate through the Xbox One interface with either an Xbox 360 or One controller.
The performance and resolution of the remote game depends a lot on the bandwidth available to the remote PC—largely determined by the PC’s proximity to the router, as well as congestion on the network and the available bandwidth. On a rather standard 802.11g home network, the performance was very good, allowing me to play both Forza Horizon 2 (a racing game) and The Witcher III with no apparent lag.
Hidden feature: Cortana! (Gone)
Early on in the preview, testers discovered that a series of key presses could turn on Cortana, just as she appeared in Windows 10. Unfortunately, Microsoft tells us that Cortana will be removed for this build of the NXOE.
What the Xbox One does have now, however, is backward compatibility. Right now, you have over 120 Xbox 360 titles to choose from that will play on the Xbox One, via a virtualized Xbox 360 Microsoft added via the NXOE. We can’t say if all the emulated games will run at full frame rate, but the one we sampled Thursday afternoon—Mass Effect—ran perfectly.
The Community tab
Like the Windows 10 Xbox app, the Community tab within the NXOE is designed to give you the feeling that you’re not just gaming—you’re gaming as part of a social group. This is the place where you can share your own clips and screenshots , and your friends can as well. On the NXOE, they dominate the screen.
OneGuide, apps, and channels
I don’t use my Xbox One to control my TV (we have an old PlayStation 3 that we use as our media streaming box, primarily because my kids have mastered its interface) but the OneGuide portion of the interface is now displayed more prominently.
You can scroll down and find specific shows. But I'm not impressed with the way that the “Movies from all apps” feature didn't actually show movies from all apps—Netflix was missing from the list, even though, as the image shows, it was prominently displayed as the "hero" image. Still, cross-platform search (or the potential of such) is a great feature.
More of the App channels
Of course, the shows displayed in the app channels are subject to whatever content restrictions those apps or media properties place upon them—there’s no guarantee that USA, for example, has every season of House. And of course, if you watch a movie on a service like Crackle, it comes with ads. But as long as you download a few apps, there should be tons of video to choose from.
Microsoft Store: Games
In the standard Xbox One interface, there’s a lot of left-and-right scrolling to wade through Microsoft’s Xbox game store. In the NXOE, navigation is more equally distributed between the horizontal and vertical. The search functions are easy to find, and there’s always a “hero” game which promises to be the next big thing. It’s an element that is also in the conventional Xbox One user interface, too—in the NXOE, it’s just more prominent.
In previous builds, the free "Games with Gold" games were displayed rather prominently. Just before launch, they seem to have disappeared.
Microsoft Store: More Games
There’s also the same lists of “new releases” and highly-rated games that are found in the older Xbox One interface. Again, they’re organized nicely—although the basic and "deluxe editions" of the same game takes up additional screen space.
Oh, and you may see an occasaional small ad. Microsoft seems to be using the front page or home screen to show an ad, and sometimes the Games page as well.
One of the few pages that looks virtually identical to the conventional Xbox One interface.
The apps portion of the Xbox One interface, on both versions, has always felt like a bit of an afterthought to me—in some sense, a service like Netflix competes with Microsoft’s own business of renting and selling movies. It's nice to see a promotional deal highlighted, though.
Microsoft Store: Movies & TV
The “hero” image also works well here, in Microsoft’s movie store. It will be interesting to see whether some of these movie promotions remain on the back page, or will start to compete for space on the homepage—and whether any of them will be “promoted,” as you’re beginning to see on the standard One interface.
Xbox Music Store
In previous test builds, Groove Music was a no-show. But now it's back -- alongside YouTube, at least in the final test build before the NXOE went live for all. I'd call that a plus: I like listening to music, but Groove's static splash screens don't really go all that well with a big-screen TV.
All in all, the NXOE looks pretty sharp, and Microsoft promises to improve it further through upcoming updates. Do you have it yet? What are your impressions? Tell us in the comments.
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