Xbox One: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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Image belongs to Justin Reed. (http://goo.gl/mV9M2U)

The Good:

The ability to perform voice commands is by far the best feature on the Xbox one. When you walk into my room and say “Xbox on!” it turns itself on, and can turn the TV and Receiver on as well. Then the Kinect recognizes your face and signs you into your account. When using the “Xbox select..” command, you can navigate the xbox menus without the use of the controller or hand gestures. When playing a game you have the ability to snap applications such as party chat with a simple voice command. With the same feature you are able to add people to the party chat, remove them, and mute the chat, etc. As per the voice commands, if you swear at the ref in FIFA 14, you will be reprimanded by your club. Also keep your potty mouth to yourself when on the field, or the red cards will come flying at you. NBA 2K14 has similar features, BF4 allows you to call in support with voice commands. As for the controller it is a slight improvement over the 360 controller. The analog sticks are comfortable and the redesign is most welcome. Bumpers and triggers are solid, and over all the build quality of the controller is superb. The Operating System interface is really easy to navigate, the layout is basic and makes a lot of sense. It is very hard to get lost in the menus. When signing in to the console by way of Kinect facial recognition it will recognize you in a completely dark room lit up only by the ambient light of the TV screen. The ventilation on the xbox this generation is a huge improvement over last, it runs really cool even when placed in an AV cabinet with front doors. Overall The hardware doesn’t really heat up much. I guess Microsoft learned something from the previous generation. The application snap feature is handy, having two applications side by side really works on this console, and it doesn’t distract or pull your attention from the gaming or watching a movie. This is especially useful when trying to start a Party Chat while in game. Xbox SmartGlass is a companion app for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It is completely free and works on Windows, iOS, and Android devices. You can use your smartphone or tablet to type in the text fields, when sending text based messages to your friends or entering your credit card information to make purchases. Most of us have smartphones and tablets so this naturally makes sense. This app is also a companion to some games such as Dead Rising 3, it enables extra features and in game content. It’s an extension to the users video game experience and adds another level of interaction with the software, in some cases it is easier to type with the smartphone than using the on screen keyboard. Something no one is talking about, perhaps because they don’t understand it, is the “server farm” Microsoft has stashed away for it’s developers. I’m not talking about the Xbox Live military grade servers, I’m talking about the server that can offload some of the XBOs processing to the cloud. All of the rendering and computing does not need to be done locally anymore, and any non critical computing can be done on the servers and sent back to the system. In my opinion this has a lot of potential, and the systems processing power is no longer limited to the local hardware specs.

The Bad:

The Xbox One is not DLNA certified, unlike it’s predecessor. This took me by surprise and is kind of anti next-gen for a device that wants to be the media centre hub of the living room and that calls itself next-gen. DLNA streaming is important to me, especially for my music library. One of the crowning features of the 360 was the ability to listen to your music library while playing games. Also, at the moment the games are not there, Dead Rising 3 looks like a 360 game. Forza 5 is full of micro transactions, $59.99 for a game and micro transactions on top of that seems a little excessive. It will take the developers a longer time to get familiar with the XBO dev kits than the PS4 dev kits. The XBO has specialized hardware, like the Kinect, the ESRAM, and the render server farm, whereas the PS4 is esentially an underpowered PC. Xbox 360 users and Xbox One users can not communicate properly over Xbox Live. If you’re on the Xbox One you can not receive voice messages as the XBO does not have this feature. Party Chat is not possible with 360 and XBO users either. The camera is unable to identify my face sometimes and as such it does not sign me in automatically into the system. I particularly noticed this when reclining in a bean bag chair on the floor. Perhaps the Kinect has a hard time recognizing the skeletal structure when in a reclined position. The lack of proper CEC integration is also surprising. The Xbox One uses some form of CEC an IR blaster to control the television and receiver, however this is not CEC as one can not use the receivers or televisions remote to navigate the xbox menus.

The Ugly:

The gesture based navigation needs a lot of work. It is one of the worst features to use on the XBO. I’d say it works properly 50% of the time. The audio is another problem, it cuts out in certain menus and even though the XBO set to PCM 5.1, sometimes the XBO decides to output DTS. Other times the XBO boost the volume by itself and then decides later that it is too loud and turns the volume down. There is no Bitstream option for the audio output either, and only Stereo, 5.1 PCM, 7.1 PCM, and DTS sound output options are available.This does not work, I would like the option to have the receiver do the audio decoding, specifically DTS HD MA or Dolby TrueHD. My home cinema would appreciate that. No 3D Blu-ray support yet either, for a system that is trying to take over the living room this is unacceptable. Despite the critics ramblings about 3D, it is here to stay, and consumers are slowly adopting said technology. There are other small glitches and hiccups when switching between menus and screens too. Sometimes the xbox goes all Ghost in the Machine on me, and starts launching applications and navigating software on it’s own… Rise of the machines?

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In conclusion..

…there is more good, than bad or ugly, however this next-gen console launch was very underwhelming. The underwhelming part is mostly due to the fact that both Microsoft and Sony released beta products into the wild. But if I were to decide between the new Xbox or the new PlayStation, I’d pick the Xbox. Voice commands, gesture based browsing, a stunning 1080p camera, SmartGlass, server farm, skype and other app within app integration, superior controller, and system that shows promise providing the software comes out of Beta soon. There are a lot of bugs in the software, and a lot of features that need tweaking and revision, this is true for both Sony and Microsoft alike. But if the 360 was an indication of how MS functions, is that they listen to their community, and that their gaming system and it’s software will evolve over time.

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Winter is coming! …the next gen consoles have arrived.

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If you haven’t seen the two part Southpark episode which merges the console wars and Game of Thrones, I suggest you do so right now.

The only console I picked up this generation was the Wii U… why you may ask, because there really aren’t any games that are interesting enough on the new consoles at the moment that would prompt me to buy either a PS4 or Xbox One.

And this….

2350457-grand_group_artwork_-_super_mario_3d_world… I love Mario games. Mario 64 was my and many other peoples favourite. Super Mario 3D World looks like it might deliver that experience again. Mario Sunshine and the Mario Galaxy franchises didn’t really do it for me, they felt like cheap imitations of Mario 64. This and the Zelda series are what interests me.

As for the PS4 and Xbox One, all these exclusives they have can be replaced and are replicated on the PC just fine. Killzone is essentially Crysis, Forza is any other racing game you can find for half the cost on Steam or Origin, and anything that does interest me will be coming out on the PC. Titanfall and Tom Clancy’s The Division are scheduled to make an appearance on the PC as well. With the PC versions I will get superior controls (mouse, keyboard), if I wanted to do some gaming on the couch with a controller I could also do that, graphics will be better, frame rates will be higher, and more that likely I’ll pay $20 less for the game on the PC than the console. After all the consoles are slimmed down and less powerful versions of a PC. So buying these games on the PC is a no brainer.

The PS4 is a gaming device, that’s it, to be honest there isn’t really anything next gen about it. All SONY did was update the CPU, GPU, and RAM, and voila you got yourself a PS3.5. It’s a bit underwhelming really. As far as the graphic differences between the PS4, 360, PS3, and Wii U. They aren’t that much of a big deal as you would think. Distance and screen size make a big difference in this metric as well. IGN recently did a comparison of these systems graphical capabilities, I took a couple screen caps from that video. Have a look…

Out of the 4 systems the PS3 has the worst graphical capability, the Wii U and 360 are right on par with each other, where the PS4 has the sharpest graphics of all of them. Look at the screen with the Assassin perched on the tower, on the PS4 the foliage and water ripples really stand out in this scene. Yes the PS4 has graphical superiority, but I’ll tell you this, I play this game on a Wii U and a 55″ TV screen about 12 feet away. It looks really good on this system as well. Like I said the PS4 next gen is a little underwhelming.

If you troll the internet you will hear about the superior graphical power of the PS4, in numbers the hardware looks better for the PS4 than the Xbox One. I agree. However the PS fanboy train is forgetting a few things here about the Xbox One, I wouldn’t rule it out just yet. The Xbox One has it’s CPU and GPU clocked higher, it has esram which brings it’s RAM data throughput closer to the PS4, also GDDR5 runs at higher frequencies, but it also has higher access latencies. And finally Miscrosoft has a cloud render cluster which can offload some of the processing that the Xbox One has to do to servers which the developers can utilize. The RAM is really a non issue in my opinion, in the days past of PC gaming a Radeon HD 5870 with 1 GB of GDDR5 RAM highest achievable graphical setting was high. Unless of course you had 8GB+ of DDR3 system RAM, only then you could achieve ultra graphical settings. This means that the GDDR5 and DDR3 RAM worked together to achieve this feat. So stop the fanboy train, because the PS4 and Xbox One are graphically closer than you think. Also let me remind you of the superior hardware the PS3 had compared to the Xbox 360, yet the 360 pulled ahead in most games of the PS3. One thing to note is that the PS4 has better developer tools this time around, apparently they are closer to PC dev tools than the tools of previous PlayStation versions. This is where the Xbox One is lagging right now, and this is why you see Dead Rising at 20-30 frames per second, why COD Ghosts and BF4 run at 720p. Give it some time and the gap will disappear.

Personally if I were to go with the PS4 or the Xbox One, I would pickup the Xbox One just for the features alone. Price is not an issue, I’m adult with an adult job which comensates me just fine for the work I do. The controller is more comfortable, the integration of Kinect 2 and voice commands is more next gen than just a GPU, CPU, and RAM upgrade. As a home theatre enthusiast the whole media centre idea appeals to me more. Xbox live has proven to be a superior online gaming platform to PSN, however we’ll see how the new PSN integration fairs. Finally the future game lineup with the Xbox One is a little more interesting.

Today I will be picking up Super Mario 3D World. I’m going to be like a fat kid in candy store, essentially in a euphoric bliss.

This is one mans opinion, like it or hate it, that’s my $0.02.