Once upon a time, in 2001, Microsoft launched the Xbox and officially entered the game console business to the collective laughter of Sony and Nintendo fans (and executives). Then in 2005, the company released the Xbox 360, a console that's managed to remain the top-selling console in the U.S. for the last 28 consecutive months. Finally, after years of anticipation and rumors, Microsoft's unveiled its next-generation console: the Xbox One.
What's Under The Hood
In a nutshell, the Xbox One is a "practically silent" console with PC guts, just like the PlayStation 4. It's based off an x64 architecture, has an 8-core CPU, a GPU with a "D3D 11.1 chip with 32 MB embedded memory," 8GB of DDR3 RAM (PS4 has 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, which is significantly faster), 500GB hard drive, slot-loading Blu-ray drive, and 802.11n and Wi-Fi Direct. It also has USB 3.0 ports and HDMI in/out for DVR suckers (that, and you can share your recorded gaming footage and directly upload it online). It's a beast of a box, and a farcry from the slick form factor of the Xbox 360 S, that's for sure.
While raw hardware power is one thing, it's the software inside the One that makes the box so special. It boasts three operating systems — Xbox OS, Windows Kernel, and an OS custom-made for instant switching and multitasking.
As for the Xbox One's rather chunky-looking design, well, that's an aesthetic that's supposed to resemble home electronics from the '70s according to Wired, as opposed to something from the future. We're pretty upset this thing is just a fat horizontal box. In fact, if it's design looks familiar, you're not alone.
Unlike Nintendo and Sony who have put in a touchscreen and a touchpad on their Wii U GamePad and PS4 DualShock 4, respectively, Microsoft isn't fooling around with such gimmicks. The One controller is a refinement of the Xbox 360 gamepad with slightly smaller dimensions. If it ain't broken, don't fix it right? That's mostly true. The One controller has 40 tech innovations, from an integrated battery compartment, vibrating impulse triggers and updated analogs and D-pad. Microsoft says the new controller will instantly sync via the new Kinect. The same goes for the Xbox SmartGlass app. Engadget has a nice photo comparison between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One controller here.
As expected, Microsoft also unveiled a new Kinect sensor and it's integral to the Xbox One experience — the console won't function without it. Revealed as the "binding power between controller and SmartGlass," capable of reading data at two gigabits per second, the new Kinect is apparently "rocket level science."
It's got a 1080p HD camera sensor that captures a 60 percent wider field of view. It understands conversational voice language, and it's faster and more accurate in every way. For instance, it can now recognize entire families (up to six people at once), and can track more joints and skeletons, understand orientation and transfer of weight, as well as muscle and impact movements. Even crazier, it can read your heart beat. Oh, and it can finally track what you're doing, when you're sitting down.
All of this at 60 frames per second, which should equate to little noticeable lag. Here's one bit slightly irked by: the Kinect sensor is "always listening" to you, so it can respond to your voice command instantly.
How much will it cost? It's included with every Xbox One.
Futuristic Voice Commands And Gestures
We saw this coming from a mile away. With the power of the new Kinect (see below), the Xbox One will "understand" you in ways like never before. As a way of simplifying the complexities of the console, the Xbox One can be operated with voice commands and gestures. Navigating between the tweaked Xbox dashboard is as quick and easy as saying any of these commands:
- "Xbox On"
- "Xbox, Go Home"
- "Xbox, Watch TV"
- "Xbox Game"
- "Go to Internet Explorer"
- "Watch Movies"
A nifty "grabbing" gesture that you use with two hands (kind of like a pinch and zoom gesture using both arms) also lets you jump in and out of apps and games instantly.
There's also a borrowed feature from Windows 8 that lets you "snap" another app on the side for multitasking. If you've ever used a Windows 8 tablet or PC, you'll know what we're talking about here.
Games/ Installs / Backwards Compatibility
The Xbox One might be more than just a gaming box, but let's be real, for most people (especially the ones who'll be lining up for its launch), it's all about the games it'll have. Although next month's E3 will play showcase to most of the Xbox Ones's games, Microsoft and some of its partners did announce a few games today, including Call of Duty Ghosts, which will launch exclusively on the console first:
- Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
- Battlefield 4
- Call of Duty Ghosts
- FIFA 14
- Forza Motorsport 5
- Madden 25
- NBA Live 14
- UFC: Ultimate Fighting Championships
- Watch Dogs
Here's a trailer for Forza Motorsport 5:
Additionally, Xbox One will have 15 exclusive games, eight of which are brand new IPs. Not too shabby.
Now for the bad news. Because the Xbox One runs on completely different architecture, it won't play any Xbox 360 games, which may be an issue to those who like to trade in their new consoles, without losing the ability to play their old console games. Upwards and onwards, we suppose.
Not only that, but according to Wired, games for the Xbox One must be installed to the console's hard drive in order for them to run, which means they'll indeed be tied to a specific account after installation. If you want to install the game with the same disc to another account, you'll reportedly have to pay a fee. Upsetting news, but no surprises, really. Ultimately, that could mean used games will have lower trade-in values and gamers buying them used from places like GameStop will have to pay an additional fee in order to install the game to their own consoles.
But while game installs will be mandatory, you can play the games while it's installing, which is a win.
Cloud-powered Xbox Live
You didn't think Microsoft would announce a new console without an infrastructure boost to its incredibly successful Xbox Live, did you? The online service will get an increase from 15,000 servers to 300,000 servers and will harness the power of the cloud. All of a user's entertainment — games, movies, music, apps, DVR-ed moments, etc. — will be stored in the cloud. Also, you can now have up to 1000 friends on your friends list (crazy!)
TV Lover's New Best Bud
Chances are you like watching TV (most people do). Microsoft thinks TV is too complicated, and we agree, too. For the Xbox One, Microsoft wants to make TV watching easy — super easy.
A new "One Guide" will be a central hub for all your favorite video content. It'll be voice-controlled and include selections for "Favorites" and "Trending." Basically, One Guide will remember what you like and will let you know what everyone else likes.
If that's not enough, Microsoft is going to bed with Steven Spielberg and 343 Industries to create a live-action Halo TV series. Try not to wet your pants guys. Sports fans will also get to manage their fantasy football teams, while watching NFL games.
Lastly, Skype. Hurray, for group video chat from your couch, if you're into that sort of thing.
Like Sony, Microsoft was pretty ho-hum about launch details for the Xbox One. The console will be available around the world "later this year." No pricing details were announced. It looks like we'll have to wait for E3 for that.