There's something almost magical about saying "Xbox, go to Netflix" and watching it flip right over without ever bringing up a menu or fiddling around with the remote. When you're done watching House of Cards, you can say "Xbox, play Forza Motorsport 5" and be right back in the middle of the track where you left off, with no loading screens, assuming that Forza Motorsport 5 was the last game you played.
Although show titles tend to trip up the voice recognition quite often, repeating yourself a few times still proves to be faster than typing in show names with a remote or gamepad.
The initial lineup of streaming services has some notable holes. HBO Go is "coming soon" but not yet available. YouTube is the biggest missing link, but streaming music services such as Pandora and Spotify would be most welcome, too.
The Xbox One gracefully serves as a target for DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) "play to" functions, streaming photos and playing music or video over your home network with ease. But here, too, Microsoft has work to do. The console is not a DLNA "pull" device—it can't search your network for DLNA servers and browse the content on them.
The games are definitely next-gen
Let's talk about the games—the real reason most consumers who have their eye on this console will part with $500 for it this holiday season. The Xbox One delivers a thoroughly next-gen experience. Forget all that fanboy nonsense of the past few months about native rendering resolution and such.
I've played half of Ryse: Son of Rome, and it is both more fun than expected and an arresting visual spectacle on a par with the best the PlayStation 4 has to offer. Forza Motorsport 5 is the sharp, clean, smooth racing sim a next-generation launch title should be. Dead Rising 3 is impressive in its scope, and I didn't notice any crippling slowdown when mowing down hundreds of zombies. It's miles beyond what any current-generation console could hope to pull off.
Full reviews of the Xbox One games will have to wait, particularly since it's so difficult to get a handle on multiplayer while using the prerelease Xbox Live environment. I think it's safe to say that anyone with reasonable expectations for next-generation console launch games will be quite happy with the Xbox One roster.
A note on game installs: Yes, every game needs to be installed to the hard drive. The speed at which this happens varies, and in the current preproduction environment, I don't think I'm seeing the same download speeds you'll experience on the real Xbox Live network after launch. Many games are "ready to play" while they're still downloading or installing off the disc, but the wait time to get to that point varies widely from one game to the next.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.