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

Jason Cross | Nov. 21, 2013
Microsoft's audacious assault on your living room is delightfully innovative yet unrefined.

I can say "Xbox, watch TV" and it kicks over from whatever I'm doing to show the output of my DirecTV box (or whatever else is plugged into the HDMI input). The voice-controlled "OneGuide" channel guide is nice, but I almost never look at my channel guide to see what's on. I do find some value in saying "Xbox, watch Comedy Central," causing the Kinect camera to work like an IR blaster and immediately flip my DirecTV box to channel 249, or saying "Xbox, watch HBO" to hop over to channel 501. It's faster and easier than using a remote.

But the Xbox One doesn't know what recorded programs are on your DVR, and can't program it. The console can't access all the on-demand menus and content. So you can't ditch your remote; you can only use it less often. For someone like me, who never watches live TV, the real benefit of this TV integration is quickly and easily switching from watching TV to doing something else (like viewing Netflix or gaming) without changing inputs and turning on other devices. It's a real timesaver.

I also ran the PlayStation 4 into the HDMI input, and it works just fine. I didn't play much, but passing the PlayStation 4's video signal through the Xbox One didn't produce any extra latency.

Kinect is a vast improvement
The new Kinect is leagues beyond the Xbox 360's Kinect. It's smaller, it works far better in dim light, and it has a much easier time tracking a tall guy like me in a tiny San Francisco living room. For the most part, the camera is a great addition to the system, and it's probably a good gamble on Microsoft's part to force the Kinect on everyone, even if that decision makes the Xbox One cost $100 more than its primary competitor.

But the device still needs refinement. What's that saying again? Eighty percent of the time, it works every time.

Once you learn the proper commands (I keep wanting to say "log in" instead of "sign in"), voice control works great. Except when it doesn't. The console correctly understood me eight or nine times out of ten, but the small percentage of the time you have to repeat yourself is still frustrating. Pressing a button works 100 percent of the time—that's the standard that other interface methods must live up to.

Many of the voice commands are faster than buttons and menus are, even if you end up repeating yourself. On balance, the Kinect stuff is very cool and honestly quite useful, but I imagine that most users will use only part of what's there.


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