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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.

But here's the neat bit: The most recent game you've been playing stays held in a suspended state, even in this standby mode. That's right—you can say "Xbox, turn off" in the middle of a Ryse level, go to bed, wake up the next day, say "Xbox, on," and select Ryse, and you're exactly where you left off within seconds. No loading screens. More than all the fancy high-definition graphics in the world, features such as this make the system feel "next-generation."

No matter what you do with it, the Xbox One is whisper quiet; it's certainly much quieter than the PlayStation 4 or any current-generation system. Sitting idle in its menus, the Xbox One draws about 70 watts of power and hums along at just over 40dB. Its low-power standby mode is too quiet to measure reliably, and draws about 18 watts. Playing an intense game such as Ryse, the power draw jumps to about 125 watts, but the noise stays down to around 45dB. Most of the time my DirecTV box made more noise than the Xbox One did.

Xbox Live Gold subscription required
An Xbox Live Gold subscription is not required to use the Xbox One, but it is required to enjoy the Xbox One. The service costs about $60 a year, and without it you can't do anything good with this console. The Gold tier of Xbox Live has always been necessary to play games online. Users have also always needed Gold membership to access Netflix, Hulu Plus, and other streaming media services (even though you're already paying for those separately, and nobody else locks them behind a paywall).

In a console so focused on seamlessly blending TV, online streaming services, and games, it's a shame that this extremely anticonsumer policy has been extended into this new generation, and in fact, extended further. With the Xbox One, not only are the streaming media apps, and Skype, and freakin' Internet Explorer, for Pete's sake, locked behind the Gold paywall, but so are great new features such as Game DVR, the unified OneGuide TV listings, and even SkyDrive.

The good news is, you need only one Gold account for everyone who uses your Xbox One. Set it as your Home Console, and everyone who uses it, whether they have their own Xbox profile or sign in as a guest, will share your Gold privelages.

Bottom line
On balance, the Xbox One is a fantastic piece of technology, well worth the cost of a new iPad. There are some sore spots, which Microsoft will undoubtedly address in the coming months through software updates. Chief among them are the terrible quality of Game DVR recordings, the inability to stream game sessions, and the total lack of social media integration. People want to share their fun with the world, and "upload to SkyDrive and do what you want from there" is a half-baked solution. The ridiculous policy of requiring Xbox Live Gold to use streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus deserves to be abolished, too.

 

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