Manufacturer: Microsoft UK Price: £429.99 US Price: $499
It’s fair to say the Xbox One hasn’t had the easiest introduction to the world. At its announcement it was derided for a host of deficiencies compared to its big competitor, the Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4). It required an always-on internet connection, you couldn’t sell on games once you’d finished with them, it had seemingly silly extra features like integrated TV, it required Kinect, its AMD APU had lower GPU specs than its rival and of course it was bigger and uglier. All that and it was set to cost nearly £100 more than the PS4. How could it possibly turn this around?
Well not long after its initial announcement Microsoft did what it could at this late stage in the development process, reversing the decision regarding second hand games and also removing the requirement for an always-on Internet connection - once again making the console a potential purchase for those living in remote areas. But it has stayed bullish with the high price, part of which is of course down to the included Kinect. It has also been bolstered by having a slightly better lineup of games at launch.
So has Microsoft managed to turn things around?...
Xbox One – Hardware
What Microsoft couldn’t do much to fix once the console was announced was the design of the hardware and sure enough it pales in comparison to the sleek PS4. In terms of looks it’s not actually that bad. Its simple square lines and use of black, black and black for the colour scheme means that, while arguably a little too close to the stylings of a mid-90s VHS recorder, it certainly isn’t outright ugly. What’s more, although the sheer acreage of angled and slotted ventilation that Microsoft feels is needed is a little alarming, it again is integrated into the design in an inoffensive way.
However, no amount of design tweaking can hide that the Xbox One is quite a chunky beast. With dimensions of 330 x 274 x 79mm it is some 25mm wider and taller than the PS4 and, at 3.8kg, a kilo heavier too. All this and it doesn’t even integrate its power supply, instead relying on a fairly sizeable power brick - there’s definitely a 'first attempt' vibe here compared to the highly integrated design of the PS4.
Keeping things as sleek as possible is the lack of any ports on the front panel, aside from the slot for the Blu-ray drive bay. Instead the only easy access USB port is on the left edge. In contrast the PS4 cleverly incorporates two USB ports into the recess that runs along the front of the console, where it also hides the Blu-ray drive.
The rest of the Xbox One’s ports and connections are located on the back below yet more venting. From left to right you’ve got the proprietary power socket, an HDMI output, S/PDIF optical digital audio output, the HDMI input for the integrated TV feature, two more USB ports (all three ports are USB 3.0), a proprietary connection for Kinect, an infrared output (for controlling settop boxes with the Xbox) and an Ethernet port. Tucked away on the right there’s also a Kensington lock slot for securely attaching the console to your TV cabinet.
In use the Xbox One is noticeably noisier than the PS3 and PS4 though quieter than the Xbox 360, emitting a fairly steady fan hum that can just be heard about 10 feet away in a quiet room. It’s certainly not overly distracting but is still a little surprising considering the size of the box. Doubly so because it doesn’t get noticeably louder when gaming.
What we did find distracting though, are the white Xbox logos on the console and the Kinect. They are both a bit too big and bright for our liking. The console does get warm while gaming but with so much ventilation you’d really have to try hard to make this thing overheat.
For those of you that like to tinker with your consoles the Xbox One is certainly easy to take apart and that simple boxy design makes it easy to access all the key components - a HSF upgrade would be quite simple. However, doing anything voids the warranty. In particular whereas on the PS4 you can swap out the hard drive for a larger or faster unit, the same can't be done on the Xbox One.