• Xbox One review
  • Xbox One versus PS4
  • Xbox One versus PS4
  • Xbox One connections
  • Xbox One power brick
  • Xbox One control pad
  • Xbox One controller battery compartment
  • Xbox One controller
  • Xbox One dashboard
  • Xbox One pins
  • Xbox One Kinect
  • Xbox One Kinect versus PlayStation Camera
  • Xbox One Skype
  • Xbox OneGuide
  • Xbox One Party Snap
  • Xbox One Music Snap
  • Ryse
  • Titanfall
  • Halo 5
  • Sunset Overdrive
  • Xbox One Profile
  • Xbox One headset

Calling the launch of the Xbox One a bit of a false start would be going rather easy on Microsoft.

There was Kinect, which nobody wanted but which was bundled into every box for an S$100 premium. There was the TV integration, which wasn't only unpopular but which also didn't work anywhere near well enough in the UK. And there was a performance deficit when comparing the same games against the PS4. Needless to say, the Xbox One has been losing out to the PS4 in sales ever since.

But that was eight months ago, and the Xbox One of August 2014 is very different to the Xbox One of November 2013. All of the flaws have been tackled to one extent or another. Most significantly, Kinect is now out of the deal - that's allowed Microsoft to drop the price to match the PS4 and has released enough extra power for developers to make their games look and play better.

The ambition has been pared back then, but there's a renewed focus on perfecting the basics. Does that make it a better console than it was? And even more importantly, is it now as good as or even better than the PS4? Continue reading this fully upated review to find out.

READ MORE: Sony PS4 review

The controller: if it ain’t broke…

Xbox One control pad
Xbox One controller battery compartment
Xbox One controller

The Xbox 360 pad, loved so much that even hardcore PC gamers have been known to plug it into their rigs, is no more. But fear not, the One pad that replaces it is very similar.

In terms of size and weight it’s almost identical, but there are some small ergonomic points of difference, including a move of the Xbox Home button to an extended section at the top, a recessed d-pad, smaller thumb-rests on the analogue sticks and a battery compartment that doesn’t protrude from the back as it did before.

There are niggles, though – to us those thumb pads seem too small, the d-pad feels rather cheap and clicky, inserting AA batteries into a controller feels decidedly last-gen (is a bundled Play & Charge kit too much to ask?), it rattles when shaken, and over time we've become rather annoyed by the hard edges where the plastic panels meet. It's largely the same controller as before, but it feels a bit cheap compared to the PS4 pad.

But there are also some improvements. The triggers and shoulder buttons are curved more comfortably, and Microsoft has upped the ante in terms of vibration – there’s even haptic feedback in the triggers themselves.

There’s always been a hefty dose of subjectivity to the discussion over whether the Xbox or PlayStation controller is “best”, and this generation it’s a closer fight than ever. Sony has closed the gap in terms of ergonomics and accuracy, while also adding a touchpad to a tech recipe that already included a motion sensor - on paper it certainly seems the more advanced pad, and in the hand it feels that little bit more premium. Having said that, to those migrating from Xbox 360 the Xbox One pad will feel totally 'right', and the localised vibration is a fun and occasionally very useful addition.

Operating system: a slightly cluttered dashboard

Xbox One dashboard
Xbox One pins

Sitting somewhere between the Xbox 360 dashboard and the Windows 8 Metro interface, the Xbox One UI is clean, colourful and… a little confusing. The endless panes of the 360 have been stripped back to just three: Pins on the left, where you can keep your favourite apps and games ever ready, Store on the right, which is pretty self-explanatory, and Home in the centre.

Home is a difficult place to settle into at first. The last thing you had open takes up the large centre image, while the four underneath are also ordered by how recently you accessed them and the one to the right of that represents the disc that’s in the drive.

With these tiles constantly shifting as you switch between apps and games it can prove a little tricky to keep up, and it’s not helped by the fact that all of the system apps (Settings, TV, Store, etc) are represented by the same (user-selected) colour and a white logo, making them all look too similar for instinctive navigation. A game appearing in the recent activity tiles as well as the disc drive tile also seems a bit of a waste, especially as Xbox Movies you watch don’t appear, meaning you have to delve back into the Store to resume whatever you were watching, even if you’ve bought it.

And talking of the Store, there are some weird issues here, too. Try using the One's global search function to find Destiny. You'd have thought it would take you to game page where you could at the very least watch trailers and probably pre-order the game for download on the day of launch. Alas, that game page doesn't exist, the One doesn't yet support pre-orders of digital editions, and no trailers or other game information is turned up. It's almost like the game doesn't exist, but is made all the more weird by the fact that there's a trailer for the game on the console's Home screen. Think that's just Microsoft marginalising a game that's launching with exclusive PS4 content? Try typing in "Advanced Warfare" or "Quantum Break" and the result is the same.


Xbox One Kinect
Xbox One Kinect versus PlayStation Camera
Xbox One Skype

Now here's the big change: Kinect, touted by Microsoft as an absolutely key component of the One's very existence, has been unbundled from the package. So should you buy one now that it's merely an accessory? Probably not.

Over the last eight months we've barely used ours, and given that Microsoft has now introduced new controller shortcuts that are actually much quicker than the mostly-correct-but-occasionally-annoyingly-inaccurate Kinect voice and gesture commands, there's even less reason to get it.

There haven't been any particularly compelling Kinect gaming experiences, either, and those few developers who had such games in development will be seriously rethinking their plans now that the install base of Kinects can't be relied upon. Perhaps an amazing app or game will appear in the future that will bring Kinect back into the light, but we wouldn't hold our breath.

If you've already got a Kinect you may as well keep it set up for those handy features such as automatic login via face recognition – it can even log in a number of players at once and automatically switch priority by working out who’s holding the controller. It also gives you one of the best Skype experiences we’ve ever, umm, experienced, automatically panning and zooming to keep you in shot and producing crisp video and audio.

Stuff says... 

Long-term test: Microsoft Xbox One review

There are still niggles, but the newly Kinect-less Xbox One is a better, more focused games machine
Xbox One review
Good Stuff 
Solid line-up of games
Kinect-less console is cheaper and more powerful
Occasionally useful multi-tasking and picture-in-picture
Bad Stuff 
Flagship features still have flaws
A big, inelegant box