Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to unbox and install a Microsoft Xbox One. This is the latest incarnation of Microsoft's gaming platform, replacing the Xbox 360.
This new box is to replace an aging Sony PlayStation 3, and it's quite an upgrade.
Taking it out of the box was pretty straightforward. It comes with the main unit, the Kinect box, a wireless controller and a headset, plus various cables and power supplies.
Plugging it in is pretty straightforward. There's a rather bulky external power supply, an HDMI cable goes from the Xbox to the TV, the Kinect cable plugs in the back and that's about all there is to it.
I do like the feature that you can plug your cable box directly into the Xbox so you don't have to keep switching inputs on the TV to change from watching cable TV to using the Xbox. This is done with a second HDMI cable, and the setup is pretty easy.
WHAT I LIKE
First, the thing I like most about the Xbox is the voice command. Even with the Xbox off, you walk up to it and simply say "Xbox on" and it turns the Xbox on! You can then say "Xbox watch TV" and it switches to watching TV through your cable box. There seem to be voice commands for most items which is very cool. I haven't figured out how all of the commands work, like how to turn on or off the TV itself and use the DVR on the cable box, but I like where this is going.
Second, I like its face recognition. Through the Kinect device, when I sit in front of the TV, it recognizes me and can log me in. I haven't yet set it up to recognize my family, but the idea is that the Xbox can learn the types of items that individuals like to do and present them to each of us.
Third, the interface is pure Microsoft. Microsoft has done a great job of making the Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows phones look the same. One can argue whether the interface is good or whether one likes it, but I applaud Microsoft for doing a great job at unifying this interface.
Fourth, the games are stunning. We tried two games over the weekend: Forza auto racing and LEGO Marvel Superheros. Both were very fun and everything we would expect: including photo-realistic images and great sound.
Fifth, many apps, such as Netflix, Skype (a Microsoft company) and more make the Xbox much more useful than just gaming.
WHAT I DON'T LIKE
First, voice command. It's still hard to learn, and there are no instructions or manual in the box. I need to find some instructions on how to get this to work.
Second, the setup was a bit of a pain. For example, when you sign on, it wants you to log in with a Microsoft account, whether this be outlook.com, Hotmail.com or any other number of Microsoft accounts. I found when I got into this and couldn't remember my password, there was no way to exit the process and enter a different password. I ended up rebooting the Xbox in order to do so. Also, in the absence of a keyboard, typing with a wireless controller is less than satisfying.
Third, the system is pretty limited unless you opt for the Xbox Live Gold service, which is about $6 per month. That's not a lot of money, but I predict it's just the tip of the iceberg for what this will cost me. I also understand that subscription services are where the industry is going nowadays.
In summary, while gaming consoles themselves have an iffy future, the Xbox seems nicely positioned for at least a few more years.
Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: email@example.com