I’ve been having kind of a mixed experience with the Xbox One. On the positive side, around the time of launch the folks at Edelman (one of Microsoft’s PR firms) sent me all the new games for the console but on the down side, they forgot to actually send me the console. This is largely why I didn’t write a review last year. Then I noticed my gamer tag, Spirit, which I’ve had since the launch of Xbox had magically become Spiritsinme as a result of calling support (that’ll teach me). Let’s talk about the Xbox One and my gamer tag theft this week.
How I Lost My Gamer Tag
The problem with having a popular gamer tag is folks want to steal it. Well a few years back someone called into Microsoft support claiming to be me, saying he had a new email address, and wanted a password reset. This was apparently before challenge questions or even bothering to look at his email because he didn’t actually have my name. Anyway they reset the email and then did a password reset and suddenly I no longer controlled my Microsoft account. I got a bit upset and this actually went to Steve Ballmer’s office for a fix. In the process, my online tag got changed to Spiritsinme but my gamer tag eventually became Spirit again (at least that is what I saw on the Xbox).
As I got ready for the Xbox One test, I called Microsoft Support and asked them to change the Spirtsinme part to Spirit, a few weeks later my Xbox One arrived and when I logged in Spirit had become Spiritsinme. Figuring someone had screwed up, I called support again and was told it would be fixed and then got an email that basically said I was screwed and needed to find a new name. I’ve had Spirit for literally decades, it is with a sad heart I bid him farewell, and I honestly hope whoever stole him is met with fair karma. I’m such a forgiving type.
The Xbox One has come a long way from the Xbox 360, they’ve made improvements in how to set it up, in Kinect, and to Voice control. The product now looks like it belongs in a Stereo Cabinet and you can stack it. The 360 wasn’t bad looking but it really didn’t go with the rest of the Stereo gear. It is actually easier to connect stuff too - though getting through the differences can take a moment. For instance, the pairing process now is to hold the new controller up to Kinect with the Xbox button flashing or put both in pairing mode by using the pairing buttons (on the front of the controller on the left side of the console). I was actually trying to find the pairing menu item like I would on a tablet or phone and there isn’t one under settings. Once you find the instructions it’s easy but it took a bit to get there.
There is no extension for Kinect 2.0 yet so if you had a long run to your TV, longer than the longer cable that now comes with Kinect, you are kind of out of luck at the moment because they changed the plug and the old extension doesn’t work. I love it when vendors change plugs.
There is no under TV mount for Kinect 2.0 either making it hard to install under a wall mounted articulated screen (which I have). I fabricated a mount using the Above TV mount that does exist and the old under TV mount (note this is actually an above TV Mount but works below the TV as well) I had for the old Kinect. It is strange that no-one seems to make a below TV mount given how many of us mount our TVs over fireplaces. Anyway what I did works but it wasn’t that elegant.
Locating the Xbox One
Where do you put it? Before the Xbox 360 was clearly for gaming but it evolved into music and now it’s really good at music and movies. So while the 360 was likely better for a game room the Xbox One could be in a game room or on your main TV. I guess you could get more than one but it would be nice if they had a way to move the experience room to room without having to buy another full system. I put it on my big 65” Vizio and the images it produces are wonderful but it really isn’t an ideal solution for a game system particularly since my favorite games are driving games these days. I also have a nasty habit of wanting to play at the same time my wife wants to watch Ellen or Oprah.
If you haven’t played a driving game on a current generation console you have a real treat - the sounds and realism are amazing. Be aware there aren’t many driving games out yet and only one wheel from Thrustmaster which has had mixed reviews (looks like early quality issues hurt it), this will change in a few months with more games and other wheels.
Xbox One vs. NVIDIA Shield vs. Sonos vs. TiVo
The Xbox One is a vast improvement over the Xbox 360 but I’ve been playing the NVIDIA Shield more and that is because it is portable. I can take it room to room and plug it into any set I choose. I can’t plug in a driving wheel so I can’t do the driving games but the portability of the Shield makes it more useful as a general gaming system. For music the Xbox does a great job of streaming and the sound is impressive however Sonos does a better job moving music around the home and it connects to more music services, though ironically not Microsoft’s. The Xbox One has an impressive catalogue of movies but TiVo does a better job of blending streaming, off air programing, and moving it around the home with extenders (it isn’t bad with music either but Sonos is better).
I do think it is better, largely due to content and Kinect, than the PlayStation 4 but there are a lot of devices that want my money and while it does better than Sony with these new features there are other products that are better still.
Wrapping Up: Looking for the Xbox Two
Where the Xbox One shines is in cinematic games, exercise oriented games (the Kinect interface is amazing), and particularly driving games when you hook in a wheel. I’d likely just buy it for those things. However were I to improve on it I’d make the experience more portable like the NVIDIA Shield, multi-room like the Sonos, and with a wider breadth of content like the TiVo. A console that could do all of that would move from a nice to have to a must have in my mind. And the result would make my old dead gamer tag Spirit proud. I think that is where the Xbox Two ill need to be, the bar isn’t PlayStation anymore it is Shield/Sonos/TiVo and with improvements in Cloud Gaming and Android it is moving incredibly fast.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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