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Published on November 26th, 2013 | by Chris Scott

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Question of the Week: So, you’ve had the Xbox One for a weekend. How is it?

Welcome to Critically Sane’s Question of the Week, where we do our best to answer an inquiry posed to us by the community. Have your own question? Tweet it to us @criticallysane or put it in the comments below!

So, you’ve had the Xbox One for a weekend. How is it?

Like last week with the PS4, I’ve had the Xbox One since launch day and had the weekend to play around with it. In the grand scheme of the system’s lifetime, that weekend is but a small pittance of what I will hopefully eventually put into the device but getting a baseline feel down is a good starting point.

Much has been made about the differences between the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, and from the moment I got my hand on the Xbox One, the two boxes couldn’t have set a different tone. The PS4 came in a sleek, almost laptop styled box while the Xbox One’s box was bigger and more pronounced, with a clear weight that wasn’t apparent with the PS4. Taking it out of the box the two continue to diverge, although not as much as I expected.

The Xbox One is a bulky box, but it’s not the monstrous beast that some have been making it out to be. In fact, it is noticeably smaller than my cable box. Next to the PS4, the Xbox One looks about a third bigger. Instead of the sleek, sexy and fun look that the PS4 invokes, the Xbox One stands firm, invoking a feeling of power and confidence along the way. Both boxes play with gloss and matte black coloring to segment their boxes and each look fantastic in my entertainment center.

The Xbox One has an external power brick and the Kinect, each of which needs to be plugged into the system. The Kinect is a massive beast this time around, sporting a heavy gauge cord and having a noticeable heft to it when lifted out of the box. I felt that if I didn’t want to use Kinect for its intended purpose, it could be used as a whip-like weapon and do some major damage. The build quality on both the console and Kinect are impressive and left me feeling confident they were well put together. Considering Microsoft’s past hardware history, I’d say that feeling is a good thing.

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The PS4 left me with a feeling of being able to plug and play. If I needed to move the device, I could do it easily. The Xbox One doesn’t give me that feeling. Plugged into my cable box, my television and the Kinect, it clearly wants to be under my television and doesn’t want to move. I generally don’t move my systems much but this could be an issue for those that do a lot of moving back and forth between different set-ups.

Just like the PS4, the Xbox One needs a system update upon completion of set-up.  I expected some hiccups connecting to Xbox Live to get the update but there were none and the update downloaded and installed quickly.

Signing into Xbox Live requires just your Live ID and password. After verification it gave me the option of having Kinect sign me in to the system automatically in the future. It showed me an image of my living room with me on the chair and my gamertag hovering over my head, once confirmed it “memorized me” and has since then automatically signed me in when I walk in the room or start up the Xbox. I also had the system do this for my wife and now when she walks into the room, regardless of if I am already using the system or not, it automatically signs her in. For those concerned that Microsoft is planning a SkyNet type take over though, this feature does not have to be activated and you can keep your tin foil hat head safe and secure from the creepy Kinect.

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Accessing the TV functions runs one through a quick setup for that as well. TV make, cable provider and cable box manufacturer was all I needed to provide before the Xbox One took control of my television providing me with a cable guide like overlay, that I’ll honestly never use. The voice commands on the television stuff works fantastic, most of the time. The system easily distinguished between my wanting to watch ABC or AMC, Fox, ESPN, CBS, NBC, Comcast Sports Net, FX, etc… I’m sure some more obscure channels will cause it issues, but for me, it works near perfectly.

I say near perfectly because the device had trouble hearing my voice over my one year old daughter. It also wants you to speak to it in a very particular way, and that can vary from app to app. One example of this is the difference between how voice works in Amazon Instant Video and Netflix. In Amazon’s app I could tell it to open the app, go to Prime Instant Videos, the Action & Adventure section, The Hunger Games and to play it. In Netflix, I could open the app but then everything in the app is done via a numbered selection which one will need to bring up an overlay to see what box is what number so it can be selected. Regardless of the inconsistencies in implementation, when it works, the voice control works great and is fun to use. While watching football on Sunday I never picked up a remote, jumping between games and adjusting the volume via voice. It was an amazing experience.

While the TV and voice stuff is really cool, the Xbox brand was built on games and the Xbox One continues that legacy. Everything needs to be installed to the 500GB hard drive, whether it is disc based or not, so jumping right into a game immediately after set-up isn’t an option. The system, like the PS4, does allow for games to be played when installation is only partially completed. I did this with Forza and it worked just fine.

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The Xbox One comes with a controller that will be instantly familiar to anyone that has used an Xbox 360 but there are some changes, and I’m not 100% sure about them all. The controller seems to have a smaller more condensed form factor but is still comfortable in my chubby hands. Everything about the controller seems more… clicky, with button presses making audible noise. The triggers are a bit less firm but still work great and they now feature rumble motors in them, which I’ve only seen used in Forza but they add a nice sense of feedback. And finally, the sticks are still offset but the nubs now feature a textured finish around the edge that I find a bit weird. It’s a nice controller but something of a sideways step when compared to the Dualshock 4. As it stands, I’d probably prefer to play games (on both systems) with my 360 controller but I’m sure I’ll get used to them both.

There is a lot I’ve failed to talk about here, including the new achievement system, Upload Studio, snapping apps, how the system doesn’t tell you how to do anything, which can make it a bit frustrating when trying to do a simple function like delete a game, but there just isn’t time and part of the fun of the system is playing with it yourself to figure out how it does things. I can say this about it, the Xbox One is a really cool piece of tech and there were a ton of “Oh wow!” moments throughout the weekend. My kids think the thing is magic, my wife loves it, and it has already become the centerpiece of my entertainment center.

Still, if you aren’t a tech junky like me, you’ll want games to justify that $500 purchase. The Xbox One has games and my initial experience with them has been that Microsoft’s retail exclusives (Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza Motorsport V and Zoo Tycoon) are quite fun and engaging. Enough to buy a new system for? That’s up to you but I’m completely satisfied with my purchase at this juncture.

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