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XBox One Review

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The Xbox 360 that exists in 2013 bears little resemblance to the console that Microsoft launched in 2005. It’s so different, in fact, that it helps to think of the company’s new Xbox One as an evolution, not of the original Xbox 360 but of the one that exists today.

Over that eight-year span, the Xbox 360 underwent radical transformations. In 2008, the “New Xbox Experience” delivered an entirely new interface, customizable player Avatars, eight-player party chat and Netflix streaming, a first for video game consoles. In 2010, the first iteration of Kinect and the platform’s voice and gesture controls redefined the 360 once again.

That focus on entertainment never diminished the Xbox 360′s gaming bona fides, however. Between first-party exclusives like Halo, third-party console exclusives like Left 4 Dead and timed exclusives like The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, the Xbox 360 never wanted for games. The Xbox Live Arcade program made games like Castle CrashersBraid andLimbo into household names. Despite its investment in entertainment, the Xbox 360 was always a video game console.

But there was a sense that the Xbox 360′s greater aspirations as a mainstream portal for entertainment were restrained by hardware created before our current age of streaming video, tablets and smartphones.

So when examining the Xbox One, it may seem familiar. This is what Microsoft has been working toward all these years, effectively showing its next-generation hand as early as 2008. While the Xbox 360 was upgraded, the Xbox One was developed in parallel, but as a beginning, not an end. And despite its familiar elements and concepts, the Xbox One still manages a genuine sense of wonder, all without losing sight of the strong gaming foundation the Xbox was built on.

VIDEO REVIEW

THE CONSOLE

HARDWARE & DESIGN

The nicest description most Polygon staff could manage for the Xbox One’s silhouette is “inoffensive” — there’s no sugarcoating the console’s lack of visual flair. Microsoft has created a system designed to blend into the other components of your home entertainment center, and it does that … for better or worse.

The console lacks the profile and space-saving considerations of the PlayStation 4 — or even the original Xbox 360. Not only is the console larger than the original Xbox 360, but the new Kinect sensor is larger than the first one. Even the massive power brick from the last generation makes a not-so-welcome return.

It’s quiet, and it runs relatively cool. But if you’re looking for subtlety, this is not the console for you.

However, given the Xbox 360′s notorious reliability problems, it’s a little reassuring that the Xbox One was given so much room to breathe. It’s quiet, and it runs relatively cool. But if you’re looking for subtlety, this is not the console for you.

Like the PS4, the Xbox One has gone digital-only with its audio and video — you’ll only find HDMI and optical audio ports. For network connectivity, Microsoft has added a gigabit Ethernet port. It doesn’t support 802.11ac, but the Xbox One does connect to 5 GHz wireless networks.

A single game can occupy as much as 50 GB — and that’s before any DLC, expansions, or major title updates.

The Xbox One also features an HDMI input in the back. This is designed for the system’s television capabilities, but it will actually work with any HDMI device. If you’re as disappointed as we are by the lack of backwards compatibility this generation and want to keep an Xbox 360 or PS3 plugged in here, we’ve got some bad news: It works, but our most lag-sensitive editors wouldn’t want to play that way.

There are also three USB 3.0 ports — two on the back and one on the side — that are currently only useful for charging controllers and connecting the imminent Killer Instinct Fightstick from MadCatz.

Lastly, unlike the Xbox 360, the Xbox One has a Blu-ray drive, meaning those of you with a soft spot for physical media won’t need to keep a second device around. That drive is partnered with a 500 GB internal hard drive, where all games are installed. While that may sound like a lot of room, a single game can occupy as much as 50 GB — and that’s before any DLC, expansions or major title updates. While unfortunately missing on day one, Microsoft has promised support for external storage after launch, a significant improvement from the expensive proprietary storage options available on Xbox 360.

February 16, 2014 |

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