Xbox One – the main features

Microsoft launched its next-gen Xbox One console last night - and here´s the lowdown on the main features

22 May 2013


UPDATED 30/08/13


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Unless you've been living under a stone, you'll know Microsoft has revealed its new next-gen console, Xbox One.

But even though you've heard about it, you're probably wondering what it actually does and whether it's any good.

Xbox One Box

That's where we come in, for we burnt the midnight oil to give you the lowdown on the new console - and the bottom line? It's about much more than gaming (though the gaming looks pretty awesome too)

Launched at Microsoft Campus in the US, the new machine is described as the "ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system" for games, live television, films and music. It boasts voice and motion recognition controls, hosts live TV and movies and even finds time for Skype functionality. Oh yeah, and it plays games too. There's a new Kinect camera sensor, an updated controller and a stack of other features.

Chief marketing officer for Microsoft's gaming business Yusuf Mehdi asked: "What if a single device could provide all your entertainment. What if it was always ready and connected?"

The console will be available globally later this year, so now's a good time to get a handle on its main features as we step, blinking and squinting, into the brave new world of Xbox One.

Xbox One - the basics

They say the best things come in threes, and who's Xbox to argue with an age-old adage? It features three main components: The Xbox console, the new controller and the Kinect motion sensor bar. While we're on the subject of threes, it also combines a trio of operating systems (but more on that later).

Xbox One is big, black and, basically, boxy. Marketing blurb even says it 'puts the box back in Xbox'. It looks sleek and sexy, but we all know it's what's in the box that counts.

The new Kinect - even more accurate

The new Kinect bar is more sensitive than ever before. It can now detect your controller rather than just your hands, as well as being capable of understanding the rotation of your wrist or shoulder, thanks to its ability to process 2GB of data per second.  

Away from gaming, Microsoft says it can detect our heartbeats when exercising - we said it was a sensitive soul. It also features a 1080p camera dubbed "human control for a human experience". The new Kinect will come with the system as opposed to being sold as an accessory. It allows six people to fit into its field of view. To put this into perspective the current Kinect manages two people.

Voice and motion commands - home entertainment centre  
From TVs to web browsers, voice recognition is a big deal these days. So it's perhaps unsurprising it's made its way onto the new Xbox.

Xbox One wants to be the one-stop entertainment hub for your home, using Kinect's voice recognition tech to control a combination of features: gaming, live TV and movies, and Skype. To turn the console on, just say 'Xbox on'; to change to television 'Xbox watch TV'; to listen to music "Go to music".

You're starting to get the picture? Good, we could have been here all day.   

Xbox One Fans

Skype from your Xbox - while playing your favourite game

When it comes to Skype, you'll be able to simply say 'Skype Daniel' midway through a gaming session and hey presto, he'll be called up without the machine coming out of the game. The same also applies while you're watching a show.

"Getting that right, the fact that you can walk in, say 'Xbox on', be recognised and get that personalisation - that's the foundation of the experience that we're building," explained Marc Whitten, corporate vice president for Xbox Live.

New controller

The game pad has also been overhauled, with Microsoft saying it has made 40 design innovations. Among these is a new D-pad boasting dynamic impulse triggers. There's also an integrated battery and smoother ergonomics - kiss goodbye to joypad ache on those marathon gaming sessions.

Xbox One Controller

All about the TV

The Press launch focused lots of attention on entertainment and media rather than games; in fact gaming wasn't even discussed until halfway through the show. A Microsoft spokesperson said until now live TV had been the "piece that's been missing".

With the new HDMI output you will be able to run your set top box through Xbox One. This means eventually you will be able to watch TV through your console.

Aaron Greenberg told MSN. "Once you're hooked in, in Input-1, you can manage all of that content. You can switch between a TV show and a game as fast as you can change channel on your TV."

Also, Microsoft is developing original programming for Xbox One. During the launch Steven Spielberg was beamed in via video link to talk about a new TV series based on iconic game Halo.

Interactive web functions are also set to enhance our viewing experience. Love sports? During the demo we were told fantasy players will be able to check the progress of their team while the game is actually unfolding - no more frantically trying to load up the app from your tablet to see who got those points. The technology was demoed with American Football, but the potential will have had many sports fans in the UK hot under the collar.

Meanwhile, a "trending" feature means you can see which games and television shows your pals are digging - truly social TV.

Enough of this TV stuff, what about the games?

Although much was said about live TV, Skype and other entertainment, we must not forget the Xbox came into our lives as a games console. Microsoft clearly hasn't forgotten this either, with a host of games for the next-gen machine including a raft of titles from EA Sports and an eagerly awaited Call of Duty game.

Microsoft said 15 exclusive games, including eight new franchises, will be available on Xbox One within the first year of its release. Fifa 14, Madden 25, NBA Live 14 and the fighting game UFC would all launch on Xbox One using a new games engine called Ignite which will "blur the line between real and virtual", EA Sports executive vice president Andrew Wilson told the audience.

Meanwhile, Call of Duty: Ghosts showcased the killer graphics of the new Xbox. The new game will see players control characters in an imagined reality where America is on the decline. Gamers will also see their landscape changed by floods, earthquakes and other weather events.

Call Of Duty

Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg said: "We're pushing the genre and forward with Ghosts. I think a lot of people were expecting us to create Modern Warfare 4, but we didn't want to rest on our laurels."
Microsoft has promised much more on games at the E3 conference in June, when it delivers part two of this launch.

Under the hood - the meat and two veg

We know specs are boring, but surely you want to know what is powering this potential colossus of gaming and all-round home entertainment? Remove the boxy black lid and you'd find 8GB of RAM; HDMI in/out; an eight-core processor and a 500GB hard drive.

During the press launch, Microsoft also revealed the Xbox boasts three operating systems in one - we told you good things came in threes. This trio of OS is made up of Xbox, a multitasking interface, and a kernel. Before you start talking about ideas and nuts, this is more likely to be a Windows RT-style system.

If you're wondering how all this measures up to the PS4, you can be assured the gap between them in specs is narrowing.

Xbox One - won't be backwards compatible

Will the new Xbox be backwards compatible? It's been the question on everyone's lips and the subject of much hype and speculation. The answer is no. A Microsoft spokesman confirmed Xbox 360 games cannot be played on Xbox One because of the "different architecture" of the new console.

A spokesman said: "Xbox One hardware is not compatible with Xbox 360 games. We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games - games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud.

"We care very much about the investment you have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future."

Xbox One - the general rub and how to find out more - click here

Don Mattrick, president of the interactive entertainment business at Microsoft, told the audience and millions of people on the internet: "Today we put you at the centre of a new generation in the living room - where your games look and feel like nothing else, where your TV becomes more intelligent, where all of your entertainment comes alive in one place."

All eyes will now turn to E3 in June, which Microsoft has promised will be all about the new games.

Now you've heard all about the revolution you'll want to know how to join it. Click here for updates on the latest news on the release of Xbox One.

Pictures courtesy of Ap