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One Month with the One

(Disclaimer: I am a Microsoft employee. However, these opinions are my own.)

It’s been about a month and change since we resolved the myriad A/V issues and got our Xbox One added to the entertainment center. The best answer I have for people asking what I think is simply “potential”.

The automatic recognition of different people is much better than Kinect ID on the 360, but is still inexplicably picky. For some reason it seems far better at detecting a moving target in profile than a sitting target facing the screen. Those moments where it does recognize you automatically are pretty magical. (Hilariously, the first time it happened I dropped my iPad on my foot because I was so surprised.) And when it doesn’t, you now have voice sign-in as an option, which saves us a ton of time in my household.

The accuracy of voice recognition is just about the same – I had hoped for more of an improvement, but on the bright side this didn’t require any calibration to get to this point, whereas the original Kinect did. I have no complaints about the controller, and that’s saying a lot. I couldn’t even use the original Xbox due to my freakishly small lady hands. These controllers are perfect for both my husband and myself, and easier on the eyes than the slightly bulbous ivory 360 controllers.

I’m still getting used to this new interpretation of the Modern Windows-style interface. It can be pretty, but there’s this strange insistence on small visual targets in places (like in Netflix, when you want to browse deeper in a category.) Fonts are a little small for my liking too – particularly in Zoo Tycoon. Why on earth is their main data font the same size I’d choose for printing the side effects for a new medication? Of course, being “behind the veil” I know Microsoft has little control over the decisions individual app makers execute, but we can always lead by example (or by firm rules in the approvals pipeline, if it came to that.) At least it’s a definite improvement in performance.

Multitasking (the “snap” functionality) is still merely a “potentially awesome” feature. We did have some fun snapping the NFL app so that my husband and I could peek at scores while playing games. But the big killer app in Snap for me – Skype – won’t snap. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s coming later. But I can’t think of a bigger “snap” scenario than chatting while using some other app. I certainly don’t need to play 2 games at the same time, nor watch TV and game. Just having Skype is still a big win, though. When combined with the Kinect you can connect whole families, not just individuals talking into phones. I fervently hope we get around to releasing a Skype app for the 360 – that would go a long way to making Skype on the Xbox a killer app across generations. We very much enjoyed Video Kinect on our 360 back and forth with my family across the country – at least for the 2 weeks where the Video Kinect app seemed to work. Here’s hoping.

I haven’t been able to use the TV integration features, as my HD Tivo’s HDMI port has gone bad and I’m stuck in a decision vortex – do I want to experiment with those features enough to return to the Comcast DVR? I find myself waiting for more features to spin up before I’m willing to make that sort of commitment.

The launch titles are pretty devoid of Kinect functionality. I have been meaning to try the fitness app, as much of the unrealized potential is tapped there (at least by description) and the various fitness apps on the Kinect were my favorite use of the system (and actually helped me make some fitness progress.) I find it a bit perplexing that the “free trial” for Xbox Fitness was only through the end of December – I’d think catching all the fitness resolutionaries would be worth one more month of lost revenue.

At the moment, my husband uses the One’s ESPN app pretty regularly, and it seems more performant than our 360 analog. I’ve been using some of the network TV apps (Fox and CW) and found them very welcome additions. The YouTube app is also a vast improvement and the connection to mobile devices means that I don’t have as much of a need to consider that Chromecast I was curious about at Christmas.

Assassin’s Creed 4 is very, very pretty but I haven’t been fully sucked in yet. I play a lot of Zoo Tycoon. Soon we’ll be diving more into Lego Marvel, but our schedules have to clear out a bit first. And there’s Peggle 2 out now… hardly a core gamer’s game, but high risk for addiction all the same.

I’ve not been hands-on with the PS4 – not for lack of opportunity, as my brother had his home for Christmas, but mostly out of lack of interest. The games don’t speak to me and the box doesn’t seem to do much else. The One still has a long way to go, but it’s a much better match for my lifestyle than the Sony products have ever been. To each our own. One-wards and upwards.

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