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Xbox One S review: The Xbox One moves into the 4K generation

Mark Hachman | Aug. 3, 2016
But it's only worthwhile if you own or plan to own a 4K TV.

Once you’re navigating around the Dashboard, other small irritations crop up. These stem from legacy UI design: When the Xbox One first launched, it came out of the gate as a living-room entertainment device. For example, you can let NFL game highlights play in a snapped window alongside OneGuide listings. The problem is, snapping is cumbersome if you don’t use voice commands (either through a headset or Kinect), which is what the interface had originally been designed to use.

Xbox OneGuide
Mark Hachman

The Xbox One S can serve as your interactive channel guide. With certain shows, you can see what people are saying about them on Twitter.

I never thought I’d say this, but my existing Comcast Xfinity X1 set-top box provides a superior approach. Not only does the voice-equipped remote work better than Cortana (more on that below), but the X1 lumps all of its movies into one content bin, eliminating the need to download multiple apps. (I’ve used older AT&T uVerse and DirecTV UIs, though, and in competition with those, the One S may be superior for some people.)

I do like OneGuide’s “trending” shows (which are handled better than how Comcast does it), and how Microsoft allows you to see tweets from people watching a given show. Fortunately, there’s nothing precluding me from using my Comcast interface while otherwise using the Xbox One S as a gateway.

The Windows 10 advantage

With the emergence of Windows 10 and Microsoft’s cloud services, it’s not quite enough to talk about the Xbox One S as a standalone console, like the Nintendo Wii U. As part of the Windows 10 ecosystem, the Xbox One S (like the original Xbox One) can tap into apps like Microsoft’s Edge Internet browser. It can also run UWP apps like Netflix and others.

Likewise, Windows 10 has features built into it that integrate tightly with Xbox usage. And the Anniversary Update brings with it improvements for features like higher-frame-rate (60 fps) recording of games captured on Windows 10 PCs, enables cross-platform access to Xbox Play Anywhere games, and adds game hubs for PC games.

Xbox One S Cortana
Mark Hachman

Cortana makes an appearance on the Xbox One S, though she’s somewhat less useful than on the desktop.

On the Xbox One and One S, Cortana makes her official debut. (As does voice commands over a headset.) In many ways, Cortana just replaces the familiar “Xbox, [do this]” commands, such as snapping a live TV window alongside a game. She’s also a bit slow to respond in certain situations, but Microsoft’s hardware, properly configured, can pick out your commands from a fairly noisy environment. For original Xbox One owners who were frustrated by Kinect’s lack of consistent responsiveness to voice commands, this Dashboard update may provide some relief.

 

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