Xbox One Review: Unifying Your Living Room Experience

A New Kinect Camera: The Xbox One's Other Controller

The Other Controller

The new Kinect camera is a key component that differentiates the Xbox One from Sony's PS4. Where both consoles are at least somewhat comparable in terms of technology and features, Microsoft's insistence that every Xbox One include a Kinect is at least as significant a point as the Wii U's tablet-like controller. Granted, Sony has a new camera for its PS4 as well, but that's an optional accessory that must be purchased separately, meaning developers cannot make the assumption that you have one.

This next-generation Kinect is improved in every way. It now features a 1080p camera, stepping up from the previous model's 640x480 resolution. That alone should make Skype calling a far better experience, even from one big-screen TV to another. The new hardware also employs time-of-flight technology, which measures the time it takes individual photons to rebound off an object or person to create a depth map. The camera now uses a global shutter, rather than a rolling shutter, reducing motion blur to less than 14 ms. Compare that to the original Kinect's 65 ms.

The new Kinect also has a 60%-wider field of view, making it better at sensing multiple players. If you're confined to a smaller space, you'll appreciate that the new camera works at a minimum distance of 4.59 feet. The old Kinect needed at least six feet. You connect the Kinect to Microsoft's console using a nine-foot cable. Ideally, that'll accommodate mode living room setups.

In response to some very valid privacy concerns, Kinect is no longer required for the Xbox One to work. However, not plugging it in naturally pares back the ways you're able to interact with the Xbox.

Assuming you want to use Kinect, certain system functions can be controlled through gestures (navigating from one page to the next, for example, or expanding windows). That's nifty functionality of course, just as it was on Xbox 360, but ultimately not as advanced as anything you saw in Minority Report or Iron Man. We found it faster to use the controller or voice commands.

Controlling the Xbox One with voice is similar today as it was in the previous generation. Phrases like "Xbox, go home" or "Xbox, go to Forza 5" worked well during our review. If you're in standby mode, Kinect also turns on the console when it hears "Xbox, turn on."

Kinect does gather a stunning amount of information about your home environment. Microsoft claims that it processes 2 Gb of data per second, so naturally this sort of technology will be embraced by some and labeled invasive by others. As an example, the new Kinect recognizes faces, and thus automatically log users in. When I power up the Xbox One, it sits on a generic start screen. But when I walk into the camera's view, my profile appears and I'm greeting with "Hi Marcus!".

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • lostgamer_03
    Great review, really made reflect over what a gaming machine should be able to do nowadays. A gaming machine isn't just a gaming machine anymore and the Xbox One, even though it might not be as powerful as PS4, is a really attractive product in my perspective.
  • Ceee9
    any Am%$^$N want to trash this?
  • Nahkman
    Reinventing the TV experience only applies to the Americas as the rest of the world does not really care much about ESPN, and also a lot of the functionality is NA only, there was also a rumor that kinect voice commands do not work in a lot of european countries.
  • Maziar
    Great review
    At the time being,IMO PS4 is a better gaming machine;whereas,X1 is a better entertainment system.
    PS4 has a more powerful GPU so it should perform better in games and is $100 cheaper too;whereas,X1 tries to do more than just gaming and costs more.
    For me,PS4 is a better machine because I only tend to play games on a console but X1 is also a great machine
  • de5_Roy
    10 pages and.. nothing about xbone(R)'s gaming capability or gaming experience. the review was done well, but seems restricted to media capabilities. the device seems versatile.
    some of the ps4 reviews i read had info on gaming as well as media/entertainment. i mean info like how the games look and feel to a player, resolution and user perception, joystick (and other input devices) performance in gaming etc.
  • daglesj
    As a 42 year old that back in 2006 played a lot of games on my console but now mainly uses it for media and streaming with a bit of gaming on the side (I'm sure I'm not the only one) the Xbox One is a more compelling unit than the PS4.

    I'm pretty sure MS went over the usage stats of the 360 and found that more and more people were using the media/TV/movie aspects. After all thats where the money is.

    MS could sell half as many Xbox Ones as Sony but it will still be making far more per console in subscriptions and services. The money going forward isn't in games.

    However, I don't think this generation will be as long lived as the 360/PS4. I see One.5 or PS4.5 models or total replacement within 5 years.
  • zzzaac
    Unfortunately all these nifty things are half working or not working at all for countries other than US of A

    I might be getting both, but to be honest I might not get any, as I've become more of a PC gamer
  • daglesj
  • daglesj
  • cats_Paw
    I think im getting old, becouse when i read this i think that the Xbox one is basicly a low end PC with limited usability...