Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox One is a capable set top box that combines games, entertainment and TV guide functionality. In a bid to control the living room, the Trojan Horse holds a strong army of launch games determined to invite consumers to jump in.

The Xbox One utilizes an 8-core AMD CPU, Radeon GPU, 8GB GDDR3 RAM, 32MB ESRAM, 500GB hard drive, Blu-ray disc drive, 802.11n Wireless with Wi-Fi Direct, HDMI, and USB 3.0.

Xbox OneThe hefty rectangle box is a mean mix of gloss and matte diagonal grates that line of the top half and sides. It features a stoic and solid build in combination with the heavy Kinect camera, included with each Xbox One sold.

The controller, an adaptation of the well-received Xbox 360 controller, features a better directional pad and new Impulse Triggers that a welcome jolt of vibration to the left and right triggers. New left button and right button placement is a tad high in transition from the main triggers. The build is light, though the surface can be scratched easily. In addition, the default controller utilizes AA batteries rather than an integrated rechargeable battery.

The Xbox One UI is a work in progress. The single-color tile-based menu includes a lot of clutter in the center, pinned applications to the left and supplemental software to the right. At the top left are notifications and user profile functions. A press of the Xbox button only yields options to power off the hardware or controller and leaves out prior instant access to friends, downloads or any other function.

In addition, game installation is painfully slow. Game installs require the title to retrieve an online update prior to disc-based installation which result in multi-hour game installs for titles including Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5, the latter of which mandates a 6GB download.

During installation, there is no indication of the current download in progress, just the percentage of overall game installation completed, which can hang at 1 or 2 percent after several hours due to the download update.

Finally, the UI lacks a data management utility to manage game installation, update files, or saved game clips.

Voice commands via Kinect work well with functions like ‘Xbox Go To’ ‘Xbox Pin’ or ‘Xbox Turn Off’ recognized instantly. Also, in-game functions like gesture movement to knock zombies away in Dead Rising 3 or Head Tracking in Forza Motorsport 5 function well.

The new Game DVR software, which allows users to record the last 30 seconds or five minutes of gameplay, is full-featured. Users can say ‘Xbox Record That’ to nab a 30-second clip to be saved in Game Clips. The clip can then be use in Upload Studio to be trimmed, add commentary, then send to a SkyDrive account to be managed from another device. While the clip can’t upload in the background, the feature is simple to use and a strong integration of the cloud-storage service.

TV integration is easy with an HDMI input to take direct feed from another video source. A TV guide can be controlled via voice command and users can hop between TV and games well. Unfortunately, the Xbox One does not allow use of the hard drive to record content, so consumers with DVR functionality will have to switch back to their receiver menu to control it.

As a games machine, the Xbox One delivers. Exclusives like Forza Motorsport 5 demonstrate 60 frames-per-second, 1080p resolution fidelity in addition to prime utilization of the new Impulse Triggers from the controller.

Dead Rising 3 is a fun zombie sandbox that allows users to lay waste to an impressive virtual mass of undead in a large-scale city.

The Xbox One, at $499.99, is an ambitious machine that needs refinement. The UI and installation process need an upgrade, however, its powerful lineup of franchise-based launch titles allow it to maintain a tight grip in the video games market.

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