Xbox One….Here it is finally….
After much speculation, Microsoft this week finally unveiled its next-generation console, the Xbox One.
We’ll hear more details at next month’s E3 gaming conference; Redmond has scheduled a June 10 press event. But we won’t actually get our hands on the Xbox One until “later this year” - likely around the 2013 holiday shopping crush.
What am I getting with the Xbox One? Buyers will get the new Xbox One console, a revamped controller, and an updated Kinect sensor.
I need the Kinect for the Xbox One? Yes. As we saw in yesterday’s demo, voice and gesture are a big part of the new console. “The all new Kinect is now an essential and integrated part of the platform,” according to Microsoft. Ultimately, the integration of Kinect will allow developers to create new experiences that tap into that functionality, like the Illumiroom experience Microsoft showed off recently.
What about this controller? Microsoft said it has added “more than 40 technical and design innovations” to the Xbox One controller. That includes an updated directional pad, thumb stick, an ergonomic fit, and new vibrating impulse triggers. It’ll also pair automatically with Kinect, Microsoft said.
Can I use my Xbox 360 controller with Xbox One? Doesn’t look like it. Microsofttold Polygon that Xbox 360 controllers won’t work with the Xbox One.
Will the Xbox One be an “always-on” console? In its FAQ, Microsoft said “No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet.” What? Basically, gamers should be able to use single-player games or watch a Blu-ray (Yes, Blu-ray!) without an Internet connection. But there’s a heavy focus on the cloud with Xbox One, allowing for synching across devices and quick access to the Internet-based services.
So I could conceivably avoid the Web altogether with Xbox One? Well, Redmond raised some eyebrows yesterday when vice president Phil Harrison told Kotaku that even if you stuck with single-player games or Blu-ray, the Xbox One will still require you to sign in every 24 hours. Microsoft later told the blog that Harrison’s comments covered a “potential scenario,” so we’ll have to wait for more details about the log-in requirements for Xbox One.
Can I play my Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One? Nope. Games for the Xbox One will not be backwards compatible with older 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,” Microsoft said.
So, what games will be available? Microsoft Studios, for one, promised 15 exclusive games in the first year of Xbox One, eight of which are brand-new franchises. As for the big names, expect to see EA’s sports lineup (FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA Live, and UFC), the new Call of Duty: Ghosts from Activision, as well as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs from Ubisoft. For more, check out our games roundup.
How about used games? Microsoft said that Xbox One will let customers trade in and resell games. The company promised more details, but as noted by Wired, you’ll have to pay a fee if you want to install a disc on a second account and play without that disc.
Will I need a new Xbox account for the One? Microsoft said Xbox Live Gamertags, as well as Gamerscore and Achievements will carry over from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One. Existing Xbox Live Gold memberships will also work on the new console.
What about the specs? The Xbox One includes an 8-core CPU, 8GB of system memory, and a 500GB hard disc drive. There’s also the much-requested Blu-ray drive, 802.11 wireless with Wi-Fi Direct, HDMI in/out, and USB 3.0. That includes customized AMD accelerated processor units (APUs) integrating the chip maker’s forthcoming Jaguar-class CPU cores and Radeon graphics, as well as a memory controller, video decoder, and other functionality.
How will this create a better gaming experience than the Xbox 360? According to the demos from game makers like EA and Activision, the power of the Xbox One will mean more impressive graphics - from the car tricks in Forza Motorsports 5 to the ability to knock down buildings for cover in Call of Duty: Ghosts. Activision actually showed a side-by-side comparison of COD: Ghosts and COD: Modern Warfare 3 and with a new Activision-developed engine, characters in Ghosts on Xbox One looked much more real.
What non-gaming tweaks were added to Xbox One? Microsoft talked up the Xbox One not just as a game console, but an “all-in-one entertainment system.” To that end, the Xbox One will let you switch between gaming, live TV, and music with your voice as fast as you might change a TV channel. On the TV, you don’t have to remember channels; with the revamped Guide, just tell the Xbox One you want to “watch HBO.”
So the lines between watching TV and gaming are blurred a bit, huh? Yes, with Snap Mode for Xbox One, you can do two things at once, like catch up on Mad Men on one side of the screen and surf the Web on another. For sports, fantasy stats will pop up on screen while you’re watching live games. This, of course, depends on whether or not Microsoft has secured a deal with your cable provider; Redmond said it is ” working through the many technologies and policies around the world to make live TV available where Xbox One is available.”
How much will this cost me? Microsoft hasn’t released pricing information just yet. Stay tuned.
Xbox “ONE” vs PS4 Spec Fight:
The Xbox One’s Hardware Specs
While Microsoft said very little during the unveiling itself, the information we do have seems to confirm that the Xbox One is powered by an 8-core x86 AMD CPU, and a GPU that’s very similar to the Radeon 7790. There’s 8GB of DDR3 RAM (shared between the CPU and GPU), 32MB of very fast SRAM on the graphics die, and a total of 200GB of memory bandwidth (more on that later). There’s also some new silicon in Kinect 2.0, which will come with the Xbox One as standard, which we’ve covered in a separate story. Rounding out the hardware, there’s a Blu-ray drive, 500GB hard drive, 802.11n WiFi (with WiFi Direct), HDMI in and out, Gigabit Ethernet (yay!), and USB 3.0. There’ll be three 802.11n radios, so that the console can connect to your gamepads (WiFi Direct), mobile devices, and home network without added latency.
When it comes to the memory bandwidth, the Xbox One has 68GB/sec of main memory (8GB DDR3) bandwidth, 102GB/sec of bandwidth to the embedded SRAM, with the last 30GB/sec probably between the CPU and GPU, or perhaps between the CPU and peripherals (gamepads, Kinect, cable TV). The PS4, on the other hand, will just have 176GB/sec of main memory (8GB GDDR5) bandwidth. The real-world difference will probably be negligible — though I would say that the PS4 probably has the edge, as developers don’t need to pay special heed to the Xbox One’s fast-but-small SRAM.
The Xbox One’s software: Three operating systems in one
Perhaps for the first time in console history, the Xbox One unveil, and the Q&A panels that followed, focused more on the software than the hardware. According to Microsoft, the Xbox One runs three different operating systems. There’s a core operating system that’s based on Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor technology, which boots up when you turn the console on. This hypervisor then boots up two further operating systems: Xbox OS, which runs the games, and an OS that’s based on Windows 8, which runs the apps (Skype, TV, etc.)
The Xbox OS and Windows-based OS run side-by-side, on hardware that’s virtualized by the hypervisor. Both OSes are permanently switched on and constantly rendering their video output, to enable instant switching/snapping between games and apps/TV. The Xbox OS is rebooted whenever you load a game, but the Windows-based OS is persistent until you turn the console off. It isn’t clear how the hardware resources are split between the two virtualized OSes, but hopefully the Xbox OS (games) gets most of the RAM and GPU time.
The newly announced Xbox One is getting a refined controller. It looks a lot like the Xbox 360’s controller, with “40 technical and design innovations,” according to Microsoft.
Microsoft says developers will be able to program specific types of feedback into the trigger buttons of the new controller. The thought being that the trigger buttons will provide different types of feedback depending on if you’re playing a racing game or a first-person shooter.
The controller will also link with Xbox One’s new Kinect sensor for Xbox One, which may mean Kinect will need to stay plugged in at all times if you actually want to play games.
The system consists of a regular camera component that allows for 720p Skype action as well as helping with visual authentication of users, plus an IR sensor that uses the time-of-flight of photons to measure the depth of objects. A wider view should help to solve the issues many people with smaller living rooms had with the old Kinect, and we’re told that even a relatively tall person can be fully tracked within a few feet of the sensor.
The IR sensor works off infrared light emitted by the Kinect module itself and it had no problem capturing our group even with extremely low light. The same goes for extremely bright light, all of which we were shown in a terrifying low-budget-movie-set-esque room containing an incomplete female mannequin. Despite our best efforts to lose the skeletal tracking, and to break its new depth-sensing capabilities against nearby humans, we were often stymied. It’s still not perfect by any means, but it’s also still far from finished.
Presumably thanks to its 250,000-pixel resolution, we saw the IR module tracking joint rotation, facial expressions, individual fingers, open / closed eyes and even how many calories we were burning as we moved around. Oh, and it can track up to six people at once — although things got a bit spotty for us with everyone standing relatively close together.