The Kinect 2 is bundled with the Xbox One and can be used to control just about everything in the Xbox One's menu. It is more sensitive than the original Kinect, able to detect more subtle motions and up to six players at once.
You can make on-screen selections by making a push-forward motion with your hands, and expand the Home screen window by closing both hands and pulling them apart. Doing the opposite action will minimize the window.
Voice commands can also be used to forego menu navigation in many instances. Prompt the system by saying "Xbox," then follow up with a command. You can even use voice commands for surfing the Web. It isn’t 100 percent accurate every time, and it's not so easy to use in a noisy room, but it's still a pretty handy feature.
Of course, the Kinect is great for party-type multiplayer games, but it will also have some integration with major games such as Ryse: Son of Rome, letting you give commands through voice and gesture.
The Xbox also offers a fitness service that adds Kinect body tracking to popular workout videos such as Insanity and p90x, give users feedback while they exercise. The new Kinect can track your heart rate for the fitness service, though I had some trouble getting it to work accurately. I look forward to a more thorough evaluation from our health and fitness team.
If you're worried about privacy, the Kinect's audio, video, or both can be turned off through the menu. You also can unplug the Kinect altogether, and the Xbox will work just fine.
Playing games online works just as well as it always has on the Xbox. You can jump into games with your friends, form parties for in-game and cross-game chat, and make new friends online.
Unlike with the PlayStation 4, you won't use your real name even with your closest friends on Xbox Live—you'll be sticking with your existing Gamertag for now, if you already have one. Using the new SmartMatch system, Microsoft will attempt to keep games friendly by weeding out disruptive players, keeping teams evenly matched, and reducing wait times.
I'll need more time with the Xbox Live community to see if these features are actually working. If SmartMatch can save me from listening to kids arguing with their mothers about bedtime, I'll gladly pay for the Xbox Live Gold membership.
You can also Skype with friends, and using the new Snap feature, you can also Skype while playing a game or watching TV. Also, similar to the PlayStation 4, you can edit and share game clips with friends, via the Game DVR. And you’ll have access to SkyDrive, a cloud-storage service that lets you share photos and videos taken on your Xbox One or other devices.
One feature worth highlighting is the aforementioned Snap. It works kind of like picture-in-picture on a TV, letting you run two applications on the same screen at the same time. So, for example, you could be playing Dead Rising 3 while watching "The Walking Dead" on the side.
This feature works with most apps, so you can play around with different combinations. One drawback is that currently, the only available audio option is "mixed"—meaning you hear the sound from both applications that you’re running. This could be a problem if you’re playing a game, and the audio from a TV show interferes.
The SmartGlass app, available for mobile devices, also works with the Xbox One, serving as a way to keep tabs on your friends' activities, send messages, make purchases, and control the Xbox One menu. It also serves as a second screen for compatible games.
The Xbox One is packed with features. Voice- and gesture-based controls give the console a futuristic feel and a real wow factor. Visuals are superior to those of the previous generation of consoles. Running multiple apps at once is useful particularly for gaming while watching TV, and improved rumble feedback in the controller is a subtle way of making games more immersive.
The price is probably the Xbox One’s biggest drawback. At $500, it is the most expensive of the current-generation consoles. An Xbox Live Gold membership is required for most of its touted features, and that drives the cost up as well.
The console is large, so it's going to take up some space in your entertainment center. And because of the additional connections in the back of the console, the physical setup could be difficult, especially for those who don't have easy access to back of their TV and other devices.
So who should buy an Xbox One? Fans of Xbox-exclusive games such as the Halo series are going to want this console. And if you're the type of person who splits your focus between gaming and sports or keeping up with TV shows, then this is the console you'll want.
If you own a smart TV with similar entertainment features, though, you probably don't need them from the Xbox One. And a lot of devices that connect to your TV can give you at least some of what the Xbox One offers. But if you've been waiting for one device that can handle all your entertainment needs—including visually impressive gaming—then this One's for you.