Xbox One: A first look at the new console, Kinect and controller

The Xbox One games console is now official and we've managed to get eyes-on with the new console fresh from the launch at Microsoft's HQ in Seattle.

The new box is very angular in design, with clean lines and a strong black glossy paint job. Some might say that the new design recreates the company's flat 2D Modern tiled interface but in a hardware representation, or that it is reminiscent of the VW Golf in the 1980s. Whatever you think of it, it is very different from the curvy Xbox 360 we have now. There are no curves here at all on the console or the new Kinect sensor.

For those paying attention, the design is actually made up of two 16:9 ratio rectangles with one side glossy and the other matt for the vent. The vent design is supposedly really important to Microsoft and is spawned from what the company learnt from the Xbox 360 Slim launched a couple of years ago. 

Unlike the 360, however, the new console can't be stood vertically. 

The Xbox One controller

As for the all-important controller, the new controller looks good, with a refresh on the button front and a better battery casing. We've already played with the controller and Microsoft has also further detailed it too.

Quick points to note are that the screw holes on the back of the grips are now gone, as too is the parting line that on the 360 gets filed with grime.

For those paying attention, the thumb sticks are smaller and now outlined with a knurled texture for better grip, and the d-pad more responsive.

The sticks now require 25 per cent less force to move, allowing you to adjust your aim in a first-person shooter or execute a half-circle sweep in a fighting game faster and more accurately and the controller has reduced the thumbstick deadzone in the center.

Those paying attention will also notice that the A, B, X and Y buttons are lower to the controller with tighter spacing, making the transition between each one smoother.

Xbox One’s Wireless Controller sports four vibration motors – a small one behind each trigger that adds additional haptic feedback to the finger tips, and a larger in each grip for large scale rumbles.

Those two extra motors are in the left and right trigger, and this, as we found out through a series of test demos, creates a greater sense of feedback, if not a little forced - devs will have the chance to hone this further through software we are told. 

The battery pack has been rotated 90-degrees so it's out of the way and the d-pad has been re-engineered to make it better and easier to use. It still takes two AA batteries, however. And with the batteries in the weight is nicely balanced. It's smaller and lighter too, or certainly feels that way. 

We've also learn that the controller will have a low power state so that if you are watching a movie or need to step away from the TV, the controller does all it can to conserve battery. According to Microsoft, the moment you pick it up again, it will be ready for use without having to resync with the console.

The Xbox One controller also features higher quality Audio with Microsoft improving the data transfer rate between the controller and console. According to Microsoft "In-game chat over Xbox Live, according to the team, will be in many cases clearer than talking on a phone."

Like the PlayStation move controllers, each controller uses a combination of invisible reflective technology and LEDs to send a patterned infrared signal to your console and Kinect sensor. While that's handy for monitoring where controller is in the room it also means it can automatically set up spilt-screen gaming based on where you are sitting on the sofa without you having to swap controllers with your mates.

 

The Xbox One Kinect sensor

As for the Kinect, the four microphones - the same as the previous Kinect, but with better elements behind them - are now placed in a bar that sits below the main structure.

The rectangle design of the sensor box mirrors the console, and there is still a big fat cable that connects the two. The big difference though, is that Microsoft has ditched the motor, so the unit doesn't move - an improved wider angle camera is the reason.

That new camera is vastly improved as Pocket-lint found out in yet another demo at Microsoft's HQ. 

The Kinect sensor for the Xbox One will feature a high-fidelity 1080p colour camera that is idea for widescreen Skype calls, and a 3D vision camera for tracking movement.

At 5ft 11-inches we were able to still be fully tracked standing 1m away from the sensor and the quality was good enough to pick out details in our face and clothes.

In fact, those details are so good that Microsoft can actually track micro fluctuations in your face and with that information monitor your heart rate. Bonkers we know. 

It also means that Kinect can do a lot more too, like monitor your facial expressions, whether you are engaged with the screen, whether you are talking or have your mouth open and closed. 

Back to the full body monitoring and a number of modes will be available to developers. There is a skeletal mode that can track your body - the same as before, but vastly improved, an orientation option that can see which way your body parts are facing, and a muscle force mode that is likely to be enjoyed by fitness games that lets Kinect track force. If you are crouching or standing on one leg Kinect will know and adapt accordingly.

But that's not all. It can track up to six players at once and we also saw how the Kinect sensor will be able to track players holding controllers. It automatically knows what you've got in your hand, and if you are playing split screen, it knows which side of the living room you are sitting. Very clever. 

Conclusions 

The new console will sport a huge increase in capabilities over the current 360 offering and finally adds a Blu-ray drive after years of rumours that it would support the format, ever since HD DVD failed. The new features and enhancements with Kinect will make a huge difference. 

Microsoft hasn't given a release date or price for the new console, but has said it will be out "later this year around the world".

It's good to be square according to Microsoft, but what do you think?