Will the Xbox One Next Gen console be good for CI?

posted on Wednesday, 22nd May 2013 by Steve May

home cinema  Blu-ray  Smart 

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After much speculation, Microsoft has finally unveiled its Next Gen console, the Xbox One, and it's claiming it to be much more than just another games machine So will the arrival of this new tech toy prove good for the custom install business?

Certainly out of the gate, the new Xbox surprises, not least because it's a fair old size. With its square corners and bevelled edges, the design is most definitely old school, although on the plus side the brand claims it to be whisper quiet, so there's clearly some serious heat management at work here. The unit has to be used in a horizontal configuration and operates with "variable state" power consumption. Beneath the hood the Xbox One features an eight core x86 processor able to flip seamlessly between sources, with 8GB of RAM on hand and a 500GB hard drive for content downloads. The XO sports USB 3.0 connectivity, and has integrated Wi-Fi. Its multi-core processor allows various types of material to be seamlessly shared onscreen, and Windows 8's snap mode is supported.

Unfortunately, the new console is not compatible with existing Xbox 360 software, because the system is based on different core architecture, so many users will be looking to maintain existing Xbox 360 systems. However music and video downloads purchased through Xbox Live will be compatible with/ playable on the new machine. One Xbox Live Gold account will be valid for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Integrators should note the Xbox One also offers HDMI pass-through, and sports a Blu-ray drive. BD media will be used for Xbox One games content, but the player will also be compatible with regular Blu-ray discs. The console will also ship with an upgraded version of Kinect which is now integral to the platform, so media room installs will need to be wired to accommodate the HD camera and mic.  Significantly, the sensor field has been expanded 60 per cent over the original Kinect and is said to "work in nearly any lighting condition." The improved Kinect camera can record 1080P RGB video at 30 frames per second, and is able to interpret body movements with much greater detail. It also allows more conversational speech control ("Xbox On!"). Quite how the XO will coexist with existing voice control TVs from the likes of Samsung remains unclear. It'll be interesting to see which is the first device to respond with a terse: "You talking to me?"

Much of Microsoft's initial address seemed targeted at a US audience and played heavily on Live TV and EPG integration, dubbed OneGuide. This functionality, which include voice search for content, is unlikely to appear unaltered outside of the US. Indeed, it's difficult to see any compelling reason why UK users would want to use the Xbox One as a TV and listings source - the system's claims to Smartness, complete with programme recommendations, appear to ape what is already widely available on various Smart TV platforms. There is no tuner onboard, TV is routed via an HDMI input. Functionality is closely integrated with Xbox SmartGlass and Skype. The console also has an integrated Game DVR.

Image quality is Full HD for all content (no 4K movie support, unlike the Sony PS4), although the firm says it can carry out four times as many calculations a second as the Xbox 360, and has 10 times the visual depth; comparisons of facial modeling between the new console and the 360 reveal massive differences in texture and detail. Powering the Xbox One graphics engine is AMD, although precise GPU details have yet to be unconfirmed. An upgraded Xbox Live environment is also being prepped, with 300,000 servers being deployed to support the service. Cloud connectivity appears to be a prerequisite of the system. Interestingly, it seems Xbox will also move into the bespoke content game, commissioning a live action series based on the Halo Sci-Fi universe, which will presumably be exclusively available via Xbox Live. The series will be produced by Steven Spielberg, and delivered through 343 Industries and Xbox Entertainment Studios. During the launch, presenters alluded to the quality of Game Of Thrones, although Spielberg's failed Terranova springs more readily to mind.

Microsoft says the Xbox One is a home entertainment device with the power to "change everything", although in the context of custom install this certainly seems pure hyperbole. The Xbox One seems to be another dogged technology landgrab for control of the living room, oblivious to the fact that in a broader sense that particular war has already been won by the Smart TV. What we can say for certain is that this is a very large, powerful games console which should at least make all the other stuff CI pros do look really spectacular.

Also read:
In-depth: Sony plans 4K movie service for PlayStation 4

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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