IF YOU'VE been unable to find an Xbox One in the shops or are still wondering whether to go Microsoft or Sony, here are some little-known nuggets about the new console on the block.
XBOX HAS LOST ITS VOICE
MICROSOFT is not shouting about the fact Xbox One can’t do something its old machine could – voice control. We face a wait of up to a year before Ireland gets voice recognition, according to Xbox Europe boss Chris Lewis.
Gamers in the US, UK and a few select other markets can order their console about with their voice – including powering it on, selecting apps and searching the internet. But for reasons lost in the technical mire, Xbox One can’t understand the Irish accent. That’s odd because the Xbox 360 has had the feature for yonks.
And don’t even bother trying with your new Xbox One, the function is simply not available yet. The console’s microphone does work with Skype, however.
Update: Reader John Burns pointed out in the comments that you can enable voice control simply by changing your location (in Settings>System) to UK. After a restart, your Xbox One will start responding to your voice. Note that this may produce unpredictable results but it won't cause cause any harm to your console. Here's the full list of voice commands.
If you thought you’d seen the end of ponderous progress bars inching across the screen as new levels load, forget it. New technology hasn’t made games launch quicker.
In fact, the Xbox One installs at least a portion of every game onto its hard disc the first you run it. That means a wait of several minutes for every game fresh out of the wrapper as you itch to play your new entertainment. PS4 is reportedly a little faster but still suffers the same last-gen waits.
Hit the guide button in the middle of a game and it instantly freezes the action. Now you can go off and use other services (such as Netflix, web browsing, Skype, etc) and later resume the game exactly where you left off.
The Xbox 360 was sort of capable of a limited version of this feature but it never reliably froze the game.
Shame though the Xbox One doesn’t save this frozen state when you switch off the machine.
CHECK YOUR DOWNLOAD CAP
The Xbox One automatically downloads gobs of data – from game updates to Xbox Live information – when you’re not looking. So be sure your internet connection is both up to speed and not subject to a data cap. Otherwise you could be in for a nasty bill shock from your internet provider.
It’s a necessary and obvious side-effect of internet-connected consoles but this generation of machines seems hungrier than ever.
FORGET ABOUT THE PAST
REPEAT after me – there is no backwards compatibility. The last generation of consoles made some token efforts to enable you play games from their predecessors.
Xbox One cuts off the past without so much as a backwards glance. No Xbox 360 games will work on this next generation. No doubt in the future specially retooled versions of 360 classics will be available to buy all over again as digital downloads. And like eejits we’ll probably shell out for them again too.
Sony has made some noise about PS4 backwards compatibility but details are thin on the ground except it may happen sometime in 2014.
LIKE Sony, Microsoft wants you to share your greatest gaming moments with the world – so it will record up to five minutes’ video of your gameplay. Drop into the built-in video editor and you can produce a clip worthy of a YouTube hit, though bizarrely it can’t upload directly to that site yet.
DON’T STAND IT UP
UNLIKE the sleeker Xbox 360, the rather functional design of the Xbox One is made to be placed horizontally like hi-fi equipment. Bad luck if you’re squashed for space because the placement of the cooling vents and the orientation of the Blu-ray player means your Xbox One has to take it lying down.
What happens if you place it standing up? Will it explode? Will begin to hum like a bus? I don’t want to be the one to find out.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
UNDER heavy load, the 360 frequently sounds as if it’s a jet fighter struggling to take off. By contrast, the Xbox One is pleasingly quiet. Not silent, mind, but just calming.
MULTITASKING IS POSSIBLE BUT...
TAKING a cue from Windows 8 tablets, the Xbox One interface can split the screen into two so that you can browse the web alongside a game or a TV channel.
But navigating in such a small space is almost impossible unless you use the companion app Xbox SmartGlass. But then you’re using a tablet which is better suited to browsing on a TV anyway, so why bother?
IT COSTS EXTRA...
THE headline figures suggest the PS4 costs €100 less than the Xbox One. But remember that in the case of both consoles you’ll also shell out another €60 if you want most of the cool internet-based functions.
Multiplayer gaming, video sharing, web browsing, Skype and apps such as Netflix all require you to take out an Xbox Live Gold subscription, currently €60 a year.
So really your shiny new new Xbox One is going to cost you €560 while the PS4 goes for €460 with a PS Plus subscription (or €520 with the addition of the PS Eye camera).