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Why you need an Xbox One in your living room

Even at launch, Xbox One has a serious edge for those looking to buy a new console that gives simple but profound integration with their wider home-entertainment experience.

Even at launch, Xbox One has a serious edge for those looking to buy a new console that gives simple but profound integration with their wider home-entertainment experience.

One HDMI in, one HDMI out. Simple but revolutionary. (Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

There's no time quite like the arrival of a new batch of game consoles. A mix of exciting potential and horrifying risk as gamers weigh the pros and cons before committing one way or another. But so many factors are yet to be known, and there's a big leap of faith involved if you're eager to get in early.

We've covered the basics, and both sides are pretty evenly matched across specs and games. Yes, there's some indication the PS4 has a power advantage, but that was the same in the previous generation, and we didn't see anything that turned that into an ultimate win for PlayStation. And yes, if Titanfall is the game you want, then you're already in the Xbox camp.

But there is one hardware advantage that Microsoft has given the Xbox One that makes it better than any console that came before or will sit alongside. Something that the PS4 simply will not be able to do, and something that can change your time in the living room forever.

It's the HDMI pass-through.

By giving Xbox One a way to let you use another entertainment device through its interface, many new opportunities arise. The Snap feature, in particular, makes gaming while you watch TV picture-in-picture a new killer option for those who are not utterly devoted to their game time above all else.

Now you'll be able to play Forza while watching the F1. Or FIFA while watching football. Or do a binge catch-up on a TV series while you grind for XP or run some side quests.

The bigger the TV, the better this feature will work to let you enjoy two things at once. It's also open to creative interpretation. You can plug in your Foxtel or some other set-top box. But you can also plug in an Apple TV if that's more your style. Or just your Xbox 360 to keep all your Xbox action in the one place. Or a Playstation 4 if you're going to get both anyway.

There's a lot that isn't perfect yet with this solution. Apart from snapping your TV experience, there is little that integrates that second HDMI device into the wider Xbox experience.

But this is one of those differences that actually makes a difference on day one in the way you can use your living room like never before. A simple extra that lets you do two things at the same time on the one TV. The kind of simple extra that could be easily overlooked in a feature list while other fancier features are given deeper attention. But this "simple extra" has already been used regularly during our Xbox One testing, and we feel our living room is so much better for it.