Xbox One: 15 things you need to know

Microsoft's new console may seem daunting, but here are some key points about the new do-nearly-everything gaming machine.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
4 min read

We've got our initial review of the Xbox One up (with more to come), but if you're looking for a tl;dr version ahead of the console's midnight launch, here are the 15 things you need to know.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

1. Price and availability

The Xbox One will be released in Australia on 22 November, which is midnight tonight. It'll set you back AU$599 and the Kinect camera is included; you can't opt out of that peripheral.

2. You'll need an Xbox Live Gold membership to do almost anything beyond play single-player games

Xbox Live Gold was pretty much a requirement for any online Xbox gamer before, but that's even more the case now. Any online services require Gold, including game DVR functionality. Locally, that's AU$79.95 per year.

3. It plays Blu-rays, DVDs and (unlike PS4) CDs

The Xbox 360 only had DVD support and — briefly, via a peripheral — HD-DVDs. Blu-ray playback is a pleasant addition. And sorry, lovers of 3D Blu-rays, whoever you are: the Xbox One isn't compatible with you. But there's no 3D Blu-ray compatibility on PS4 at present, either...

4. The hard drive is not user replaceable (unlike with the PS4)

The Xbox One comes with a 500GB hard drive, and you're going to have to live with it. Right now, there's no plan for how, exactly, you'll upgrade that storage. The Xbox 360 used to have a proprietary snap-on hard drive; on the One, it lives inside the console. (PS4 owners can self-upgrade with a standard laptop hard drive.) While 500GB sounds like a lot, the game installs on Xbox One certainly aren't small...

5. It won't play your old Xbox 360, original Xbox or Xbox Live Arcade titles (discs or digital)

It's not news, and it wasn't unexpected, but just to be absolutely clear: the Xbox One won't play your Xbox 360 discs. And any downloaded Xbox games that exist on your Xbox Live account won't transfer over, either. It's a fresh start with the Xbox One, whether you like it or not — but user settings and account details are retained and carried over.

6. Downloaded games can be redownloaded and played anywhere, but disc games need the disc to play

Disc and disc-free games alike need installation on the Xbox One, but if you go the disc route, keep in mind that you'll always need that disc inserted in order to start the game.

7. The Xbox One doesn't have Bluetooth support

Go figure. Wi-Fi Direct and 802.11n Wi-Fi will help address some device-to-device connections, but for wireless accessories, you'll have to use official Xbox options. The PlayStation 4 doesn't work with universal Bluetooth peripherals, either, even though it does have Bluetooth on-board.

8. The Kinect doubles as an IR blaster

For any universal remote control purposes, the Kinect, when set up, will be programmed to operate your TV and set-top box. Controls like volume control and channel changing can then theoretically be operated by voice, however...

9. ...In Australia, we're getting limited voice functionality

Similar to how voice control for Kinect on 360 took a while to trickle down under, Aussies aren't getting the full suite of voice commands at launch. Weirdly the "Xbox On" command is one of the missing ones. You will, however, when the One is powered up, be able to turn on some apps and start games via voice.

10. The Xbox One works with universal remotes

Unlike the PS4, which lacks an IR port, the Xbox One can be controlled with a compatible universal remote. That's nice for DVD or Blu-ray playback for folks who don't want to use the Xbox controller or Kinect voice commands.

11. The Xbox One is bigger than the PlayStation 4

It's not even close. Not only is the One the bulkier console, but it has a very large power brick adapter attached to the power cable; the PlayStation 4 just has a regular thin plug.

How much bigger? This much bigger. (Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

12. Xbox SmartGlass is back and runs on Windows 8, iOS and Android devices

Microsoft's second-screen SmartGlass app works on a variety of phones, tablets and PCs, and it promises to add in-game second-screen functions and pop-up information viewing throughout Xbox One. Many iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, Android 4.x devices 7 inches and larger, and Windows 8 phones, tablets and PCs can connect.

13. Kinect is not required for use, but it certainly helps

A new Kinect comes packed in with every Xbox One, making it a required purchase. It's also meant to be plugged in most of the time. You don't need it plugged in, but any automatic logging in, voice control (again, limited in Australia) and gesture recognition, which is a big part of how the Xbox One works, won't function.

14. It's got HDMI pass-through to integrate with your home-entertainment set-up

An HDMI input allows you to run your set-top box directly into the Xbox One, feeding it all your TV feeds. Or anything really — it will accept any HDMI input. We've got a more detailed discussion of the Xbox One's HDMI wizardry here.

15. If you own a standard-definition TV still, it's time to upgrade

We're not sure anyone really needs to be told this, but just in case there's someone out there: the Xbox One will only connect to your TV via HDMI. If you're hunting in the box for composite cables, you're seriously out of luck!