Xbox One: Everything you need to know

TV features, specs, games, release date, Kinect and a new controller -- here's everything you need to know about the new Xbox.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
5 min read

Forged secretly, deep in the fires of Mount Doom, Microsoft has crafted the Xbox One in order to achieve dominion over men, dwarves and your living room. The blocky new console will bring a host of jazzy new hardware features, as well as new services and a slew of exciting games.

Even better news is that in several minutes, you'll know everything you need to know about Microsoft's follow-up to the Xbox 360, and will be well-equipped to impress your mates with your gaming know-how. Read on for all the facts.

What does the Xbox One look like, and what's in it?

The Xbox One will squat under your telly like a big, glossy squid, with its chunky casing likely to require a bit of shelf reorganisation if you want it to fit alongside your other consoles and set-top boxes.

It has a slot on the front where you'll stick in Blu-ray discs, while along the back there's an array of ports, including three USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI socket for hooking the console up to your TV.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has spritzed up the Xbox One's insides, with an 8-core AMD processor and 8GB of RAM. That certainly sounds powerful, and will help game developers craft more graphically intense titles for the new system, though it'll be interesting to see whether that tech still feels as cutting-edge in a few years' time.

There's a 500GB hard drive on board, which should be enough space for plenty of games -- handy, as it looks like you'll need to install games directly to the machine before playing them.

Has the controller changed?

Yes, though as you can see from the photo above -- not by much. All the tweaks to this palm-occupying peripheral are under the bonnet, but will hopefully make for an incrementally better gaming experience.

The battery is now integrated, so you'll need to recharge the controller's batteries rather than simply popping in two more AAs. The D-Pad has been adjusted, and buttons should respond just a tiny bit faster, while the overall shape has been altered in a bid to fit inside gamers' hands a little more comfortably.

The 'start' and 'back' buttons on the front of the controller have been replaced with new keys, which look like they'll handle app switching or trigger extra options.

What's with the new Kinect?

Microsoft has also given its motion-sensor control bar a lick of paint. Gone is the adorable, Wall-E-esque aesthetic, ditched in favour of a squarish, glossy block with a grille along the top.

It might not look as charming, but the new bar, Microsoft insists, is crammed with new tech. It has a 1080p camera, and a wider field of view than the original, which will hopefully make playing in smaller rooms a possibility.

The revamped bar should have a better grasp of where your body is in 3D space, and will recognise the Xbox One controller as well as your hands. Voice controls have been updated too, and now work faster, Microsoft says. The large size means it might be tricky to squeeze under or over your TV, but a spot of good news is that new sensor bar will come bundled with every Xbox One.

It's all about TV, right? And what else?

Microsoft's presentation showed a strong focus on using the Xbox One for TV viewing, and the hardware backs up that talk, with the new console also functioning as a DVR.

In theory, it should be able to plug into Sky and Virgin Media boxes and handle all your telly requirements, including a TV guide interface that can be controlled via Kinect. Microsoft hasn't confirmed which -- if any of these features -- will work in the UK, but has told CNET that, "As long as it has HDMI out, Xbox One's going to have it covered," which gives me hope that British gamers won't miss out on these TV features. Steven Spielberg will also be helping produce a new TV show based on the Halo franchise.

Like the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One will use Internet magic to upload game clips online, so you can share particularly excellent moments of gaming brilliance with your pals.

The Xbox One is built on a Windows kernel, though the finished product likely won't look anything like the Windows we're used to seeing on PCs. It will however deliver Skype video calls, and a new feature called 'Snap' that puts two apps on screen at once, in split-screen view -- handy if you, er, want to surf the Internet while watching a movie? Anyone?

Yeah yeah, what about the games?

The Xbox One's debut was a little light on actual titles, but we did get some information. Microsoft plans eight new franchises for the Xbox One's first year. Forza 5 was shown off, and we got some details on Quantum Break, a game that looks like it could tie into a separate TV show. Call of Duty: Ghosts was confirmed to land on the new Xbox, with first dibs on some DLC goodies.

Does it require an Internet connection?

In the run-up to the Xbox One's launch, rumours were circulating that the new console would require a constant Internet connection in order to play games.

Happily it seems that's not the case, though Kotaku reports that while a constant connection is not mandatory, the Xbox One will require the Internet on a regular basis, to download updates and make Xbox Live work.

That would make using the Xbox One in a home with no Internet connection (or for instance, using it abroad or while your broadband is temporarily down) a no-no. Information on this matter is currently a little sketchy however -- we're hoping to learn more soon, and I'll update this story when we have more information.

Will it work with Xbox 360 games?

No. Unfortunately the Xbox One isn't backwards compatible, which means your current stack of Xbox 360 titles will not play nice with the new system. That's down to the console's spangly new system architecture apparently -- a pretty good reason, but cold comfort to those who don't want to see their existing collection of games become obsolete.

When's it out, and how much will it cost?

There's no word on when exactly the Xbox One will go on sale, though Microsoft has said it will be out this year. UK retailer Zavvi has pegged the new console with a 30 November release date, and a pre-order price of £400, though that high cost could very well come down in the run-up to the console's release.

Are you excited by the Xbox One, or were you hoping for something slightly different? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or over on our Facebook wall.