The Xbox is a capable gaming console and home media server. It provides great TV integration but, like the PlayStation, has taken a step back in terms of playing local media. It is equipped to be the control center of your living room entertainment center by integrating live TV, internet content, and DVD and Blu-ray media. It can't, however, play CDs or music from a USB stick or MP3 player.
Xbox Kinect Sensor technology allows you to use voice commands for control. The voice activation has some flaws but is great once you get used to it.
In terms of design, the Xbox is not overly sleek or eye-catching. If you like a box that blends in with the rest of your modern entertainment center, this one is conspicuous. It's somewhat reminiscent of the big boxy VHS players of old. It's not bad to look at – it just lacks the sleekness we've grown accustomed to.
More important than design, however, is what it offers in terms of features and functionality. In addition to having access to most of the major online content players like Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora, and more, toggling between live TV, Internet Explorer, Skype, and your personal entertainment settings is as easy as asking someone to pass the potatoes. Unless you're experiencing the occasional glitch that sometimes occurs with the voice command function, you can easily switch between different accounts.
If you receive a Skype call during a game, you simply say, "Xbox, answer," and the game will pause as you switch over to take the call. When video chatting over Skype with a friend, the picture fills the screen, and it feels like you are sitting in the same room with your friend.
You can easily toggle to live TV through the Xbox interface, which allows you to access your existing cable or satellite provider. You can even go directly to your favorite channels using the voice commands. You simply say, "Xbox, watch HBO," or "Xbox, watch the Sundance Channel," and you go directly there. You'll have to use your TV remote when accessing shows on your DVR, but, otherwise, everything can be done through the Xbox interface.
In addition to standards like Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go, you'll find a nice selection of sports apps like ESPN, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time and NFL Game Center. Xbox also has several movie apps to go along with Netflix, including Sony Pictures Live, Vudu and Snag Films.
This is truly an all-in-one box that channels all of your living room entertainment through a single device. It is also customizable for each individual's personal tastes. When you walk into the room, it senses who you are and greets you by flashing your name on the screen. It also recognizes your voice, so when you say, "Xbox, show my stuff," it pulls up your customized home screen. From there you give additional commands to search for your favorite shows, games, music, movies and social networking sites. You can access your favorite movies or media files through your customized home page.
While it doesn't support local media out of the box, the Xbox allows you to upload personal media files to your SkyDrive account so you can access them from there. You need to have an Xbox Live Gold Membership to access SkyDrive as well as at least 110 megabytes of available storage space to run the app. Once you've download the app, log into your account and start uploading your media files to enjoy when you want.
You can create and edit videos from your armchair using Xbox and then share those videos with your friends on Facebook. Using the Xbox Live feature, you can share a segment of a game you are currently playing with a friend by simply saying, "Xbox, record that." You then go to the Upload Studio screen, edit the clip and forward it to a friend.
The Xbox allows you to play your personal Blu-ray and DVD collection without the need for another device. It doesn't, however, play CDs. It also has a 500-GB hard drive. If you are a gamer, you may find 500GB fills up quickly. Still, this device and the PlayStation have a lot more internal storage than most of home media players.
When it comes to audio and visual, the Xbox is now digital only. The HDMI in and out ports in the back connect it to any HDMI device. Regarding Wi-Fi, there is no 802.11ac support, but it connects to 5GHz networks. This console supports all video resolutions from 480p to high-definition 1080p.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Xbox as a home media player is the ability to rent, purchase, and store movies and TV shows. With Microsoft's online store and proprietary points system, you can buy or rent from a massive library of movies and TV shows. And with Zune software provided by Microsoft, you can purchase and store music on your Xbox.
Every potential route for customer service is available with this device. You can search for answers in Microsoft's extensive FAQs section or ask questions of customer service representatives directly via phone or email. Microsoft also offers a live chat option.
The Xbox has cutting-edge features like voice activation and entertainment integration that keep it competitive. It also serves as a gaming console. You can access your personal media files by downloading SkyDrive. It has a decent selection of apps, but could improve in that area. With large internal storage and stellar entertainment integration features, the Xbox is a great all-in-one media player.