On paper, Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation game consoles are quite similar. Both systems include an 8-core AMD processor, 8GB of RAM, and a high-end AMD Radeon graphics card. In reality, however, they are the complete opposite.
While Sony is pushing for more of a pure gaming machine (the PlayStation 4 is actually a little more powerful than the Xbox One), Microsoft is positioning its console as an all-in-one home entertainment system. The PlayStation 4 has its own fair share of streaming services such as Netflix, Redbox Instant, and Crackle, but there is one thing it doesn’t have — the new Kinectsensor.
The Kinect gives the Xbox One more functionality than the PlayStation 4, even if you opted for the PlayStation Camera. The sensor and even your cable box are connected to the back of the Xbox One, which is in turn connected to the TV through HDMI. After a brief setup process, you are ready to go.
The Kinect is always on and listening, even when the console is turned off. Saying “Xbox, on” will turn the system on, while “Xbox, turn off” powers it down. Once the Xbox One is on, the command “Xbox, sign-in” can be used, followed by a user’s full name, to log in a specific user.
Saying “Xbox, select” will display all voice command options on a given screen, while “Xbox, help” will open a menu with various help options. The command “stop listening” can be used to cancel a voice command and prevent the Kinect from listening until another command is given.
Saying “Xbox, go home” or “Xbox, show my stuff” will bring you back to the console’s main menu, while “Xbox, go back” will return you to your previous activity. Different games, apps, and sections of the dashboard can be accessed with the command “Xbox, go to,” followed by the specific activity.
Because the Xbox is connected to your cable box, the Kinect can be used to switch channels. The command “Xbox, watch TV” will switch to the cable box and start broadcasting live TV, while saying “Xbox, watch ESPN” — or any other channel — will change to that specific channel. A special TV guide can be accessed with the command “Xbox, show guide” or “Xbox, OneGuide.”
The Kinect also includes various TV commands (if you have a compatible model; we could never get the Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD in CNET Labs to work with TV integration.), such as mute, unmute, volume up, and volume down.
Saying “Xbox, Snap,” along with the name of an app or action, such as “Xbox, Snap TV,” will enable the console’s picture-in-picture mode. To switch control from one activity to the other while in Snap mode, use the command “Xbox, switch,” while “Xbox, unsnap” will disable the feature.
The Kinect can even be utilized while playing games. For example, “Xbox, record that” will record the previous 30 seconds of gameplay, while “Xbox, start a party” will open the console’s Party app in Snap mode.
There are even commands for communicating with others. Saying “Xbox, call,” followed by the name of a favorite contact, will begin a Skype call, “Xbox, answer” will answer an incoming call, “Xbox, hang up” can be used to disconnect from a call, and “Xbox, send a message” lets you communicate with Xbox Live friends.
Looking for something on the Web? Say “Xbox, Bing,” followed by your question, to see results from Microsoft’s search engine, or say “Xbox, go to Internet Explorer” and then “browse to” to get to a specific Web site.
Redeeming Xbox Live game codes can be done within seconds with the Kinect. Simply say “Xbox, use a code,” and then hold the code up to the camera.
While playing a movie or listening to music, commands such as play, stop, pause, fast forward, rewind, skip forward, skip backward, next song, and previous song, among others, can also be utilized.
The Kinect on the Xbox One is far from perfect. Most of the time I found myself screaming at the TV, even in a relatively quiet studio. In a room full of people, it’s practically impossible to get the Kinect to understand you. It also had trouble with certain TV channels, such as HGTV and Yes Network.
Some of these problems can be fixed by recalibrating the sensor. This can be done by entering Settings, clicking on Kinect, and selecting “Kinect doesn’t understand me.” Next, follow the onscreen instructions, which include turning the TV volume up as the sensor configures the microphone, and when it’s complete, give it another go.