Xbox One: Windows 10 Dashboard Update
The Xbox One has been receiving almost monthly updates adding new features and improving ones that weren’t quite up to scratch but up until now they have been relatively small. That is due to change in the coming weeks as members of the Preview Program will be getting early access to the all new, improved Xbox One Dashboard. The current Xbox Dashboard is pretty bland and uninspiring not to mention clunky, unresponsive and generally feels poorly designed. The 360 had a far superior UI not just in terms of layout but also responsiveness the Xbox One often feels laggy and very unresponsive which for a company so focused on creating great User Experiences seems very strange. The current Dashboard can be viewed as an accurate representation of the overall state of the Xbox One at launch and symbolises it’s struggles to gain traction on the PS4. Navigating the various tabs is sluggish and getting access to content takes far to long not to mention some parts especially the social capabilities feel very underdeveloped and are clearly unfinished.
My personal opinion is still that Microsoft reacted to the surprise release date of the PS4 by rushing the Xbox One to release and in doing so effectively released an unfinished console and UI. The coming Windows 10 Update feels like it should have been in place at launch along with DirectX 12 which would have put the PS4 at an even bigger advantage. Consider this Xbox 2.0 a fresh start for the console and it’s OS.
Big, big changes are coming
The home screen & Guide button will receive significant upgrades focused on improving 2 of the most commonly used elements of the Xbox One UI getting us access to all our content quicker and with less navigation. The main focus has been been on cutting down the required steps to get to the games you recently played, DVR clips, achievements and additional content or DLC. Presently it’s all a bit of a mess with excessive navigation of slow and clunky menu’s. Cutting this down is a big step in the right direction consoles should always be about ease of accessing all that content.
On a visual level the changes are pretty radical with Microsoft doing away with the functional but dated multiple tile layout system for a more vertical, clean looking UI. Putting content right at the front is key with the new UI as can be seen here with the categories at the top including the all new Community section, with features like party and Cortana on the left. This new layout would be all but overshadowed if it didn’t address the frustrating sluggishness that seems to impact everything from starting a party to loading an app such as GameDVR. Everything takes far to long at present something Microsoft is set to address with the new Dashboard.
Cortana is a huge addition to Xbox One and providing you have Kinect you can instruct Cortana to do various Xbox tasks like inviting friends to a Party or recording and publishing game clips. Cortana will also be able to browse your various apps including Netflix so no more needing to grab a controller to watch your favourite films & of course the Xbox Marketplace. Cortana is available on Windows 10 PCs, tablets and phones (Cortana will also soon be available on iPhone and Android phones) and as the requests etc are all stored in the cloud they will transfer across device. For example set a reminder on your mobile when you sign into your Xbox that reminder will appear there as well.
The all new Community section is a big improvement on the friends area that was a legacy hangover from the 360. Microsoft have focused on improving access to what your friends are doing as well as updates from developers and what is currently trending all via the Activity feed. The present system is pretty horrible to use as there are no notification when someone likes or comments on your activity feed making it all rather pointless. No doubt sharing to social media will be improved as well who doesn’t want to share that amazing triple kill with their buds on Facebook?
DirectX 12 will also be coming with the Xbox Update and whilst some have been quick to hail it’s arrival as a game changer for the reality is a little more nuanced than that. Yes there is the potential for DirectX 12 to improve the gaming experience for Xbox One it won’t actually alter the hardware in any way.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer had this to say on DirectX 12
“On the DX12 question, I was asked early on by people if DX12 is gonna dramatically change the graphics capabilities of Xbox One and I said it wouldn’t. I’m not trying to rain on anybody’s parade, but the CPU, GPU and memory that are on Xbox One don’t change when you go to DX12. DX12 makes it easier to do some of the things that Xbox One’s good at, which will be nice and you’ll see improvement in games that use DX12, but people ask me if it’s gonna be dramatic and I think I answered no at the time and I’ll say the same thing.”
That may disappoint some who thought DX12 would be the answer to all of the supposed problems with Xbox One but the improvements will enable Developers who choose to make full use of DX12 to create richer game worlds for us to enjoy and that is the true mark of a Next Gen title.
Launching at the same time is the widely reported Backwards Compatibility that allows a huge amount of Xbox 360 games to run on Xbox One. One of the last remaining obstacles faced by gamers who haven’t made the jump to the Xbox One was facing losing all their 360 games. All those brilliant games being rendered redundant was a huge issue for some gamers but with this new capability there is no better time to jump to the Xbox One. The service is currently in testing by us preview members and is reliant on the developers allowing Microsoft to add it to the list fortunately there isn’t anything they need to do all the work is done by Microsoft so we simply put the disk in and the magic just happens. These titles don’t see any real benefit of running on new hardware we just get to play them again and feature complete including Multiplayer.
It’s not all major changes the largely pointless Avatars are returning with the standard updates to image quality and animations that will probably last about 3 hours before being shit canned. They are said to be returning in a far more prominent manner than they were on the 360 but they will always be a little bit shit unless of course you can accurately model your avatar on your own gurning mug!
Windows 10 for Xbox One is due November for all Xbox One owners after a prolonged test and evaluation cycle by the Preview Members after opting in.