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The Xbox One was supposed to be the “be-all” “end-all” of the media entertainment center: one device to rule them all. However, Microsoft's unclear messaging and hodge-podge of hardware components handicapped the console right out of the gate in all the benchmarks, and that injury managed to carry over into the way the console handles media.
Digital Foundry did a detailed breakdown on how each console boasts non-gaming media functionality, and while the PS4 beat the Xbox One like Mike Tyson eats ears, it was the PS3 that actually came out the winner.
No sense beating around the bush, I'll just drop the quote that sums up all the tests performed by the technically endowed engineers at Digital Foundry...
“It it's Xbox One's poor showing overall that saddens us. This is a piece of hardware built from the ground up to be the centre-piece of the living room - but its innovative OneGuide TV functions have no support outside of the USA, there's zero respect for 50Hz content and there are fundamental problems with playback of disc-based media, while we have issues with the all-important Netflix client, which simply isn't fit for purpose in its current state.”
We've also been notified by some readers about HD playback problems with some media content on the Xbox One, specifically Netflix and Amazon's HD offerings. Digital Foundry also encountered the same sort of jittering problem and content synching issues, making it known that it isn't entirely isolated.
Even in my own tests with the Xbox One, some of the HD content did have juddering issues; but then again many of the games also suffer from frame-stutter as well, so I passed it off as a common case of "consolitis" – it's one of the main reasons I switched to PC as my primary device for gaming near the end of the seventh gen of gaming.
Nevertheless, many expect those playback issues with the Xbox One to be resolved in the upcoming OS patch.
Digital Foundry also blasted both the PS4 and Xbox One's lack of DLNA support, or the ability to tap into UPnP streams from PC setups, which was a huge draw for the Xbox 360 and PS3. While the article states that there's a lack of content migration from PC streaming to Xbox One, that's not entirely correct. We did find a solution thanks to the help from enterprising Reddit users and readers to seamlessly stream multiple forms of music, movies and media files from PC to Xbox One. It's not as smooth as it should be; and apropos DLNA support should still be implemented at some point if Microsoft really wants to tout their newest console as an “all-in-one” media entertainment hub.
Interestingly, they don't mention anything about the custom soundtracks, another missing feature that was available out of the box in seventh gen, and one that required a workaround to get operating with the Xbox One.
Still, the PS4 and Xbox one still fall short of the media access provided by the PS3 and Xbox 360, though more-so the PS3 since it can also play and stream Blu-ray discs. This was highlighted in the Digital Foundry article in no unclear way...
“With all the benefits of a mature platform, it's the PlayStation 3 that remains the media player of choice, and we can't help but feel disappointment at the vast array of bugs, glitches and problems found during our testing.”
For those of you wondering what the problem was with the PS4 in the tests, it was mostly to do with the fact that it had some de-interlacing issues with playback of some physical media formats.
I suppose the real issue here, however, isn't that the PS4 is ranked better than the Xbox One as an all-in-one media device (though, even then it's still out-ranked by its predecessor by a fair margin), it's the fact that at $100 more, the Xbox One provides lesser hardware capabilities for playing games, lesser functionality for media streaming and content – and even if you do live in the good 'ole US of A, if you don't have a cable box but use a digital cable converter instead, you can't even make use of the watching TV on your TV function offered by the Xbox One – and less access to content and apps out of the box.
I don't get it. Am I missing something?
Microsoft has a heck of a lot work cut out for them regarding the functionality and price-to-functionality ratio provided by the Xbox One. Right now it's basically a gimped PC without any of the open-platform benefits and either Microsoft needs to open the system up or throw in a heck of a lot more bang for the buck.
Gamers on the fence should absolutely stay on the fence, as I agree with Digital Foundry and our own Ryan Winslett, insofar that neither console is worth the investment right now. If you were truly looking for an all-in-one device, however, I would definitely keep an eye on the upcoming Steam Machines.