Windows 10 isn’t the only Microsoft platform getting a major software upgrade this week: Today, Microsoft delivered the Fall Update for Xbox One, providing a faster and more customizable Dashboard and several other new features.
“As gamers, we like to play and watch content the way we want, with the people we want,” Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra notes. “With this update, our fans asked for more personalization options and we’ve put more control in their hands.”
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If you’re an Xbox fan, you are likely familiar with the near-controversy concerning the Xbox One Dashboard, which has always been a bit, shall we say, leisurely from a performance standpoint. And with each update, Microsoft makes some noise about improving performance. And each time, it’s a bit disappointing when we realize that its claims don’t quite match our expectations.
But with the Fall Update—which is analogous to the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10—Microsoft may have finally solved the performance puzzle. Part of this solution, I’m sure, involved low-level changes and tweaks. But a big part of the fix, from what I can tell, involves a total rethinking of the Dashboard interface, which was busy with unnecessary UI elements in previous versions.
With the Fall Update, however, things get decidedly simpler: Your most recently-played game is provided a hero’s portion of the onscreen real estate, and your other most recently-played games are right below it. (Yeah, with a few house ads for things like Games with Gold and Xbox Game Pass. We won’t ever escape that stuff, sorry.)
The big change here is customization: You control which of these elements, called blocks, appear on the Home screen of your Dashboard, and you can move them around and change them as you see fit. You can also add up to 40 game pins directly below that area, if you’d like.
As big, Microsoft now supports a light and dark theme for the Dashboard, much like it does in the Xbox app on Windows 10, Android and iOS. And while you might believe, as I did, that a dark theme makes more sense in the living room, you can’t argue with how it looks. The light theme is gorgeous.
The Dashboard isn’t the only thing that got a speed bump in this release: The Guide, a slide-in pane you access by pressing the Xbox button on your controller, is now much faster as well. This, too, has been an issue for Xbox fans, and while I’ve had my complaints in the past, it seems lightning quick now, a first.
The Guide also features an updated layout now, with the top level choices—Home, Profile, Achievements, Multiplayer, People, Communication, Broadcast & capture, and System—arrayed horizontally across the top of the pane, instead of vertically on the side. This looks and works better, in my opinion, than the old system.
The Xbox One will also dim the screen and display a sort of overlay with the time and date on it after a period of time. This will protect against screen burn-in, I’d imagine, and is prettier and more useful than just turning off the display.
As for the rest of the Dashboard, Mixer, Community, Entertainment, and Store remain top-level choices. But as I noted earlier, the Store view is being rebranded with the Microsoft Store logo and naming. You can browse and buy Xbox hardware now, which I don’t recall seeing before.
Groove Music, of course, has been removed from Entertainment, since Microsoft just canceled that service. (Curiously, it’s still in Store, though I expect that to change soon.)
Also available in this Dashboard update are the tools that Xbox One X buyers can use to transfer their games and console settings to the new console using an external drive or your home network.
So if you’re on an Xbox One or Xbox One S today, you can use the external drive version of these tools to back up today so that you’re ready to go when you get the new console. “You’ll be able to download 4K content for some games ahead of time to your Xbox One or Xbox One S, so that you’re ready to transfer Xbox One X Enhanced games to your new console on day one,” Ybarra notes.
Overall, I feel like Microsoft has finally delivered the Dashboard that Xbox fans have craved: It’s fast and highly personalizable, and it gets out of the way when you just want to get started with a game. Which is the point, when you think about it.
The Xbox One Fall Update is now rolling out.