Hands On: Xbox One S First Run Experience

Hands On: Xbox One S First Run Experience

As you might expect, I pre-ordered a 2 TB launch edition Xbox One S, eager to see Microsoft’s evolved vision for its flagship console. Well, it arrived yesterday right on schedule, so here’s a peek at what it’s like to set up the new Xbox.

First, you should of course check out Brad’s excellent Hands On: Xbox One S, which features some of the best product photography I’ve ever seen on the web. Brad and I both agree it’s far far too early for a review—Microsoft only handed out review units last week, and of course I was away until yesterday—but I’ll be writing a lot about this console over the next few weeks, and building up to a full review when I can honestly evaluate what’s good, bad and unchanged compared to the first-gen console.

And I saw a bit of each just in setting up the Xbox One S. Speaking of which, a few quick points about the console.

As Brad noted, the Xbox One S is smaller—much smaller—than the Xbox One it replaces, and that’s especially true if you consider the mammoth external power supply that the original console required. But less obviously, the new Xbox One S is also much lighter than the original Xbox One. In fact, it’s much lighter than the Xbox 360 S as well. So much so that the new console almost feels cheap, to be honest.

Xbox 360 S (left) and Xbox One S (right)
Xbox 360 S (left) and Xbox One S (right)

But thin and light are good things, especially for a device that’s going to sit in your living room, and the new white aesthetic, similar to that of the original Xbox 360, is an interesting and, I think, attractive change. I would be surprised if Microsoft didn’t offer a mainstream black version as well, too. But I like the white.

The new controller also feels light and cheap, but then I’ve been using the superior Xbox Elite Controller for so long that every other controller feels a bit cheap to me these days. Still, any Elite owners out there who were worried that the improvements made to this S controller would somehow wipe out their investment can relax. This new controller just isn’t in the same league.


Anyway, initial setup.

Things proceed mostly as one might expect, though I found it a bit disappointing that the in-Setup graphics all featured the old Xbox One console and controller, and not the new versions. (This changes once you update the console, which is mandatory, as described below. So future Xbox One S shipments will certainly ship with updated graphics.)

Here’s what happens when you power on the Xbox One S for the first time.

Preparing console. After a brief “preparing console” screen, you’re asked (visually, there’s no text) to pair the controller. This is smartly done: You only need to power on the controller and press the “A” button.

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Language. The console supports numerous languages, naturally I chose English. And then United States for “variety of English.”

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Networking setup. I didn’t think to plug in an Ethernet cable, so I connected to my wireless network to complete Setup. I later switched to Ethernet. But if you do set up the console for Wi-Fi, this will be the first time you experience using the controller with Xbox One’s virtual keyboard, which is not completely terrible.

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Location. As with language, multiple choices, and the United States was nicely pre-selected.

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Update. As we’ve come to expect from any new consumer electronics, the Xbox One S has to be updated right out of the box. There’s no way to know which OS version came on the console since you can’t actually proceed without updating. (Get used to that.) But after the update, the version is 10.0.14393.1018. The process took about 12 minutes and the console rebooted once.

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Controller update. After the console was updated, I was also prompted to update the controller. This was less time-consuming than the console update, of course.

Time zone. After the update was complete, Setup resumed and I picked my time zone, which is Eastern Time (US & Canada). (Note that the console graphics changed to the Xbox One S after the update.)

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Power. In this initially confusing stage, you’re presented with a short video-style animation explaining the differences between Xbox One S’s two power management modes, Energy-saving and Instant-on. There’s no way to click through it, which was the confusing bit: You have to watch the animation. I chose Instant-on.

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Sign-in. Next, I was prompted to sign-in with my Microsoft account. And I was happy to see that Xbox One now understands and properly uses two-factor authentication: I just needed to enter my authenticator code and not know to generate a temporary password as was the case in the past.

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Privacy. After a screen’s-worth of text describing how much Microsoft values your privacy, you are prompted to choose between three sign-in and security preferences: “No barriers” (where anyone can sign you in and potentially cause problems), “Ask for my passkey” (which is like enabling a PIN in Windows 10), and “Lock it down” (where you need to ponderously sign-in with your Microsoft account to do anything). I chose No barriers for now, but will revisit this choice.

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Sign in instantly? I was also prompted to let the console just sign-in instantly with this account when the Xbox powers on. I have used this feature on my previous Xbox One S, but I’m not sure if you’d be prompted to do this if you’d chose “Ask for my passkey” or “Lock it down” in privacy settings.

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Here’s how you look on Xbox. Next, Setup shows you your Gamertag and Gamerpic, but doesn’t offer any way to change either from here. Instead, there are text-based instructions for doing so, which is borderline useless.

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Choose a color. Here, you can configure the accent color the Xbox Dashboard uses. The default color is a dark gray that is only subtly different from the black background, plus it’s off-screen so you don’t even know it’s selected.

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Introductory video. After that, an Xbox One S introductory video plays (highlighting new features from the Fall Update, go figure) and you’re told that you can press the Xbox Home button on the controller to go to the Home view in the Dashboard at any time.

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Dashboard. No worries if you don’t press the Home button as prompted: You’re heading to the Dashboard as soon as the video ends, regardless.

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And that’s that. From here, you’re going to want to better personalize the console and get some games downloaded. I’ll be looking at these and other post-Setup tasks soon.


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