Will Microsoft Ever Fix the Xbox One’s Achilles’ Heel?

Posted on January 16, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One with 31 Comments

Will Microsoft Ever Fix the Xbox One's Achilles' Heel?

The Xbox One is impressive on many levels, but there is one thing holding it back. And that is the astonishingly poor performance of its user interface.

This performance issue hits virtually everywhere, too, from the basic Dashboard UI to the Xbox Guide to Snap to pop-up notifications. Games may run acceptably fast on Xbox One. But the UI? It does not.

This molasses-like performance has been an issue since the Xbox One launched over three years ago. And it was the one big disappointment moving from the Xbox 360, which was itself performance-constrained in exactly the same way. But the Xbox One promise has always been about multitasking, the ability to do more than one thing. And so it does. Slowly.

The thing is, Microsoft has promised to fix these problems in every single major Xbox One update that’s appeared so far. And while I suppose it’s fair to say that small improvements have been made here and there, it’s. Still. Too. Damn. Slow.

This past week, Microsoft made yet another promise to improve matters, though it is perhaps notable that, this time, they’re only talking about two specific UI features. (Plus they buried this mention in a post about several other topics for some reason.)

The first is Xbox Guide.

“Every Xbox One will see an update coming to the Guide that will make it faster to complete common tasks,” Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra explained with regards to a Creators Update-timed update for Xbox One. “Through one press of the Xbox button on your controller, you’ll be able to pull up the newly enhanced Guide as an overlay on the left side of your screen no matter what you’re doing.”

Today, Xbox Guide is emblematic of the issues with Xbox One performance, in my opinion. This user interface should open as quickly as the Start menu does on Windows 10, which is to say instantly. But it doesn’t, and performance gets even worse if you are actually doing something with the console, like playing a game. But even from the Dashboard, you double-press the Xbox button on your controller and there is a noticeable wait: The screen darkens and … then finally the Guide slides over. It’s slow.

Ybarra also says that Microsoft is doing lower-level work on the multitasking performance.

“We’re rebuilding the most popular multitasking experiences for speed and ease of access,” he claims. “For example, you’ll be able to start recording your GameDVR clips, adjust your recording length, and access your captures directly in the Guide.”

So … Microsoft is adding more crap to the Guide. That thing that is already too slow. Great.

Look, I love Xbox One, and the reality is that I treat gaming like a solo endeavor, so I never need to bring up the Guide to see who’s online, invite others to a party, or whatever. But the entire Xbox platform is built on this stuff, and for many gamers, the social stuff is the point. It’s a key benefit of the platform, and it needs to work well. Performance is a big part of that. It’s an issue for anyone who uses the console’s media experiences too, of course.

But every time I do bring up the guide—or don’t, since I often mis-press the button and just end up back at the Dashboard—I’m reminded of how irritating this is. And it needs to be fixed. For real this time.


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Comments (34)

34 responses to “Will Microsoft Ever Fix the Xbox One’s Achilles’ Heel?”

  1. 4325

    I wonder if its something to do with the three OS's or whatever they described it as that runs the xbox one. Maybe they know it cant be fixed, if the next xbox drops the system then I think we will have our answer.

     It feels like they have crammed so much in that the basics don't work fast enough, in many ways it has got worse over time - take Cortana replacing the xbox voice stuff. Its a massive step back in terms of speed and I recommend turning it off for anybody who likes to adjust the volume etc using voice.

  2. 1092

    I have always thought the UX/UI of XBox One is slow, even some of the apps..   I really think it's because under the hood this is Hyper-V, it has 8GB RAM, which means there must be an issue pausing and resuming VM's to free up memory.   

    As I understand it there are 3 VM's, Dashboard, Game and management VM's.  I would assume the system management consumes around 512MB all the time, with the dashboard freeing up memory when it's paused and a game is loaded, and then a game VM is paused when you switch back.   

    I really think the way the system works, is why the dashboard is slow and really the real fix is more RAM, which MS could of addressed with the S.....

  3. 5314

    Agreed, the performance is beyond awful. I genuinely am not sure how it can possibly be so bad to be honest, literally takes 5 seconds or so to even begin loading the guide up!

  4. 5273

    One Guide? No, THE Guide. Who's on first?

  5. 4215

    It's one of two thing that keeps my Xbox One from being quite the perfect gaming console. There's so much to love about this generation! I like the design, how the controller feels and plays (am using the Elite version), the game library and Xbox exclusives, etc. When I do return to my home screen, I notice the little lag. Combine this with a UI that consists of 2-3 languages (because Microsoft does not seem to figure out a multilingual country like Belgium) and you do have a recipe for frustration sometimes. And that's a shame, because perfection/high quality is seen in the details of a product.

  6. 5240

    I always thought that Achilles heel meant a single weakness in something that was otherwise strong. The Xbox One can't reliably play games at 1080p resolution. The dead-slow interface is just one of its problems.

  7. 1243

    You know what worked really well? The original interface shortly after the Xbox One launch. After about the third update, it was running exceptionally fast, and then they had to go and de-Kinect the UI and came up with the horrid new design. It hasn't worked the same since. 

  8. 8179

    How about more options like - disabling/removing Guide completely? I only want a home screen with all my games and apps - and the store to buy games. I don't want advertising, Guide, and any other stuff. I on't use mine for TV, I use it as a game machine and Plex station. Wish I could cut out all the crap. 

    • 5593

      In reply to Mcgillivray: Then there are those of us who bought it for the media features and do NO gaming on it.  The interface went from gesture, voice and controller to just voice and controller, and became MUCH more gaming-centric.  Which is the exact opposite I wanted.  The UI became much harder to read (insisting on those stupid wire-frame icons) and got a lot slower. And you can never truly disable all the other things on it. I wanted to completely get rid of achievements and the social aspects of it, but it still shoved all that stuff at you.  We'd finally had enough and ditched the thing.


      • 2371

        In reply to Rob_Wade:I think the current performance issues and memory constraints are what caused Microsoft to backpedal on the DVR functionality.  That is too bad.  Hopefully they find a way to fix it so they can have both good performance and add the DVR functionality.  That may require more hardware however.


  9. 10075

    Apologies if I missed it in the article or comments, but is there going to be a preview for this update and if so when? Main reason I got an Xbox One was to use it as my hub for all my entertainment (Cable TV, Netflix, music etc). Being able to use voice control for all of this is also a very appreciated bonus, however tolerating the (in my opinion) excruciatingly slow performance of the dashboard and overall UI is something I can't keep doing for another year. I recently fired up my Roku 3 from 2014 and its interface (and pretty much everything else) was so much faster by comparison. 

    I love the fact that I can control so many apps and devices with one remote or with voice using the Xbox One, but if the UI performance isn't going to get significantly better, I'm more than willing to leave it out and go with something else. Does the Xbox One S suffer from the same dashboard issue?

  10. 442

    This!  1000%  I still love the old 360 interface, *sigh*

  11. 5553

    In the short time I had one it was very fast 

  12. 5553

    Big update soon I learned on windowscentral.com

    And on OnMicrosoft 

  13. 2068

    I would hope to speed things up Scorpio will Have Zen and Vega. But the big way they can fix the bottleneck would be to use GDDR5 or 5X as system and Graphics memory or better yet replace that all with HBM2 and SSD based storage on the console     

  14. 2175

    Sad to say, I'm ready to buy Scorpio and move on from Xbox One. Only 3 years in the market and the Xbox One already feels old. Looking back on the launch, it's crazy how they ever thought the Xbox One would have a 10 year life cycle. Lol. 

  15. 252

    Does anyone know if the performance any better on the Xbox One S (versus the original Xbox One)?

  16. 6501

    I'm running the build with the new features they talk about here...the single press of the button to bring up the guide and all that, and it is still just as slow as the previous build. All these blogs talk about "speed improvements" in regards to getting things done, and how many presses it takes to do things, but they miss the point of Paul's (and mine) gripe: the technical speed is too damn slow. You press the guide button and it should be instant, no exceptions. Loading my friends/party list should be instant. If I scroll through all of the menus in the guide, they should update right away. Instead, it pauses and lags when I scroll through the list. It's pretty unacceptable that this has gone on as long as it has.

  17. 412

    I absolutely agree. It can be so sluggish at times. I am on the Preview/Insider program and honestly haven't encountered a lot of bugs...just SLOW.

    Side note, I noticed recently, my TV and Soundbar wont work with media controller and the XBOX hasn't been turning TV and soundbar off. I cleared and reset the settings and the media remote once again doesn't want to work...frustrating. 

  18. 4325

    Does anybody know whether the dashboard is faster when using an SSD instead of a HDD?

    • 96

      In reply to adamcorbally:

      I swapped mine and saw no benefit.


    • 442

      In reply to adamcorbally:

      There is almost no perceptible speed changes with an SSD.  It's not a worthwhile change to the Xbox One.  Those with experience in SSD upgrades know that not all systems see increase in speed, some computers even see slow down with an SSD.  The Xbox One is setup to maximize throughput for the HD that is installed.  A different HD or SSD will not be treated any different so the throughput remains about the same, even though the drive might be capable of going much faster.

  19. 5538

    Here I thought we we're going to discuss awesome X-Box One Exclusives. They really should have used better storage memory. I just put an old SSD in a USB 3.0 enclosure for a few games I play regularly to get much much faster load times. The UI you spend like less than 10 seconds in. It really should just run smoothly, to get from game to game, instead of trying to do too much.

  20. 5394

    It must be a deeper issue. Xbox One is built upon Windows. One annoying issue of Windows is the constant (Not Responding) messages. Whenever this happens, it's not about hardware. Clearly the software is waiting for something. Until it has it, you'll just be waiting.

  21. 5714

    I think that with the advent of Nintendo Switch...Project Scorpio is in trouble.  This has all the makings of another David and the Two Goliath's story.  The tiny Wii taking out the XBox 360 and PLaystation 3.  Racking up over 100 million unit sales.

    Nintendo once again has a novel console idea, with innovative new controllers and new gaming styles.  A stunning Legend of Zelda Launch Title, and two competitors rambling on about technology and specifications.  The Nintendo Switch is immediately differentiated from it's competition for even the most casual shopper ... it's reconfigurable, and it's portable.

    If there is even the slightest doubt about Project Scorpio - Satya Nadella needs to knife this project in the back.  Failing to do so leaves him open to the worst criticism ever ... making the same mistakes that Steve Ballmer made.

  22. 1542

    Xbox One should have an SSD running the OS.  Should have had it from the beginning.

    As Paul states - the Windows 10 start menu launches instantly - yet if you've used a Windows 10 pc that has a hard disk for primary storage - there are delays in UI performance.  I'm sure it can be adjusted to work better but I imagine that the storage latency is part of the issue.  Especially when the XBOne is directed to make resources available primarily for game/app performance.

    Don't know if this is truly the answer but it probably would have made their job easier even if the cost was higher in 2014. Now there is really no excuse costs for SSD are way down.

    • 442

      In reply to mercblue281:

      Reviews on SSD changes to Xbox's show that there is almost zero change in performance where needed.  The menu and game loads barely change at all.

      And, cost will always be a factor, and SSDs are cheaper, yet still many times more per byte than normal HDs, so that kills that as a possibility in a consumer level product.  Now, maybe if they sell a "premium" model...  But none of the console makers do that anyway.  They love to put vinyl on them and call that premium, I don't get why.

  23. 10014

    Please choose one:  Do you want games to run at extreme high priority or the user interface?

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