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

Posted on January 16, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One with 34 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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