These days, technology forms an integral part of family entertainment. We play with toys, engage in messy play, go to toddler classes and spend time outside, however tech is pretty crucial too. When we’re in the house, it’s not uncommon to have the TV on (live, catch up or streaming), be listening to music (radio, streamed or stored) or be playing a game (phone or tablet) as a form of entertainment.
I wouldn’t call myself a gamer, but I’ve always had something to play computer games on. Going back to my Mega Drive as a kid, various PCs / laptops during my teens and early twenties, then a PS3 over the last few years. Unfortunately, my PS3 stopped playing games about a year ago, so I’ve had to battle on without it. Sad times.
Recently though, I got a very exciting opportunity from Microsoft to review their latest games console – the Xbox One S with Minecraft bundle. With numerous updated features and promises of it being the perfect entertainment hub for the family, I was really looking forward to trying it out. Below, you’ll find my review of the Xbox One S from a setup, gaming and family media hub perspective.
The product is described as:
Own the Xbox One S Minecraft Favourites Bundle (500GB), featuring everything you need to build, survive, and explore! Get full game downloads of Minecraft for Xbox One and Windows 10, plus thirteen fabulous, community-favourite content Packs, including Halo Mash-up and Festive Mash-up. Craft new Minecraft worlds together with friends on Xbox Live, the most advanced multiplayer network. And now with the new Xbox One S, you can even watch 4K Blu-ray movies, stream Netflix and Amazon Video in stunning 4K Ultra HD, and play a growing library of Xbox 360 games. With all the biggest blockbusters this year, there’s never been a better time to jump ahead with Xbox One. The box contains:
- Xbox One S console (500 GB)
- Xbox One S wireless controller
- Minecraft: Xbox One Edition Favourites Pack (base game + 7 content packs) Digital Download
- Builder’s Pack (6 content packs) Digital Download
- Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta
- 14 day Xbox Live Gold trial
Unboxing And Setup
I’m not going to lie, I was very excited when the package arrived in the post. I’ve been without a proper games console for the last year after my PS3 stopped playing games, so this was definitely an awesome early Christmas present.
Because it’s what all the cool kids do these days, I decided to set up my camera and let Toddler L do an unboxing video of the Xbox One S. You can watch the video – with added toddler subtitles for extra cuteness – below to see what she made of it. “Mine Robots”.
Within the box, we had the white console, a white wireless controller (with batteries), an HDMI cable (4K capable), a power cable and various pieces of paper with codes to download the Minecraft bundle. Also, a nice little touch was the Minecraft themed packaging both inside and out. I’ve not had a new games console in a number of years, so I’ll admit that I briefly thought that the game was missing – I expected to see an actual disk rather than codes. It must be a sign that I’m getting old…
Anyhoo, the next step was to set it up. This was really straightforward. It was a matter of (1) plugging the power cable into the back of the console, (2) plugging the HDMI lead into the HDMI Out port on the Xbox One S and the TV, (3) putting the plug into the wall and turning it on and (4) putting the batteries into the controller. Jobs a good ‘un. As an aside, I also plugged in our Virgin TIVO box – more on that below.
The next step was a system update. I followed the onscreen instructions which downloaded and applied the update. The process took quite a long time – from recollection, the best part of an hour as it did its thing. If buying as a present for the kids for Christmas, make sure you do this setup before you give it to them. Otherwise, you’re going to have all hell breaking loose on the most magical day of the year.
Once the update had been applied, the next step was to configure it. Again, I followed the onscreen instructions which walked me through various things, such as linking my Microsoft accounts with Xbox and connecting to WiFi. This probably took another 20 or so minutes, mainly because I was really slow at typing my email addresses and passwords using the controller!
Once this was done, I was greeted with the home screen. This allowed me to download apps – Skype, Amazon Video, Netflix etc – and install Minecraft using the product codes. This added everything to my download queue, which again meant that there was a period of waiting for everything to install. All in all, the setup and installation was quick, it just took a few hours of impatiently waiting. I found the video below really useful to ensure that it was all setup correctly.
As mentioned, the Xbox One S came with the Minecraft bundle. I’ve heard a lot about Minecraft, but never played it myself. As Toddler L is two and a bit, she’s not at the age where the Minecraft obsession has begun. However, having seen it grab ahold of my nephew and niece, I’m sure that time will come in the not too distant future. As any competitive dad would do, I’ve therefore started swotting up on all things Minecraft to ensure she doesn’t get better at it than me.
So what is Minecraft? Well, in simple terms, it’s a virtual 3D world where you spend your time digging (mine) and building (craft). It is known as a sandbox game, meaning that a player can basically do anything they want – the only limitation is their imagination. To play, you go around hitting giant 3D blocks – which represent things in the world like trees, grass and stone – then pick up the blocks that come from this destruction, e.g. wood from trees, leather from cows etc. You then use these items to do other things, such as for building shelters to protect you from scary monsters like skeletons or zombies.
The graphics and first-person viewpoint remind me a bit of Doom, which I used to love as a teenager. You’ll be pleased to know though that Minecraft is a lot more kid-friendly than that game though. I’ve played it a number of times now and it’s easy to see why it’s such a hit with the kids. In a way, it reminds me a bit of playing Theme Park when I was younger – the endless possibilities and the ability to literally do whatever your imagination wants.
My Minecraft status is definitely best described as a novice though. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I first turned it on, so the tutorial mode came in really useful to teach me the basics. This has included chopping (mining) a whole range of materials and then making (crafting) them into something else. I also spent ages in a farm turning animals into meat – a particularly brutal introduction to the game – and have done some exploring in some kind of Halloween world. I also got killed by a skeleton. That’s a typical Wednesday in my books.
I’d love to show you a screenshot of some amazing structure I’ve created, but I have nothing screenshot worthy. My amateurish efforts are likely to put you off rather than inspire, I’m afraid. Someone who does it more justice than me though is Darren at Love All Dads who’s created a great video of his girls teaching him how to play. In it, he even builds his very first house. That’s mad Minecraft skillz.
Something I need no introduction to is FIFA. On the first day of having the Xbox One S, I popped straight to the shops to buy FIFA 17 to help me enjoy my toddler-free time. I literally played FIFA 16 on the PS3 a handful of times before it broke, so I’ve been missing the on-pitch action.
I’ve been really impressed with the game so far. It’s taken a bit of time to get used to the slightly different controller (compared to PS3), but I’m getting there. I’m particularly enjoying The Journey – the new story mode which lets you play as rising Premier League star, Alex Hunter. That could have been me…well, if I had footballing talent.
It’s not something that’s relevant to me as it’s my first Xbox, but it’s worthwhile mentioning backwards compatibility. For anyone who had the Xbox 360, there’s a growing list of classic 360 games that you can play on the Xbox One S. This gives you a a pretty cool way of sharing your favourite games from the past with the rest of the family.
Family Media Hub
The Xbox One S can also be used as your main home entertainment system. Rather than having separate things, you can bring it all under the Xbox umbrella. Through the console, I can pretty much do everything I’d want to do. Obviously we’ve touched on gaming already, but that’s a given for a games console! I’m more talking about things like DVDs, music, live TV, photos and streaming shows. I’m still getting used to all of this and figuring it out, but so far I’ve been impressed. For instance:
The Xbox One S has a 4K Ultra HD blu-ray player. This is basically a fancy way of saying that it plays the new fangled UHD disks to give you the best possible picture. For someone like me though who just has boring DVDs – I don’t even think I own a blu-ray disk, let alone a 4K Ultra HD disk – the Xbox One S allows us to watch them with no issues. I can simply slot in a DVD and be watching an action film – or more likely a Disney film for Toddler L – within seconds.
There’s also a number of apps – from Netflix to Amazon Video to YouTube to BBC iPlayer – which allow us to watch whatever we want on demand. You simply go into the store, download the app you want, then it’s available to use from the home screen. We have an Amazon Video subscription at the moment, so we’ve been using this a lot – be it The Gruffalo with Toddler L in the day, The Man In The High Castle with the missus in the evening, or Preacher when I get five minutes to myself. This also streams 4K video, but our TV doesn’t have that capability as it’s a few years old now.
Something I’ve recently been playing with is OneGuide. I’m still getting to grips with it, but so far I’ve figured out that I can watch live TV through the Xbox. To do this, I put the HDMI cable from my Virgin Media TIVO Box into the back of the Xbox (rather than in the TV) and followed the OneGuide setup wizard. It now means that our TV runs through the Xbox One S, allowing me to combine live TV with apps on the console. For example, I’ve figured out that I can ‘Snap an app’ to play FIFA 17 whilst having Peppa Pig on the TV. That’s winning at parenting!
Another cool thing I’ve found is the ‘Play to’ option which allows me to share videos and photos from the laptop onto the Xbox One S. By right clicking on the file on my laptop and selecting ‘Play to’, the photo or video pops up onto the TV screen. Similarly, I’ve been able to do the same from my smartphone by downloading the iMediaShare app.
The only things I’ve so far been unable to figure out how to do are:
- Play stored music from the laptop / phone through the Xbox One S. It tries to get me to install Groove Music which is a paid app that I don’t want and I can’t see a way around it.
- Play streamed music from Amazon Music through the Xbox One S – I have a wireless Bluetooth speaker in the living room anyway, so I’m not too fussed.
- Watch streamed shows through the Xbox from the laptop / phone. We have the DisneyLife app which I want to play on the TV. The only solution so far is through an HDMI cable and using the laptop as an external monitor. What I’d REALLY like though is to play a film on DisneyLife on my phone and have it beamed to the TV through Xbox One S. Let me know if you have answers!
It’s without question that the Xbox One S is a particularly powerful entertainment console for the whole family. I’m finding it really useful to have everything in one place and so much quicker flicking between apps. The above is just some of the ways that we’ve been using it. I’m sure there’s plenty more too, such as using voice commands with Kinect, renting films or through family-friendly settings like parental controls or web filtering.
The Xbox One S Minecraft bundle retails at £249.99. However, at the time of writing, it was available for slightly cheaper from certain places like Amazon. This is priced around the amount I’d expect to pay for a new games console, so I have no issue whatsoever with that. If I’m being picky, I’d love to see an extra controller thrown in and / or a media remote, but that’s just me being greedy. There’s a certain expectation that you may need to make additional purchases when buying something like a games console.
I’m really impressed with the Xbox One S. Having never owned an Xbox before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, I found it simple to setup (although it took a few hours to update), easy to use and packed with so many features. I initially thought that the Xbox One S would just be a games console, but it’s become way more than that. It’s now our family media hub which basically controls our home entertainment.
In terms of games, we got Minecraft with the Xbox One S and I’ve since bought FIFA 17. I’m still getting to grips with Minecraft, but I can see why it has such an appeal for kids and families. Toddler L is obviously a bit young to play at the moment, but I look forward to introducing her to it in the future. FIFA 17 is a definite improvement too on previous versions and I’m enjoying the new story mode called The Journey.
In terms of using the Xbox One S as our family media hub, we now run our Virgin TIVO service through it, steam shows via the Amazon Video app and can use the 4K Ultra HD blu-ray player. Then there’s also other apps like YouTube, Vevo and BBC iPlayer which can all be accessed from the same place. No longer do I have to use different devices or spend ages waiting to load an app on TIVO as it can all be done through the Xbox.
I feel like I’m slightly missing out on the 4K and Ultra HD benefits of the Xbox One S though. Our Sharp TV is nearly seven years old, and although it’s still good, it’s not capable of giving me the enhanced visual experience – four times the resolution of traditional HD displays – that the Xbox can deliver. Maybe I need to start dropping hints to the missus for a new TV for my birthday…
All in all, I really like the Xbox One S, am surprised at everything it does and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one for your family entertainment needs.
The DADventurer Star Rating
5 Out Of 5 Stars
N.B. This is a collaborative post. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion of the product. The Xbox One S was sent to me by Microsoft with the purpose of writing an honest product review in exchange for the product.