If you boot up your Xbox One today you'll be confronted by a substantial update. It's time for the console's first major face lift, which means that the Windows 8-inspired boxes are decimated to a distant memory from here on in. Microsoft has rolled out a brand new dashboard that fixes many of the flaws we've been stuck with since the console launched. This is the New Xbox One Experience.
The first thing you'll notice is the new look. The large squares of yesteryear were very Kinect-friendly - which may have been logical two years ago when the small camera came with every console sold - but these have now been replaced by more traditional menus. We all know how Microsoft's original vision for the Xbox One was met by the public, and now they've reacted to that and adapted to the fact that it might not be as fun as it sounds to navigate a dashboard by waving an outstretched hand.
Replacing the menu system is an obvious move. The New Xbox One Experience pulls a lot of inspiration from Xbox 360, which should not be seen as a step back in evolution, but rather as a giant step forward to make the Xbox One more user-friendly. Before there were so many different functions under a single square that it was difficult to find things among settings, apps, and in the online store. Simple tasks, such as sending invitations and checking messages required several unnecessary clicks. Those days are now over, fortunately (even if we had just learned how to navigate our way around the old menus).
Once you get used to the graphical changes, you'll notice how fast the new dashboard is compared to the old. It no longer feels as if you're looking at animated GIFs on an ancient 56K connection when you jump between the game library, shop and so on. It has also become much, much easier to find what you're looking for.
Double-tapping the Xbox button on the controller brings up a small menu to the left with a number of different tabs. Here you'll find everything you could possibly need. User profiles, friends, party members, messages and settings are presented in a stylish way, and this menu can be brought up no matter what it is that you're doing on the console. It's no longer fixed firmly in a new window as before with the "Snap" function, now it sits there until you turned it off with another press of the Xbox button again. It works just like the Xbox guide did on Xbox 360 - which is quite brilliant considering that was one of the best solutions we've ever been seen for any platform.
If you're busy in the middle of a Halo 5: Guardians match, you can simply press the Xbox button twice to bring up the menu, jump down to your friend list and send an invitation. Boom, you have received reinforcements. Now you no longer have to enter into the Community menu, or snap an app on the side of the screen and switch back and forth between windows to achieve this.
With that said, these features are still there for those who (for some strange reason) still want to use them. Attaching apps on the side of the screen is still possible for those that want to watch Youtube clips while they play Gears of War, and on the updated Community page you can see status updates, screenshots and Achievements from your friends. The big difference is that the boxes are stacked vertically rather than all over the place. The app or game you used last is always on top, and directly below are the things you used before that.
If you want to really experience the new setup's strengths simply visit the online store, which now allows for scrolling vertically and not just horizontally. This means that there is room for more categories, and thus, it's much faster to find what you're looking for. The new tab OneGuide collects everything that's not game-related (such as TV shows and movies) in one place in the same way, instead of having them scattered here and there.
It might sound like everything that's new in the New Xbox One Experience has to do with either performance or ease of use, but that's not the case. The new dashboard is powered by Windows 10, and that's one of the biggest changes. This means that the two operating systems are compatible with each other. Windows 10 users can therefore stream their Xbox games to their Windows 10 PC or tablet, voice chat with their Xbox Live friends, and in future games such as Fable Legends and Halo Wars 2, players on both formats can play with each other over the network. From today it is also possible to play selected Xbox 360 games on the console.
An immediate thought is that everything should have worked this way from the beginning. Thats's how natural all these new features comes across as in the New Xbox One Experience, so hats off to Microsoft who finally chose to leave the Kinect-friendly menu system behind and listen to their fans. Whether you're playing, watching Netflix, or scrolling through indie releases, one thing is certain: it has never been better to boot up your Xbox One than it is today.