October's Xbox One Changes Make Microsoft's Console A Whole Lot Better

October's Xbox One Changes Make Microsoft's Console A Whole Lot Better

Microsoft's monthly tinkering with the Xbox One's system software will produce something special in October, as the console will at long last offer the kind of distinct, smartly-designed system-wide functionality that could make rival console-makers jealous.

The console's October update doesn't perfect the Xbox One. But, 11 months into the machine's existence, it finally sees the Xbox One using its unusual architecture to do things that significantly improve the gaming experience on the Microsoft console in ways not seen on the rival PlayStation 4 and Wii U.

The key to all of this is an improvement to how the console handles split-screen multi-tasking, a feature the system's three operating systems were designed to do but have so far not done in many, if any, impressive ways. In short, the Xbox One's so-called Snap features finally make sense and work well.

Here's a video I recorded, explaining the improvements as I run through them:

If you don't have time to watch or hate the sound of my voice, allow me to explain with screenshots...

The October update builds up this idea of a "Snap Center", which you get to by double-tapping the Xbox button on the Xbox One controller. Double-tapping it gets you this:

October's Xbox One Changes Make Microsoft's Console A Whole Lot Better

From there, you can press up on the controller's d-pad to select an app to "Snap" to the right side of your TV screen.

You can choose from downloaded apps...

October's Xbox One Changes Make Microsoft's Console A Whole Lot Better

Or you can choose from several, key system-wide apps....

October's Xbox One Changes Make Microsoft's Console A Whole Lot Better

You can run any of these apps on the right. For example, here's Game DVR...

October's Xbox One Changes Make Microsoft's Console A Whole Lot Better

And here's the Achievements app, which first popped up in June but works far better with the October update...

October's Xbox One Changes Make Microsoft's Console A Whole Lot Better

Here's the Achievements app again...

October's Xbox One Changes Make Microsoft's Console A Whole Lot Better

You can switch between the game on the left and the apps on the right with a double-tap of the Xbox button and then either a push left or right on the d-pad. You can pick a new app to Snap by double-tapping and pressing up; you can remove the Snapped app with a double-tap and a press down. I don't love the double-tapping -- I'd prefer that Snapping be mapped to what is now the "view" button on the console -- but I still welcome all of this new and improved functionality.

Basically, at the optional cost of playing a game at a slightly smaller screen size, you can now have a list of friends or Achievements -- your progress in attaining them tracked in real-time -- running on the right side of your TV. This moves Xbox One ahead of its rival consoles in terms of useful multi-tasking. All of the systems can run downloads in the background or hold games in a suspended state while letting you, say, check what your friends are up to, but it's Microsoft that seems to be figuring out how to get some useful splitscreen multi-tasking into a TV gaming experience.

The Xbox One is famously freighted with the plans and promises of a console that would be a nexus point for all TV-based entertainment. Much of that promise has gone unrealized, what with NFL apps that don't actually integrate with NFL TV broadcasts, for example.

The October update, however, shows Microsoft at least figuring out how to make the console's multi-tasking work for gamers, giving them easier access to useful tools, letting them play and monitor useful information at the same time. It's a huge improvement for the Xbox One, the kind of thing you see from a hungry competitor trying to figure things out and pass a rival. This is a good byproduct of console competition. Your move, Sony and Nintendo.

Note: I've been using a preview version of the Xbox One's October update on my home console. The update will go live for all system users some time next month.


Comments

    God I hate the controller snap controls so much, I wish they just kept forcing Kinect on people. Keep bringing up this stupid little toggle I have no interest in. Why can't I disable it because I'm not anti Kinect?

    Unless it makes the console on-par with the PS4 power wise, then I really don't care.

      Take the article down Stephen, Spoonie doesn't care.

      I agree... Where is the god damn update that downloads more RAM into this thing!!

      Exactly right! I meant i cant believe how microsoft is ignoring the huge performance difference between ps4 and theirs and just keep focusing on apps and useless things that gamers dont really care. Its extremely stupid and very, very annoying.

        PS3 had that power difference and it didn't mean dick, all the real games are on Xbox One... ps4 is just another glorified paperweight for uneducated dude bros getting their annual fix of fifa and cod... enjoy

      We get enough of this sh*t with the Apple vs. Android stuff on Gizmodo

    Umm, this isn't that great. :S (coming from an Xbone owner.)

      Agreed, I don't understand all the focus on this. I'm just waiting for basic things like party chat through speakers.
      It's possible if you're using kinect as a mic, but who wants to do that.

        My main issue is the loading times when moving around the OS. I'm not sure if that will ever be fixed, but my GOD it takes a long time to simply invite someone to my party.

    This is very cool. I always knew MS would make the most progress with Software, which at the end of the day is what is important, sure having ~5-10fps more in games is great (the reason a lot of games run at 1080/60 on PS4 and less on Xbone) but what I care about is functionality.

    Adding more value for my dollar is great. The Xbone has a really cool Media App, lets me snap my Foxtel to watch TV while gaming, turns on and off my entire entertainment system by voice and still plays all the big games.

    If you look at the changes the 360 and PS3 went through over 10 years, the smart money is on MS to keep up with the times through added functionality.

      Playstation fan boy, but I like this feature. Do you know if you can watch a avi file while gaming? So I can watch my shows while playing Destiny? And be able to change game and video file volumes? I think this has a lot of potential. I'm not fussed about having a achievement bar. But if it plays music and video files on the side, I think that would be great.

        Yes you can. Anything that's watchable through Xbox Video (list of formats here http://support.xbox.com/en-AU/xbox-one/system/media-player-faq) can be snapped.

        I think it's a hugely underrated feature, I constantly have either Netflix, Xbox Video or Foxtel snapped when playing FIFA/Diablo.

        However there's no system functionality for changing volumes for each app. So for example, I end up going into FIFA/Diablo settings and muting the game.

        Last edited 30/09/14 9:33 am

          In settings you can change the volume split for snapped vs main.

        Yep great for putting my DVR through if there's something on TV that I want to see but not pay 100% attention to.

        Now that I think of it that would be perfect for catching up on all the TV shows in my collection!

    What is this fascination with snapping apps? I couldn't care less about having other apps open while I'm playing a game. If I want additional info, then I'll use smartglass on my laptop, phone or tablet.

    I own a ps4, xbox one, ps3 and xbox 360. Of all of them, I think the 360 has the best, cleanest and most intuitive interface. But in an effort to unify the cross platform experience (i.e. computer, phone, tablet), MS gave us the mess that is the xbox one interface.

      I use snap every day. Grinding in Diablo? Yeh I'm gonna snap Netflix. Watching EPL on Foxtel? Yeh I'll probably have a game of FIFA while I have it snapped. Want to check on some friends? why bother interrupting my show or bringing out another device?

      Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean no one does.
      Having to use another screen to do something simple like look at achievement progress is a hastle.

    Pretty much haven't touched my Xbone since I got a PS4. I would sell it, but there's exclusives coming that I want to play (Forza Horizon 2 to start with).

      yeah... i'd of sold mine already if it wasn't for horizon 2 :\

      is that a surprise considering you have probably played all the xbox one games that have been released so far and no console has really had any good games released lately as they are all scheduled for october onwards?

      I'm thinking of buying one for Forza 2, Halo and Sunset Overdrive this summer.

    Snap is ok but the media changes are the game changer.

    The amount of supported media formats supported is impressive (mkv even) and the fact that MS is getting DLNA support on the X1 before Sony has it on the PS4 when Sony established DLNA itself as a founder is borderline insanity.

    I now finally have a reason to disconnect my 360 from my TV. If Sony was doing even half the updates for the PS4 that MS is doing for the X1 i would be much happier. The current OS for the PS4 was serviceable at best at launch but now 11 months in, it is almost reaching a point of being in an unacceptable state. How after 11 months can i not even simply pause and then resume downloads or even queue them? I can't organise my games in any way on the main dashboard and the only way to put it up the top is to go and play it?

    Ugh... I really am hoping beyond hope that MS closes the gap a little to make it more of a two horse race so Sony has to do something...

      I am personally hoping that this huge PS4 2.0 update that is coming in a few weeks (maybe a month or so?) is because they are going to cram a huge sweep of things in at once. If it gets DLNA, pausing d/l, suspending games, backgrounds bascially all the stuff PS3 did and stuff they said PS4 will have the 3 didn't then I am happy.
      If it doesn't happen this year well then I will be changing my tune to Sony has now dropped the ball after getting things so very right.
      In saying that, the above video really is just a long winded "now you can snap properly" video and to be honest it is not a game changer. Nothing Stephen said would turn around many from "No I don't want a XB to now I'll get an XB". I could be wrong in 5 years who knows and I guess who cares?

        This video does a much better job of explaining snap and everything else that is coming in October... There is a lot more then just Snap and Media: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC7gUspzS9o

        The monthly updates for X1 have been quite beefy and while it is easily argued that it was needed initially considering the state the dashboard launched in, it is almost night and day to where it is now with the amount of features and changes that have been made for the better.

        I do hope that the 2.0 update for PS4 brings those changes but i am at the stage with Sony where i will believe it when i see it. I also wish they were a little more upfront about what is in their updates prior to release.

    Beautiful, when we get directx 12 this whole thing will start to make sense ☺

      Maybe. The API will have less overhead so they can get more out of the same hardware BUT they already got more and more out of the same hardware as the API and dev tools matured on 360 and PS3 (I assume Wii). The same would happen with XB1, PS4 and Wii U naturally over the next few years regardles of DX12. My point is only don't get too focused on Direct3D12 specifically being some holy grail for a console. PC though - yippee!!!

    It seems like in that video, all his app switching and loading up friends, upload, etc happens WAY faster and snappier than mine...why is that? My Xbone doesn't have heaps of stuff on it either, so it can't be that...

      Because the update optimizes snapping.

        I hope that's true, but even when he loaded up upload on the main screen, it seemed like it whipped up way faster than mine.

        I dunno, anyone else think that?

          What sort of connection are you on? a mate of mine just went from ADSL to fibre and reckons everything loads 3x faster now.

            Nothing amazing, ADSL2 about 9mb down, 1 up. I just figured it was the OS being sluggish

              Yea he was similar, he's now 100 down 50 up, I've always been on 130 down 10 up but I get some sluggishness too from time to time.

              Edit: another mate of mine returned his launch console after it stopped playing discs andhe said the replacement has been so much faster in everything.

              Last edited 01/10/14 11:15 am

    Much better? Much better would be an improvement that could enable performance parity between ps4 and xbone. God damn machine cant even run games at 1080p OR 60fps.

      neither can the ps4 hence why games that are in 1080p and 60fps have large variations in frame rates and some have had to offer patches to lower it. Think before you type fanboy

      Last edited 30/09/14 1:41 pm

        No mr butthurt its got nothing to do with being a fan boy. Last gen i went through 3 xbox 360 and loved the xbox ever since the original one until current generation. I have to correct you with couple of examples. Tomb raider definitive edition ps4=1080p60 xbone=1080p30. Mgs ground zeroes ps4=1080p60 xbone=900p60. Assassins creed 4 ps4=1080p30 xbone=800p30 etc etc. there are more examples out there where xbone is always struggling in performance department and its a shame really. I truly wouldve wanted one. Whats worse is microsoft doing absolutely nothing about it. Ps: i think you are talking about the unlocked frame rates in games like infamous which is completely a different topic and its still running at minimum 40fps...

        Last edited 30/09/14 5:20 pm

      If you care about resolution and frame rate, go play on PC.

        I am playing mainly on Pc. But got a ps4 for exclusives.

    All great small editions to Xbox One but i'm still waiting on something that everyone has been asking for, "Custom Soundtracks" or playing xbox music with snap minimised.

    I'm a big fan of Xbox One but think about what "snap center" and snap is doing. It is actually a messy attempt to reintroduce the "Guide". Something that should have been there on launch.

    I still cant believe that more than a year on it is still impossible to play custom soundtracks. Yes you can play xbox music in the snap but it is impossible to minimize the snap so you can play full screen with that music.

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