Xbox One HDMI IN – This is no Media Center replacement.

The Xbox One out of the box experience is an interesting one.  Especially if you do not have a game, for $499 it does not come with one.  Not that I think it should because frankly that game always become the first one to hit the bargain bin.  However, without a game it’s an expensive Skype and Netflix console.

Microsoft of course is intending the Xbox One to be much more than a gaming system but my experience with it for the past two days is one of uncertainty, at least for now.  The feature I was looking forward to the most is its, integration with your home satellite and cable box.  I think for many the last piece of the puzzle. Plug your receiver into the HDMI IN port on the back and have a central dashboard for your games, online media, home media, and home television.  But out of the box, there is more missing from this puzzle than I had expected.

Media Center, ah media center….Arguably the best PVR and home media interface to hit our TV and computer screens the past (almost) 9 years.  It definitely had its challenges, between playing specific formats, to supporting HD, and of course the initial setup and maintenance required some IT knowledge nearby.  But with a great 3rd party development community and products like DVBLink most of its out of the box deficiencies were overcome.  And when it worked, it worked well, more importantly, it was easy to use.  In my home we have three XBOX 360s scattered around the home running as Media Center extenders (MCE) and for a time they were the original XBOX running MCE.  From this my family has access to all of their media needs and after 7 years, without it they would be lost.

Now I know the writing has been on the wall for some time, media center is dying, if not already dead.  However I have struggled to find a better alternative.  Thanks to Microsoft for making Media Center an option in Windows 8, it still lives.  Introduce Xbox One.  Media center is gone, for real.

I thought the HDMI IN was my alternative, it is not.  It is nothing more than a passthru port.  It does not change channels, it does not PVR, nor can you pause live TV.  Also the Xbox One integrated guide does not integrate (at least not in Canada).  But with no option to control the sat/cable receiver the guide is useless anyway.  (what is that RF connector for on the back?)  Yelling out, “Xbox Watch TV” and seeing the Live TV window open is kind of fun, the first few times.  But not so practical at 2am when everyone is sleeping.  There is just no point in the feature right now for me.  Not unless you’re short on HDMI ports.

To add to the lack of OOB features, try playing content from your network, like home movies or recorded TV.  It is possible, but not obvious.  Xbox One supports DLNA but you need to initiate the stream from your PC using Play-To or a similar control.  Try explaining that to your wife and kids.

From what I’ve read, features like this are coming, but for someone that uses their console primarily for TV and online media it feels like the Xbox One is not ready for primetime.  For now, as it is XBOX 360 stays the focal point in our house.

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