Microsoft has been gradually improving its Xbox One dashboard to make the experience a lot faster to use. While the original Xbox One launched with Kinect and voice controls, much of the navigation with a controller was slow and clunky. Microsoft started addressing some of those performance issues with some updates earlier this year, but today’s Xbox One dashboard goes a step further.
Microsoft is once again moving the guide so it’s ordered horizontally. You can switch between different sections using the Xbox controller bumpers or left thumbstick and d-pad. Sign-in, achievements, parties / LFG, friends, Home, messages, broadcasts, and a new action center (with settings) now form part of the updated guide. It works very similar to how it has in the past, but it’s much quicker to switch sections with the controller now.
While accessing separate sections like apps and games feels quicker, actually getting to friends still feels a little buried in this update. The friends tab has a brief overview of online avatars, but you have to navigate a step deeper to get more information. A lot of the new update is designed to make you keep pushing further into menus to do things, and some will find that irritating at first. The speed improvements make it feel worth it over time, though.
There’s also a new home interface, and some good examples of the Fluent Design influences that Microsoft is bringing to its products. You can pin things like favorite friends to the home section, alongside games and apps. Pinned games will even show activity feeds, so you can see when a friend is playing a particular title. I’ve been using the update for months, and I’ve found that I rarely ever use the home interface as the pop-up guide still feels like a quicker way to navigate around.
Microsoft has also included a new light theme with this new dashboard. If you were a fan of the Xbox 360 style of UI, then this brings back some of those lighter elements. If you’re an OLED TV user then you’ll be glad to know that Microsoft is also improving its screen-dimming feature to prevent screen ghosting. It will also display notifications when your Xbox is idle.
A lot of the new dashboard is preparation for Microsoft’s new Xbox One X console. You can transfer games to external drives easily with the new dashboard, or copy games over a home network to another console. You can even download 4K content for some games on an Xbox One, ready for when the Xbox One X ships. GameDVR has also been updated to support up to 4K / HDR screenshots and game clips, and there’s even USB webcam support for streaming on Mixer.
The new Xbox One dashboard will be available for all Xbox One and Xbox One S consoles today, and Microsoft is promising “more great features” soon for its Xbox Insider testers. Hopefully that will include the impressive-looking avatars that Microsoft teased earlier this year.