Xbox One TV vs. Google TV: the real smart TV battle begins

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Google TV has been the king of smart TVs since its announcement. Though some may prefer other set-top boxes, Google TV holds the most potential. It is an open platform that allows developers and users to make it what they want. Competitors have come and gone, but Google TV continues to be on top for those reasons. We now have a worthy opponent, though – the just announced Xbox One.

How can a gaming console compete against Google TV? Microsoft has been aiming to be the center of entertainment in your living room. Xbox offers a plethora of media and streaming services, but today Microsoft has taken it to the next level. The rumors were right and the new Xbox offers TV capabilities that rival Google TV. Let’s jump in and see how the battle is looking!

Watching TV on the Xbox One

xbox-one-tv-skypeTo say the least, I was impressed with the new Xbox live TV features. Kinect works as your remote, allowing you to control your TV via voice and movement/gestures. Since your Xbox is always listening, all you need to do is say “Xbox on” and you will be enjoying your Xbox experience in a matter of a few seconds. From there, you can just say “watch TV” and your live TV shows up.

The usual Xbox interface works as your smart TV UI. Your cable box can connect to the Xbox One, which in turn sends the TV signal to the large screen. It is a rather simple process and TV merges very well with the Xbox experience. The console allows you to watch TV and alternate between other apps and live TV. You can even switch between gaming and Live TV, and it is FAST. It took like a second to switch to and from live TV and other apps during the demo.

Google TV is simply not as fast. There is always a slight delay between watching TV and using apps, making it seem like live TV and Google TV are not really “one”.

TV apps and services on the Xbox One

The Xbox One doesn’t really put a layer on top of your live TV, it takes your TV and puts it in the Xbox UI. The Xbox layout is your smart TV. This means your smart TV apps are essentially any apps the Xbox console offers. Of course, this includes video streaming apps, music services and all the media services you already know from Xbox. And of course, there is the games. If you want to look at it from another angle, you can say the Xbox One is like a Google TV with “real games”.

In a way, the Xbox One both wins and loses against Google TV here. It loses because Google TV is an open platform. Any company can make an app for Google TV and have it offered in the Google Play Store, while Microsoft keeps tighter control on which apps come to Xbox or not. Xbox does have some great quality services and partners, though. Microsoft has partnerships with many streaming services, content providers and TV channels, bringing great content and sometimes exclusive material to Xbox.

Multi-tasking with the Xbox One

You can also use Snap Mode, which pretty much allows you to multi-task with your Xbox One. You can be watching TV and browsing the web at the same time, for example. It’s like PIP (picture in picture) but it looks much more like Windows 8′s pinned apps. The new app pulls off the side covering a whole section on the right side of the screen. This too can be operated via voice and gestures with the Kinect.

I really like the way this works because it keeps TV at the forefront of your experience. The secondary apps would be the ones displayed on the side of the screen. With Google TV, you can use other apps and keep live TV on with PIP. This makes your TV feed small and hidden in a corner, not to mention there is a hiccup while switching to PIP mode.

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TV guide on the Xbox One

The Xbox one TV guide looks very solid. Its traditional interface will have people feeling right at home, and it works flawlessly with Kinect. I still believe Google TV’s PrimeTime is better, though. PrimeTime does a great job at integrating content from live TV, Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services. This makes it easier to search for movies or shows from a single source, something the Xbox One’s TV guide seems to lack right now.

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Xbox One comes with Blu-Ray

If live TV and streaming is not enough for you, the Xbox one can also offer you Blu-Ray. Yes, Microsoft has finally set itself right next to PlayStation and added a Blu-Ray drive to the Xbox One.

We have had the option to buy Blu-Ray players with Google TV for a long time. This feature doesn’t really worry us when comparing the Xbox One to Google TV. It is definitely worth noting, though.

Is Xbox One better than Google TV?

When I first heard rumors about Xbox bringing this kind of TV functionality, I had to stop and think for a second. Such a popular gaming console would be a serious threat to Google TV if such features were well-executed. Xbox really had to do it right, though, and it seems like they have. Partly because the platform is already strong, but they also did a great job merging the console with TV services. But does it beat Google TV?

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In some aspects, it does. At the very least it is a significant threat. The console has content, speed, good integration, Kinect compatibility and, most importantly, a huge crowd of fans. We have to hold judgement until we are able to test the Xbox One and see what it offers in more detail, or if its performance is as good as it seemed during the demo.

One thing is for sure – Google was definitely watching this. If there has ever been a time for Google to sit down and finally put attention to your smart TV platform, it is now. Smart TV is booming and Google Tv has the potential to be the leader in the industry. No other smart TV platform or console has gotten this close to Google TV so it’s time to get moving, Google.

  • Aaron Berlin

    I haven’t heard if we got a price out of MS today, but unlike media streamers like the GTVs on the market today or even the Roku or Apple TV, the XBox has some serious horsepower that people are actually willing to pay for. That alone is a pretty big advantage.

    • Edgar Cervantes

      There was no price announced, but you are right. This is a solid console people will buy anyways. That is the danger.

  • disqus_K1nMSJpiAQ

    great article. If the Xbox One is that good I will probably switch a Windows 8 phone and Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet so I can have the full integration.