OXCGN’s HyperX Cloud II Headset Review


Back in December of 2014, I had the chance to review Kingston’s HyperX Cloud Headsets, the company’s foray into creating a gaming headset that doubled as an everyday driver. The only problem with that model was a lack of a USB power option. Kingston have fixed that and taken everything that worked with the Cloud, slightly tweaked it and released the Cloud II. The HyperX Cloud II follows the exact same trend as the Cloud with a few added benefits to appeal to a much bigger audience.

From the colour scheme, the added component and the virtual 7.1 sound board.

Design wise, the HyperX Cloud II follows the same style as its predecessor. A flexible leather head strap followed by equally comfortable leather foam ear cups. Once placed on your head, they don’t feel too tight and sit perfectly on top of your ears. Providing a level of comfort you don’t really find on a pair of inexpensive headsets.

Whilst they’re just as comfortable, they do suffer from the same heating issues after a few hours of use. I’m not too sure whether my ears are more prone to fatigue whilst wearing over the ear headsets, but I needed to adjust them ever so slightly to ease the pressure they were putting on my ears. Again, this was after roughly 3 or 4 hours of constant use as I used them for a stint to stream to Twitch due to the fact that the adjustable boom mic now supports the ability to cancel out any unwanted outside noise around your voice, which gives you a clearer and crisper voice when using these for voice calls or in-game chat.

Streaming at 540p with AAC 96kbp/s, my voice still sounded crystal clear to anyone that was watching me, outside noise that was not my voice was cancelled out as well. It didn’t distort nor add any unnecessary value to alter my voice. I couldn’t do this with the previous Cloud as it would not work with OBS via the 3.5mm cable, and you wouldn’t really use them for anything else apart form mobile phone calls. These can be used for your PC/Mac, PS4 or mobile phone, and for the Xbox One as with most headphones you’ll need to buy the adapter. Out of the box though it’ll work with almost all devices, a huge bonus when shopping for headphones/headsets.

The shirt clip which houses the virtual 7.1 option also allows users to raise or lower the volume of the headphone and the microphone volume. A must for any headphones or headsets in this day and age.

Apart from these inclusions that’s where the feature stop for the Cloud II, they ever so slightly improve over the Cloud with added benefits. Virutal 7.1 is perhaps the biggest addition and being housed in the shirt clip means it’s not reliant on your PC being able to do this. Whilst many will find that virtual 7.1 is a neat addition the amount of use this will get is minimal. It’s hard to virtually replicate the sounds of footsteps coming from behind you or from your right, as this process mixes both left and right to create a false sense of surround sound.

Whilst being loud is a plus it doesn’t necessarily provide the benefit of 7.1, users will most likely never turn this option on as it is optional if you DID want to use it.

Out of the box it’s a pretty standard affair. The Cloud II features the same internals as the Cloud, from the headset, secondary ear cups, the new USB housed virtual sound card complete with a shirt clip, travel bag and the boom microphone.

The Cloud II’s are packaged exactly the same as the Cloud and as always it’s a treat to un-box them. They’re an inexpensive pair of headphones that scream quality from the moment that you open the box. Quality wise they’re just as good as the Cloud. Kingston have again created a pair of headphones that won’t break the bank and appeal to many gamers. What I love about them is that they don’t necessarily look like a pair of gaming headphones with an over the top design. The black matte finish on the ear cups is a nice touch, the leather strap feels quite premium and the overall weight of the headphones don’t feel too heavy like they’ll slide off your head when wearing them.

Again, design wise, they are a treat and you’ll be hard struck to find a better pair of headphones in the same price range as the Cloud II’s that have the same premium finish and feel to them.

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TL;DR

If you already own the HyperX Cloud or any other inexpensive gaming headset, definitely look at upgrading to the Cloud II. With the added ability to connect to your PC via USB and upgraded boom mic, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. Whilst you won’t really use or need the virtual 7.1 surround sound you’ll still appreciate that it’s there. With how comfortable these headsets feel and how premium they look, I don’t think I’ll need to be using anything else for a while.

Pros: 

  • Matte finish gives these headsets a quality feel
  • Powered via USB or 3.5mm jack for mobile devices or PC’s
  • Still just as comfortable and premium as its predecessor

Cons:

  • I still suffer from excessive warmth after long periods of use (Could be my ears are prone to this not sure)
  • 7.1 surround sound is virtual and more an illusion

Note: The HyperX Cloud II Headsets were provided to us by Kingston to review

OXCGN’s HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset Review


It’s tough trying to find the perfect pair of headsets that you can use for gaming and long periods of transport. Some headsets with good quality audio can cost hundreds, whilst a good pair of PC headsets can have multiple cables just to get them to work. Luckily, Kingston have made a set of headsets aimed at the PC gamer market called the HyperX Cloud. These headsets don’t require any extra batteries nor a USB port to be powered.

Simply plug them in via the 3.5mm auxiliary, and you’re good to go.

The first thing that I noticed when wearing the HyperX Cloud, was that they were extremely comfortable. For a low cost pair of headsets they have a lot of comfort and aren’t heavy, so users can definitely wear them for prolonged periods of times without that heavy head feeling, which I know is the sole reason many tend to stay away from such bulky headsets.

photo-kingston-hyperx

From the image above, the all black with red stitching version house metallic ear-cups which are not interchangeable and leather coated foam ear cups. These are over the ear headsets, so your ear sits snug inside them. The HyperX Cloud does come in a White and Black version which is what we received for review that have the exact same build quality just a different colour scheme.

After prolonged periods of use, users may find the leather ear pads tend to get a little sweaty and warm but nothing too extreme, so using these in the summer may not be the best decision. Thankfully, Kingston have included a second pair of ear cups which aren’t covered in leather. The feel a bit firmer to the touch so they may not be as comfortable how ever they do not get as warm as the leather coated ear cups.

Users can easily switch between the two so it’s good to see Kingston have given us the flexibility for such a good price.

Kingston have also added other goodies inside the box which include, a boom mic for talking, an aeroplane adaptor so that you may use these on long or short flights, the non-detachable cable is braided which is better than the standard leather coating and at the end house 2 3.5mm jacks. An in-line microphone with must controls is included, as well as a play button for music and a single 3.5mm adaptor for mobile users.

The last accessory included is a 2 metre long cable for those that wish to use these with their gaming consoles. If that’s not all, there’s also a bag that allows you to place everything inside for travel.

Now despite including loads of value in the box, the main use of headsets are for listening to whatever content it’s plugged into. Despite not being high end in price and build, the HyperX Cloud’s provide some excellent audio even at higher volumes. Two 53mm drivers power deliver good clarity at louder volumes and some deep base with the help of an equaliser. The HyperX Cloud’s can handle a wide array of different soundscapes, from heavy metal to dance and trance music. Reproduced electronic beats have that hard hitting feel good euphoria whilst machine gun recoil and grenade explosions have that most needed explosive (Yes, pun intended) punch to them.

They may not be $479AUD Beats Studio 2.0, but they’re damn good for their price.

I can’t say I was disappointed with the HyperX Cloud, playing Far Cry 4 which these plugged in gave me quite the pleasure. I’m not big on headsets, so whilst audiophiles may not be as impressed the average gamer who is in the market for something affordable and good value for money don’t need to look any further. Like many headsets the music leakage with the HyperX Cloud is quite low, so users won’t be disturbing anyone on quiet train rides.

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TL;DR

The HyperX Cloud are a great alternative if you don’t want to break the bank. They are an excellent for various all around uses, which include gaming or travel. With the extra goodies that Kingston have packed in, there’s no way you can go wrong as they’re lightweight, have a great quality build and excellent sound at any level with any type of audio source. I don’t see myself changing headsets anytime soon now that I’ve had the chance to test these out, they just work in every scenario, especially with streaming on Twitch.

Pros:

+ Doesn’t require power via USB or batteries and works with PC, Mobiles, PS4, etc…

+ Lightweight and extremely comfortable for gaming or travel

+ Excellent build quality and sound for price

Cons:

– Default ear cups can get uncomfortable and sweaty during long use

– Bass may be too low for some without access to an equaliser

9.5/10

Bonus Review:

We also had the chance to try out the HyperX Skyn Mouse Pads which house a Control and Speed pad. They have an adhesive side that sticks to any flat surface that the mouse will be used on. They’re really thin and provide a large surface for you to use your mouse. It comes in a single colour which is all black so if you’re looking for a mouse pad that isn’t chunky or don’t have much room on your desk, definitely look at picking one of these up.

Note: The HyperX Cloud were a review unit sent to us by Kingston

CoolerMaster Storm Aluminium Series Review


They Have Everything Covered

Coolermaster are a company renowned for their high performance PC Cases and now with the new Aluminium Series they have delivered an impressive collection of gaming peripherals to compliment their impressive cases. The series features an affordable but high performing Mechanical Keyboard, a slick and responsive mouse and a solid headset.

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The Mech

Forged from aluminium and matte plastic the USB 3.0 loaded Mech keyboard clicks loudly with the solid and pronounced thud of Cherry MX switches. Backlit with brilliant white lights and equipped with a sturdy handle CM Storm have created an affordable mechanical keyboard with a premium feel that outperforms some of its pricier competitors.

I can extol the virtues of this keyboard however praise is worthless in a vacuum, therefore the Mech will be compared primarily to the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2014.
Unlike Razer, CM Storm have chosen to retain the industry standard Cherry MX switches, this keyboard as a result is available in different switch configurations. The version I tested used Red switches. There is something deeply satisfying about the solid click and long actuation of the keys on the Mech, each keystroke is deep and responsive it is almost reminiscent of using a typewriter but with more accuracy. This is in contrast to the BlackWidow, which features shallower keystrokes due to Razer’s own custom switches. I prefer the Cherry MX option, however both options offer similar responsiveness and I don’t think that anyone bar a pro-gamer will really feel the difference in responsiveness.

Where the Mech really trumps its competition is in the technology built into the keyboard and the phenomenal design choices CM Storm have made. The Mech comes equipped with an onboard chip designed just to process macros. The 32bit ARM Core CPU enables hardware macro playback, which leads to quicker macro responses and better macro recording. This pushing of the envelope, this willingness to attempt to elevate the functionality of a keyboard beyond what everyone else offers is not only remarkable but a compelling reason to buy this product. For too long the mechanical market has charged high prices for incremental design changes rather than wholesale innovation.

Now the Mech hasn’t reinvented the wheel but it has given gamers something new without forcing it down their throats and without charging an arm and a leg for it. CM Storm have done two other significant things that show an acute awareness of their market, firstly the Mech has USB 3.0 built in, allowing you to add peripherals or charge your devices from the keyboard. Many keyboards do this but few have made the jump to USB 3.0 even in the more premium price bracket. Secondly the aluminium cladding of the Mech is removable and customisable allowing pro-gamers and serious amateurs to use custom decals or engraving to make the Mech their own. It is a small touch, which differentiates the Mech from other keyboards and allows for gamers to express themselves in a sea of black matte finished plastic boards.

Pros:

+ Uses Cherry MX Switches and all Colours are available.

+ USB 3.0 ports built in.

+ Customisable Aluminium housing.

+ Great Price.

Cons:

– Short cable included in the box.

TL;DR

The Mech is a compelling product with the performance chops to satisfy almost every gamer.

9/10

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The Reaper

Continuing with the theme of aluminium and white light the Reaper Mouse creeps onto your desk with a super responsive 8200 dpi sensor, a braided cord, an onboard chip for macro processing and a healthy amount of hand room. The Reaper is larger than my own MadCatz R.A.T 3 mouse but fits nicely into the standard size range of gaming mouses and I actually came to prefer the larger size during my testing.

The mouse features 8 programmable buttons and combines soft touch plastic with aluminium to create a stylish and functional device, combined with white lights that trigger in conjunction with button presses the Reaper looks futuristic but feels familiar. The Reaper performed well during a relaxed Far Cry 3 expedition and even better during frantic BF4 matches. The 8200 dpi sensor requires a little getting used to but once I adjusted and mapped hotkeys to the mouse I found myself really enjoying the feel of and accuracy of the mouse.

Pros:

+ Great design.

+ Responsive and accurate sensor

+ 8 Programmable Keys

Cons:

– Perhaps not enough keys for some MMO or MOBA players

TL;DR

From the design to the performance this mouse is great.

9/10

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The Pulse-R

Of the three products in the aluminium series the Pulse-R is the only one that performs to it’s level rather than far exceeding it. This is not to say that the headset is mediocre however when compared to other headsets of a similar price the Pulse-R does not blow the competition away. The biggest strength of the Pulse-R is the design, the etched aluminium and leather look ear cups are comfortable and the closed design blocks out background noise.

As a person with relatively large ears I did find that the cups did pinch after a while however I often have this problem even on much more expensive headphones. The headphones only offer stereo sound which some might find unacceptable however I found that during game play they offered enough of a sound stage that I could hear everything that was going on. The bass is punchy, so gunfire sounds satisfying and the mic is detachable, a feature that I think is so underrated and should be adopted by all gaming headset manufacturers.

The aluminium cups like the cladding on the Mech is detachable and customisable and the headphones have a braided cord, which is great for durability and the overall longevity of the headset, there is also an inline remote with a mic mute switch. The only issue with the Pulse-R is that by comparison to the other peripherals in the Aluminium line it simply performs well. It sits in the sub $100 price bracket a price point that is getting rather crowded and although its design is substantially better than many of its competitors its sound quality doesn’t rival much more expensive models. That is the shame of the Pulse-R, the Mech and the Reaper perform as well if not better than their more expensive competitors leaving the Pulse-R an admittedly solid headset looking inadequate because it doesn’t blow away your expectations.

Pros:

+ Good sound quality.

+ Great design and build quality.

+ Detachable mic.

Cons:

– Sound quality is only good not exceptional.

– Ear Cups can pinch bigger ears

TL;DR

The Pulse-R is a solid headset but its design is the only area in which it truly trumps its competition.

7.5/10

Final TL;DR

CM Storm are definitely heading in the right direction by providing a total solution for gamers, this one stop shop approach means your system looks consistent and with the performance of the Mech and Reaper being so great it is hard to deny their appeal, the only downside is the Pulse-R which is still a solid headset but of the trio it is the weakest link and gamers will have to decide whether they want to keep their look consistent at the expense of sound quality.

Rocco Rinaldo ©2014

OXCGN’s Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2014 Review


I have for the most part avoided the mechanical keyboard craze. At the time when I was selecting the peripherals to go with my rig mechanical keyboards were hard to come by and really expensive. These factors and a quick realisation that even though I had built a rig it didn’t mean I would magically have more time to play games drove me towards getting a less expensive non-mechanical keyboard. Now that I have tried the Razer Black Widow Ultimate 2014 I am beginning to see the light, mechanical gaming keyboards offer a significantly different experience to membrane keyboards.  However is this advantage enough to overcome the substantial price difference between a mechanical and membrane keyboard?

Design

Wrapped in matte finished soft touch plastic the 2014 Blackwidow is a sleek keyboard that does not waste space with flashy displays or an abundance of programmable keys. The design remains the same as last year with the keyboard connecting with a braided 6ft cable and green backlighting the default. The Blackwidow also features USB 2.0 and Audio pass through meaning you can run your headset and mouse from the keyboard which is always handy.

So what then is the difference between the 2013 and 2014 models? The answer comes by way of the new razer designed mechanical switches, which replace the industry favoured Cherry MX switches. These new razer developed switches mirror the functionality of Cherry switches but have been designed for gaming with shorter actuations and improved durability claims. The change means that where originally buyers had a choice of Cherry MX Blue, Black, Brown or Red Razer fans only have two options in the form of Razer Green (loud clicks and feedback) or Orange (quieter clicks).

From my perspective this change has very little impact as I this is the first mechanical keyboard I have used, however when comparing this keyboard to other mechanical keyboards the difference between the Razer and the Cherry MX switches was evident.  For most people the change will have little consequence, if anything Razer has made it simpler for consumers by offering switches that emulate the features of the most popular Cherry MX switches, made them quicker and improved their lifespan. One final note on the design which is something common to all mechanical keyboards, they weigh significantly more than a membrane keyboard, the BlackWidow 2014 weighs in at 1.5kg, which when sitting on your desk is no issue but does make heavier to move around all the time.

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Performance 

The first thing you will notice about the Blackwidow is the responsiveness; this is a gaming keyboard designed to allow you to do more things in less time. The audible click is strangely satisfying as you duck and weave around the battlefield and I found less need to constantly spam keys to get the desired effect. The move to Razer’s own switches has allowed the company to develop gaming switches rather than adapting typing switches, this has resulted in the movement of the keys feeling shallower and quicker. This is in line with the sleek aesthetics and focus on performance.

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Should You Buy It?

The 2014 Blackwidow Ultimate offers Razer’s best technology however at a huge premium and at the expense of some the features of its competitors. The keyboard still only features USB 2.0 in this the age of USB 3.0 something that you might expect when you are buying a top of the line gaming keyboard. Some might argue that with very few devices needing USB 3.0 this would have been a waste but this is gaming hardware excess is in its character.

Secondly at $229.95 AUD this keyboard is quite an investment. The price is in many ways justified by the long claimed lifespan of the Razer switches but unlike the Cherry MXs these new keys have not been in the market long enough for us to see whether they live up to the hype. The price whilst comparable to other mechanical keyboards is a significant bar to entry for the budget conscious. Even if shopping around might net you a better deal the price especially in light of the new switches puts the focus on Razer’s history, which by all accounts is favourable but can it supplant the legendary status and wide industry recognition of the Cherry MX switch? This is a question for time to answer, the Blackwidow 2014 is a great keyboard but it seems like the first tentative step on the path to revolution rather a huge leap towards redefining the mechanical keyboard arena.

It is commendable that Razer is moving switch development in-house but without changing the design or updating the new model to USB3.0 you have to question whether Razer is banking on its past successes to sell new gear rather than offering something truly new to catch the attention of gamers. It seems like this one is for the Razer fans, if you trust the direction the company is going and were happy with the 2013 but need something slightly quicker this might be the board for you.

 

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Pros:

+ Quick Switches

+ Sturdy design

+ Braided Cables

Cons:

– Untested switches

– USB 2.0 Passthrough only

– Very expensive

TL;DR

The Blackwidow 2014 maintains the design of the 2013 model but with Razer’s new in-house developed switches, which depart from the industry favourite Cherry MX switches, the price is still quite high meaning you are banking on your faith in Razer as a high quality manufacturer rather than millions of hours of user generated feedback about the quality and durability of the switches. The premium feel is lessened in some respects by the lack of USB3.0 and any new innovation in relation to functionality.

8/10

OXCGN’s Cooler Master CM Storm Ceres-500 Review


Great cost effective PC headset but a messy console option

Not too long ago, PC gaming only really needed two peripherals, a mouse and keyboard, however, in this age of online FPS’s, MMO’s and MOBA’s, vocal communication has become a necessity, thus gaming headsets have become the third must-have peripheral for any online gamer.

With the giants in the gaming headset industry, like Turtle Beach, Razor and SteelSeries, how does Cooler Master’s CM Storm Ceres-500’s stack up?

Ceres-500 2
The Cere-500’s have a nice black and white design and they easily fold up.

Let’s go right into the nitty-gritty specs:

Headphones:

Drivers 40mm Driver
Frequency 20Hz – 20,000Hz
Impedance 32 Ω
Sensitivity @ 1kHz 116 dB ± 4dB
Conntections 3.5mm Jack / USB
 Cable Length  3.0M

Microphone:

Frequency Response 100Hz – 10,000Hz
Sensitivity (@1kHz)  -54dB +/- 3 dB
Pick-Up Pattern Omni-Directional

Out of the box the Ceres-500 look and feel great. They’re not too over the top keeping the price down, they don’t feel too cheap and are reasonably comfortable. With a built-in controller on the cord, you can mute your mic, control your master volume and your chat volume (Just in case you can’t handle those screaming 13 year olds) and an additional jack for use with and Xbox 360 controller. Beyond that you have a 3 meter long cable spitting between a standard headphone jack and a USB. At all times, the USB must be plugged into a powered device in order for the headphones to work, due to the built-in amplifier.

This can cause an unsightly amount of cords when plugging it into your console and TV, and those (like myself) who are neat freaks with cords will get a little OCD about it.

Ceres-500 3
Included in the Box is a Xbox 360 headset cable, the controller (part of the headset cord), an RCA cord to to plug it into your TV, and a detachable microphone.

The Ceres-500’s are compatible with PC and Mac and only require you to plug them in via a USB port, at which point both the headphones and microphone are available. However, that’s not so much the case when you’re using a PS3 or Xbox 360 as the set up gets much more complicated. Because these are wired headphones, you’ll need to run cables not only to your console for power via USB, but also your TV/console for audio, this can lead to a lot of cords going all over the place. Your setup may vary depending on your console and TV model, when we tried out the Ceres-500’s with out Xbox 360, we discovered out television did not have an RCA audio out, thankfully, it did have a standard headphone jack so we were able to use the headphones that way, however, because the headphone jack and USB split from the same cable, it’s not possible to have the two plugs too far apart from each other.

To fix this, we used one of our spare headphone extension cables and plugged it right into the TV. You won’t have this problem if you’re plugging your console in via RCA, however I do recommend HDMI for any modern digital device.

Ceres-500 4
Easily plug in your headphones to your computer, little more complicated when plugging it into your console.

Once we had everything plugged in and working, the Ceres-500’s worked wonderfully without any hiccups. However, whenever it came to anything involving music, in particular, a lot of bass, the headset fell short. Although I’m sure this headset was never made for those audiophiles out there, there are plenty of games out there that have fantastic soundtracks and can make the game feel really immersive, however when hearing the music and sound effects through the Ceres-500’s, you can help but notice the imperfections.

TL;DR

The Ceres-500 is a PC/Console headset on the cheap, and while it’s a decent PC headset for gaming, it’s not ideal for music or other media. The built-in amplifier needs power via USB, so that also means it won’t work for most portable devices. If you’re looking for a decent cost effective headset for a PC, then perhaps you should consider getting the Ceres-500’s, for those of you who are console gamers, I’d save your money and look into a wireless headset.

Pros:

+ Great cost effective headset for PC

+ Easily foldable design

+ Works for multiple consoles (Xbox 360, PS3 and apparently PS4) as well as PC at a budget price

+ Reasonable sound quality for voice and gaming

Cons:

– 3M cable when using it just for a PC makes a bit of a mess

– Microphone doesn’t have a whole lot of flexibility

–  Headset is USB powered, so you can’t use it for most tablets and phones, Although…

– …It’s not a media headset, and it doesn’t handle bass very well

6/10

OXCGN’s SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard Review


apexAll of the lights

Gaming peripherals are fast becoming a common fixture in many homes, no longer the staple of the hardcore gamer, new feature packed and affordably priced keyboards are emerging aimed at giving PC users access to quality products that can be used for so much more than typing.

The Apex Gaming Keyboard from SteelSeries is one such keyboard, armed with a plethora of programmable keys, 5 independent lighting zones and a built in USB hub this keyboard is aggressively positioned with both the gaming and productivity markets in its sights.

Now this review was conducted on two separate machines to test the various strengths and weaknesses of the keyboard, this keyboard was also compared to the stock keyboard in my Macbook Pro and my own keyboard a Logitech G110.

That design
That design

Continue reading OXCGN’s SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard Review

OXCGN’s SteelSeries Siberia Headphones Review


siberiaLooks great, sounds great, they must be great

As somewhat of an audiophile I take my headphones seriously and at any one time I will have between 3 and 4 pairs that I use on a regular basis for different purposes. Enter the Siberia Elite from SteelSeries a pair of very high-end gaming headphones that could almost make me consider having only one pair of headphones.

Headphones in a class of their own
Headphones in a class of their own

Continue reading OXCGN’s SteelSeries Siberia Headphones Review

OXCGN’s Xbox One Impressions


X1newsOur writers give their thoughts on Microsoft’s next gen console

The wait is finally over.

The next generation of video gaming is upon us here in Australia, with Microsoft’s Xbox One the first to reach our shores here on the 22nd of November, 8 years to the day of the release of the Xbox 360.

It’s been a couple weeks since we’ve gotten our grubby hands on the Xbox One, and like many of you out there, we’ve formed our own opinions on Microsoft’s latest effort.

Therefore, we here at OXCGN have managed to pry ourselves away from our new consoles in order to bring readers our quick impressions of the Xbox One.

Xbox One
Xbox One

Click to read our staff member’s full impressions on the One