In brief: If you are an Xbox Insider, check out your new interface. Microsoft pushed a beta of the upcoming UI, and it looks pretty nice. It's supposed to be faster too, but it's hard to tell that from screenshots. If you happen to be an Insider, let us know how the performance is in the comments.
It's a little later than expected, but starting today, Xbox Insiders are getting their first hands-on look at Microsoft's new user interface (UI) that will roll out globally later this year. The beta creates a more unified look across Xbox One, PC, and the Xbox Series X, once it launches.
The main screen, called the "Guide," has a sharp, clean design with quicker navigation. Access to games and apps are there. Helpful new prompts allow new users to get familiar with their surroundings quickly. Many of the features somewhat mimic Sony's PlayStation UI. The Activity Feed, for instance, is more geared toward social interactions now like sharing screen captures and videos with your Xbox pals.
Notifications are all in one place as well. Whether it's a new message, friend request, or game invite, all are accessed from a single tab. Additionally, notifications will sync across all devices, meaning if users attend to one on the Xbox, it will not still show as unread on their PC or the mobile app.
Microsoft already merged Parties and Chat into a single tab a while back, but this update has added a few other enhancements to it. For example, users will now see message previews. Also, volume controls for voice chat are more granular. Players will now be able to adjust the volume of others in the party individually. This is a nice touch for those times when the chatter is getting too noisy to focus on what one person is saying or when someone's mic gain is set too high.
The devs added profile themes that let players uniquely express themselves. They are somewhat limited at the moment, with some simple color focused layouts and a few game overlays. Microsoft promised more are coming in the weeks ahead.
Rounding out the additions, Microsoft saw the need to simplify the way users access their accounts, especially with its cloud-gaming service on the horizon. Now users can log into as many devices as they want all at the same time. Game progress, your place in a movie or whatever, is synced across all platforms, making the experience seamless when switching rooms or whatever.
Overall, the changes reflect a unification that Microsoft has been aiming for on its gaming platform for some time. With backward compatibility and cloud gaming across devices, the user interface deserved to be revamped to make for a familiar experience no matter what system is running the content.
Microsoft didn't say when the update will be pushed out to regular users, but we can assume it will be ready before the XBSX launch, which is rumored to be November 6.