Hardware Review: Microsoft Kinect

  • Publish Date: November 4, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 78 user comments

What it is

Kinect Reviews
(through Nov. 4)
Great bar 4
Good bar 9
Mixed bar 10
Bad bar 2
Awful 0

Although Microsoft is late to the motion-controlled gaming party established by Nintendo's Wii and then joined earlier this fall by Sony's PlayStation Move, the new Kinect add-on for the Xbox 360 takes the technology one step further.

One known as Project Natal, the Kinect eliminates physical controllers altogether, allowing players to control the on-screen action -- as well as the Xbox's menu system -- through their own body movements and vocal commands. The Kinect sensor bar -- which you simply place near your TV and connect to the 360 (though doing so is easier with the newer 360 S systems) -- combines a camera, microphone, and multiple sensing technologies to track the 3D movements of one or more people in the same room. In other words, you become the controller.

Pricing options

All that's needed to get started with Kinect (other than an Xbox 360, of course), is the Kinect Sensor and a Kinect-enabled game. Thus, the lowest-priced bundle includes both for $149.99 (with the included game being Kinect Adventures! 66). If you don't already have the 360, the console itself now comes bundled with Kinect, for about $300 (including 4GB of storage) or $400 (250GB).

Launch titles

Kinect-enabled games available separately at launch are mainly of the party/casual variety, and include:

What critics are saying

Although the Kinect technology is generally impressing most critics, and the system's control scheme possesses a definite wow factor (at least in the short term), a number of complaints are appearing in multiple reviews. Among them:

  • Space. Unless you don't have a coffee table or much furniture in your Xbox room (and you do have an Xbox room, don't you?), you are probably going to need to rearrange most of your furnishings in order to clear space to play. Microsoft recommends at least 6 feet of unobstructed space, but reviewers are finding that 8-10 feet is better, especially for multi-player games. If your room isn't that big to begin with, you might be out of luck. Mounting your sensor bar high up seems to improve matters a bit, but you'll have to pay extra for a stand or mount.
  • Time. The use of the Kinect seems to slow down the boot process and can make navigating through menus a bit slower than when using a regular controller (though the voice commands do seem to work well for most people). But even though it is sometimes noticeable, lag does not seem to be a factor when playing games.
  • Recognition. After an initial setup, the Kinect is supposed to recognize your face on later visits, automatically signing you into the system. The accuracy of that Kinect ID feature has been spotty at best for most reviewers, with anything from wearing glasses to ambient lighting to skin color seemingly throwing off the sensor.
  • Interface. Want to use the Kinect to navigate through the console's menu system? You can, but only using a separate, more minimal Kinect Hub, which critics found too limited and Kinect controls too inconsistently implemented from application to application. On the other hand, using voice commands to control the applications? That seems to be a hit (when they work).
  • Physicality. Though this could be a benefit rather than a complaint, prolonged Kinect-ing is a real workout (even if you aren't playing one of the several games actually designed for exercise), and many reviewers reported being sore the next day. (Having to move all your furniture around probably won't help matters.)
  • Games. Much as when the PlayStation Move launched, critics are complaining about a lack of solid launch titles for the new control system; only Dance Central seems to have anything to recommend it.

If there is a consensus, it is as expected: the Kinect is a piece of cool technology that certainly has potential to be a game-changer down the line, but at launch, it is an expensive novelty that will be of little interest to hardcore gamers.

Below is a publication-by-publication sampling of the critical response to Microsoft's new controller. We have grouped the reviews based on the general level of enthusiasm for the product, from most to least positive. If a publication assigned a score to the review, it is listed below (converted to a 100-point scale if necessary for purposes of comparison); otherwise, we did not attempt to assign scores to reviews that did not have them. Click on any publication name to read the full review.

Loved It
Score Publication
100 Electricpig
It's the gadget of the year. ... Microsoft Kinect still represents a phenomenal way to get the whole family involved in gaming in a manner that not even Nintendo has managed. And there’s so much potential, we’re aching with excitement. [5/5 stars]
90 Pocket-lint
It sounds cliche, but Kinect really is a truly revolutionary way of interacting with your games console (it's far better than Sony's EyeToy), and we are really looking forward to seeing what games come next.
n/a The New York Times
Nothing since the Wii, certainly not Sony’s imitative Move system for the PlayStation 3, approaches the ambition and technical achievement of Kinect in potentially reshaping the mass home media experience. ... The system has limitations, but Kinect is truly inspiring because it is easy to see that Microsoft is only beginning to take advantage of what this system can do. ... The Kinect experience is so captivating that I found myself looking at my other electronics with scorn.
n/a Strategy Informer
The technology and the feel behind Kinect is simply staggering. ... It's not so much that the [launch] line-up is brimming with excellent titles - more that the technology feels so fantastic, that even the most average gaming experience is elevated to satisfying levels.
Liked It
Score Publication
88 CVG
Kinect is an absolute pleasure to have in the home. Much more importantly, it's a reliable one. [8.8/10]
88 The Globe and Mail
The lag I experienced makes me doubt whether Kinect can be satisfyingly implemented in what one might call a "traditional" game for so-called hardcore players ... However, from both a technical and entertainment perspective, Kinect is a good and innovative product. [3.5/4 stars]
88 USA Today Game Hunters
The overall Kinect experience reminded me of the first time trying the Nintendo Wii, and how marvelous it was to enjoy video games in a whole new way. [3.5/4 stars]
Kinect won't satisfy the hard-core gaming crowd, but we think it'll delight children and make for an excellent entertainment piece at any party. [4/5 stars]
75 IGN
The system requires a lot from users in order to work effectively, and rearranging your room to play games is far from ideal. Delay between the player's and the screen is also a significant problem, and while many may not notice, it will certainly stand in the way of more advanced gaming applications. On the other hand, Kinect can be a tremendous amount of fun for casual players, and the creative, controller-free concept is undeniably appealing. [7.5/10]
While we're not fully sold on the navigation properties Kinect showcases at this moment, there's a chance the technology will result in more innovative gameplay later on. Whether it will, of course, remains to be seen, and requires a leap of faith on the part of the consumer. [3.5/5 stars]
70 Tech Radar
We like Kinect a lot. But it's not a perfect product by any means, and many hardcore gamers out there are going to be disappointed by it. [3.5/5 stars]
70 Wired
Like so many new technologies, 3-D camera control needs lots of improvement before it advances from nifty gimmick to fully functional hardware. The software that drives the current version of Kinect leaves a lot to be desired, and even if Microsoft fixes these early problems, the hardware labors under some perhaps insurmountable limitations. [7/10]
n/a The Atlantic
The wow factor surpassed my first touch-screen tap with the Nintendo DS, my first bowling flick on the Wii, or even my first childhood leap with Super Mario Bros. ... It's hard not to look at Kinect and already wonder when Microsoft will release an improved one in the future. But based on the fun I've already had and witnessed, I'd feel disingenuous to encourage anybody to wait that long.
Mixed Feelings
Score Publication
60 Engadget
The Kinect as hardware is great, but there's plenty of room for software engineers and UI designers to improve. [6/10]
60 PC World
Kinect's imprecise, casual approach won't be for everyone, least of all Wii and PlayStation Move fans used to tactile wands and accurate controls. ... Kinect comes across as a wonderful idea with tremendous potential that's still in need of a smarter interface and better controls. [3/5 stars]
n/a CNN
Games that feature full-body movement make best use of what Kinect can offer. Syncing up your movements with the movements on the screen is a lot easier and more natural with Kinect than with a normal controller. ... But games that would be better enhanced with a physical device in hand feel flat.
n/a Destructoid
I was definitely more impressed by the Kinect hardware (and the software) than I imagined I would be. But I'm not ready to champion Kinect as the death knell for controller-based gaming, and I'm not sure I ever will be.
n/a Eurogamer
Kinect isn't perfect by any means. It's expensive, finicky, unreliable and difficult to accommodate. But it's also an extraordinary piece of futuristic technology. ... It feels, frankly, a lot like your first experience with the Wii; it's not quite as capable as you imagined, but it is inescapably, totally new. And there's no question that non-gamers will be blown away by it, although most will probably find it too expensive.
n/a Gizmodo
Having only 1 title out of 17 launch games truly do something compelling and new isn't a very good launch, especially for people who don't like dance games. Right now, the answer to the fundamental question of "are you having fun with Kinect" is, unfortunately, "not really."
n/a Kotaku
For now, Kinect is a device for people with extra money and — very important — a lot of room in front of their TV. ... Kinect merits a visit to your friend's house if you hear he or she has it. But it's not must-own yet, more like must-eventually own.
n/a MTV Multiplayer
Despite the cool tech, none of the launch games are going to be anything you'll be playing a month from now, and there's no top-tier, first-party title like a "Gears of War" or a "Legend of Zelda" to entice you. Those games may be coming in the future, but for right now you should feel safe in knowing that you're not missing out.
n/a San Jose Mercury News
While the gameplay concepts are there, developers have yet to capitalize on it. ... [And] it's still buggy. All the kinks need to be worked out. At times the system doesn't work right.
n/a Shacknews
When Kinect becomes the device that lets me sit on the couch and interact with my 360 and some games it will earn a permanent place on my gaming center, until then it's reserved for group game night.
Didn't Like It
Score Publication
n/a Ars Technica
The lack of buttons with the Kinect is a big, big problem. ... It's telling that when I play a game with the Move after spending a week with the Kinect everything seems more satisfying with the Move.
n/a Joystiq
I have to put this bluntly: If you don't have at least 8 feet of unobstructed space between where you plan to place the sensor and the limit of how far back you can stand, Kinect will just not work right. ... I find the technology itself fascinating, but the fact that I know a lot of people who simply won't get Kinect to work in their rooms beyond troubling.

What do you think?

Xbox owners: Are you excited about the Kinect? Let us know in the comments section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (78)

  • xkniect  

    Get a free Xbox 360 with kinect. Most people do, and I probably would also, but this is the real deal! This offer is for an exclusive time only and can only be used once per house hold. You’re being offered this amazing deal because Microsoft needs your input about their brand new controller-free feature, Kinect.

  • rc  

    lol. its amazing how the first comments swear kinect will not be able to ship 5 million units to consumers. look at how far kinect has been now. a guiness record on sales, huh?

  • u guys have to get a  

    i<3 MW2 "N" Black ops "N" MW1

  • u guys have to get a  

    get a life and PS3 RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ZipZapZop  

    Nope the first EyeToy was made in 1999. Good job checking your facts while you assauly people with stupidity though.

  • Sara  

    It is a really cool idea that makes the Move look like a cheap copy of the wii. Unfortunately kinect has no controler, which means it has no buttons, joysticks, or the feeling of control. Instead your just flailing your arms and legs to simulate precise movement on a $50 camera. The PS3 controller has 17 buttons and 2 joysticks. The kinnect 'controller' has 4 limbs and a voice. Although the Kinect can be fun there is very little potential. For example one of the games for the Kinect is called Joyride, in Joyride there is no speeding up slowing down or breaking. This is a driving game! Although this is a fun concept ,90% of game genres wont work. And even with new technology I just dont think this is worth peoples time or money even if they do have the required space to play it.

  • Matt  

    I have played the Kinect and as with most things concerning the 360(constant hardware malfunctions, still not fixed) this is not something to make me buy a system at least not yet. The price is too high right now, the Kinect is laggy and at least with Kinect Sports very unresponsive to movements. The space required is a bit too much and not just for proper playing room you also have to consider added at least two feet behing the person/people playing, so people can move around the room without trigger the censor. Anything that moves in front of the censor will disrupt the game, as the censor is oversensitive. The promo line being used "You are the controller" is nothing new as Sony developed this technology for the Playstation 2, it was called an Eye Toy. Albeit the Kinect has more innocation to it, but that tends to come with next generation gadgets. Then, there is also the RROD, that indicates hardware problems for both the system and the Kinect. Overall it does have potential and somethings can be fixed through patching, but currently not a must buy. Sorry Microsoft, but Sony and Nintendo need not worry too much right now.

  • Jackson  

    the only game i dont like is dance central.

  • Godazss  

    You guys who say that kinect is a comlpetly new thing. Are not completly correct. You might remember sony's eyetoy. I know that they took kinect too a much higher level and eyetoy sucked bad time. But the basics still came from eyetoy, much like Move used the the basics from the Wii and improved them.

  • tb  

    I am a hardcore gamer with all 3 systems. While the kinect has some flaws, overall I LOVE IT. Damn I hate hardcore gamers who criticize everything new. Many hardcore gamers have no coordination or athleticism so I can see why they hate the kinect. Its an amazing experience playing a game that requires a bit of athleticism. It works well and despite there lack of depth Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports are two of the funnest games I have EVER played. The wally ball game in Kinect Adventures is an absolute blast. Like any indoor physical activity, you do need some space to play, but the amount of space needed is a bit exaggerated by most on here. There are some flaws though, and here they are: 1) there is some lag so you need to make your movement slightly before you would in real life. The lag is really only a hindrance on fast paced games (like on wally ball where you have to predict what direction the ball will bounce slightly sooner because of the lag). 2) the 360 is a weak system now and it is made weaker by the fact that the Kinect has to do everything it normally does, plus go through a camera and track your body on a screen. It would have been better if the Kinect had a seperate processor. 3) the launch lineup is weak. I like the titles much more then critics. But the games lack depth and there isnt a triple A title. It would have been nice if there was a big andventure game. I love many of the games (Joyride is good too), but they aren't good because of the quality of the games, they are good because of the Kinect. 4) it would have been nice if it came with some sort of nunchuck like controller that could be used with some games. 5) while the price is probably better then the Move, it is still pretty pricey. I would highly recommend the Kinect. I havent been a huge fan of the 360 because mine breaks every 6 months and it doesnt play bluray, but the Kinect is awesome.

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