A member of the Microsoft security team watches over the newly unveiled Xbox One videogame console at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, on May 21, 2013.
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July 20, 2015 1:06 PM EDT

It’s axiomatic to the game console wars that a vocal minority will forever turn the “which to buy” debate into a fracas over technical exotica. Microsoft’s Xbox One has suffered more than Sony’s PlayStation 4 in this regard, struggling to hit today’s high-def sweet spot (1o80p) in faceoffs with its more popular rival. It hasn’t helped that the Xbox One looks like a kludgy 1980s desktop computer, a throwback to boxy “kitchen sink” power design.

But on balance, the Xbox One remains a fine choice in 2015, flush with outstanding exclusives, a lower price tag and increasingly close integration with Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows ecosystem. And those first-gen disparities between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have dwindled as development’s matured, proving both systems are well-matched powerhouses in the hands of experts.

Here’s a roundup of reasons to consider the Xbox One, mid-2015 edition.

Halo 5: Guardians

The only place to play the fifth installment in Microsoft’s storied sci-fi Halo series is the Xbox One. Halo 5: Guardians arrives October 27—a week earlier for Limited Collector’s Edition buyers. And if you want to replay the first four games remastered for Xbox One, the Halo Master Chief Collection, whose online features were still in triage through the early part of this year, looks to finally be in solid shape.

Beyond Halo? Formidable Xbox One exclusives out now or coming this year include Sunset Overdrive, Ori and the Blind Forest, Cuphead, Titanfall, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Forza Motorsport 6.

Your friends play on Xbox Live

Social networks are the future of any online-focused platform. No one save Sony and Microsoft have the hard statistical data accounting for who played what, where and how often on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but if your friends mostly live on Xbox Live, abandoning your pals to play with strangers may be out of the question. (Note that Xbox Live runs $60 a year, and it’s mandatory if you want to play games or do much of anything else with the Xbox One online.)

You can stream Xbox One games to a Windows 10 PC

You’ll need a Windows 10 computer, of course, but if you already have a prerelease version of the operating system (or plan to get one when the public version of Windows 10 arrives on July 29) and you like the idea of cordless platform interoperability, this slick little bonus feature just emerged from beta.

Sidebar: Microsoft plans to reintroduce cross-platform gaming (Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs) with Fable Legends later this year. And Windows 10 will itself soon replace the Xbox One’s native operating system as part of Microsoft’s ongoing OS unification strategy.

It’s cheaper than Sony’s PlayStation 4

By only $50 ($350 versus $400), sure. But that’s more than the price of a used game and nearly the price of a new one. If you want the least expensive game console, that’s technically Nintendo’s Wii U. But if you want the least expensive (upfront) platform that plays third-party games like Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight, the Xbox One wins the price tag war — for now.

Backward compatibility

Console-makers are under no obligation to retrofit their flagship systems with prior-gen titles, but when they do, no one’s going to complain. The Xbox 360 has a powerful back library well worth preserving. The initial list of backward compatible games (in beta, as part of the Xbox One preview program) may look small, but expect it to grow, and anything that made piles of cash to appear on it eventually.

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Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com.

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