Xbox 360 Impressions

After a week long agony of missed deliveries, bad weather and plane delays the Xbox 360 arrived at my house today. It was a long, hard journey but I knew sacrifices would be necessary when we launched Gamers With Jobs, it's the least I can do for my loyal readers.

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I'll be adding impressions of the games over the weekend and leading up to launch but I figured a good starting place would be the hardware itself and a brief bit about the Windows Media Center capabilities.

*UPDATED* Some additional notes at the bottom of the article.

The Console

The first thing I noticed is that new console smell of fresh technology as I cracked open the box. It's the closest I think I can come to recapturing the wonder and excitement I felt as a kid when I would rip into a present I just knew contained a Super Nintendo. My nasal passages full of delicious scents likely to cause cancer, I pulled all the peripherals out of the box and stood over the array piled on my coffee table. Truly, this is what being a gamer is all about. The first thing you notice is that the external power supply is large enough to merit it's own separate review section. It's massive, so big in fact that I can picture some folks having a bit of trouble shoving it into their already tangled and cramped entertainment center rear areas. It's not insurmountable, just a bit fiddly if you're as disorganized as I am when it comes to the nexus of cables back there.

The actual console is a far cry from the large, black and American design of the original Xbox. It's slim and white, it's also pretty quiet but I can only imagine that has something to do with the console's lack of a manly internal power supply. Instead, the black monster resides outside, like the ghost of what was mocking the feminine new system's lack of balls. It's ok Xbox 360, I think you're ADORABLE! Hee!

The front of the system sports two slots for memory cards, the DVD tray, a button that lights up indicating how many controllers are actively connected it and two USB ports hidden away behind a swinging panel. It's nice and clean in design, it looks downright classy when stood next to my aging PS2.

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The Controller

It's like holding God's loofa after he's finished scrubbing down with it in the shower. That's a good thing! It's beautifully molded with a good weight that's not too heavy and not too light or cheap feeling. I especially like the touch of the smooth bottom edge where my middle fingers rest, it's a nice attention to detail. The removal of the dreaded black and white buttons in favor of two extra triggers on the top is a huge improvement as well. Throw in the fact that it's wireless (corded is still an option) and you can turn the console on remotely with it and you've got a winner. Great controller.

The Remote

Included with the premium system (and available separately) is the DVD remote which also doubles as a nice peripheral to interface with the dash board. It fits nicely in your palm and has nice big buttons to navigate the menus available to you. With a single button press you can bring up the Media Center interface and access all your music, images and recorded TV. Of course, it also doubles as a channel changer and DVD remote for the usual navigations, what else could you want? Huh?! That's what I thought.

The Dashboard

You've never had a better experience with a console dashboard. I dare say it's possibly the single best thing about my Xbox 360 experience so far. With an easy to navigate tabbed folder system, you can access every function you may need quickly and without much difficulty at all. The opening page shows options to view your friends list, messages, the Xbox Live Marketplace and of course, to play the game currently in your drive. In the messaging section you can choose to contact a fellow Xbox 360 owner for a live one-on-one voice chat, goodbye long distance charges!

A quick flip to the right brings up a games list, from here you can look at your various game achievements, the games you've been playing and the ability to play and download new Xbox Live Arcade games. You can also get to demos and trailers you've downloaded here too.

Another flip to the right brings up the Media Center interface. From here you can access your music list, pictures, videos or launch the full Media Center interface. I plugged my Canon digital camera into one of the front USB slots and I could immediately access the images contained on it from here, pretty slick and easy enough to do for most people.

One last flip to the right brings up the options screen, here you can set everything from your screen preferences, audio, language, parental controls, network settings and the computers you may have connected to the Xbox. The menus are all very easy to surf around in and don't leave you wanting for much at all.

Media Center

Perhaps the centerpiece of the whole dashboard experience is the Media Center, presumably where one can access the images, music and videos on a Media Center friendly PC. The images and music thing works great, I installed the Media Center enabler on my desktop PC and within about five minutes I was on the 360 and scrolling through my music lists and the photos I took while stalking Pyro. The videos thing is where I encountered my first real disappointment. Here I was hoping I could just as easily access the videos on my computer and play them on the TV. It was not meant to be.

If you don't have the Windows XP Media Center Edition OS installed on your PC, you will not be able to stream videos from it. Period. Throw that daydream out the window. If you DO have Media Center you'll be pretty limited as to WHAT you can access. The primary function is to stream the TV shows you've recorded from your cable box to your Media Center PC. Want to play that AVI file you downloaded? Too bad, the 360 won't play that format. You're limited to MPEG's and WMV files mainly so think long and hard before you spend too much money to have the ultimate in porn streaming technology. I reserve the right to be wrong though, I need to do more testing with my laptop, which has the Media Center OS on it.

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That limitation aside, I'm very pleased with the console design, the controller, the dashboard and most of the Media Center functions. It's all very slick, user friendly and packed with more features and information than you might ever need.

I'll be back later with some actual game impressions (Live Arcade games included) once I've spent more time with them. Stay tuned!

*UPDATE*

I wanted to add a couple notes to this space after a few more days with the system. One, this sucker can get LOUD. When the fan kicks on I'd say you need to have your sound up to a moderate level to drown it out. It's not a deal breaker by any stretch, but it caught me off guard when I first heard it after an extended session of Madden.

Connecting my Ipod to the USB port in the front worked like a charm, I could even stream music off it to act as background while I played Project Gotham Racing 3. Very cool!

I've had some luck with streaming certain video types through Windows XP Media Center Edition (again, you can't do video with regular Windows XP) although the file type support (MPEG and WMV) is still limited. Going to a wired network connection rather than wireless makes a big difference.

Game impressions start here!

- Certis

Comments

Certis - I didn't really read the article, or any of the above comments. I just looked at the pictures in the article. I just have one question - Will you adopt me? Please? I mow a mean yeard. And I can kinda cook.

Beyond that, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I can't see the point in getting one until the line up of games is stronger.

So ... why are you in this thread again?

"Man sports are so boring, I cannot understand why anyone watches them, I think I'm going to hang out in the Sports forum."

TheGameguru wrote:
If you don't have the Windows XP Media Center Edition OS installed on your PC, you will not be able to stream videos from it. Period. Throw that daydream out the window. If you DO have Media Center you'll be pretty limited as to WHAT you can access. The primary function is to stream the TV shows you've recorded from your cable box to your Media Center PC. Want to play that AVI file you downloaded? Too bad, the 360 won't play that format. You're limited to MPEG's and WMV files mainly so think long and hard before you spend too much money to have the ultimate in porn streaming technology. I reserve the right to be wrong though, I need to do more testing with my laptop, which has the Media Center OS on it.

Thats pretty odd.. thats a HUGE step backwards from the existing Media Extender Technology and even the fairly limited Xbox Media Extender add-on..

weird.

I agree. As far as I am aware ALL of the media center connectivity is based on UPNP functionality. So technically you should be able to utilize any UPNP software to serve up content (say a Linux based server). That being said they have XP based Windows Media Connect Server that I use for my various UPNP media devices (Roku for instance) around the house. Looks like the current version is available here. Alternatively you can try the older version as well. Let us know how it goes.

Looks like I'll stick with XBMC for the time being on the media side of things.

God dammit Certis, I had pretty much decided that I wasn't going to whine and cry to get wife to concede that I needed one of these for Christmas! Damn you, damn you and your Canadian gameyness.

Now I have to formulate a plan that my wife will buy into.

"Honey, you know how we spent $2k on that new Sony XBR960" The Xbox 360 is going to look soooo great on that in HD"!

Followed by: Silence and a disgusted glare.

hmm my Mt Dew system just arrived from UPS.
the box wieghs about 20 pounds. and, instead of Need for Speed, the sent me Kameo, which wasn't even a choice. I guess NFS wasn't done.

How do Halo and Halo 2 look on the 360? Any really big improvement?

Wish I could tell you but my copy of Halo 2 was stolen a while back.

I'll be doing some more windows media testing today, we'll see how it shakes out.

hmm my Mt Dew system just arrived from UPS.
the box wieghs about 20 pounds. and, instead of Need for Speed, the sent me Kameo, which wasn't even a choice. I guess NFS wasn't done.

Yes Need for Speed is done, Certis has it and I played it yesterday. The acting in story mode is so bad I wanted to throw up.

Cool Mills, you got a freebie before the thing was released, very nice.

Certis, you say it's thin, from the pictures I saw side-by-side, it looked like the thing was just as thick as the old Xbox, just it was concave in the middle. Deceiving pictures?

Certis, you say it's thin, from the pictures I saw side-by-side, it looked like the thing was just as thick as the old Xbox, just it was concave in the middle. Deceiving pictures?

Relative to the original Xbox, yes. It's probably about as wide standing up as the PS2 is, give or take a bit.

Certis wrote:
Certis, you say it's thin, from the pictures I saw side-by-side, it looked like the thing was just as thick as the old Xbox, just it was concave in the middle. Deceiving pictures?

Relative to the original Xbox, yes. It's probably about as wide standing up as the PS2 is, give or take a bit.

That's curious. I remember them saying in some gaming magazine that they were going to make a smaller console to appeal more to the Japanese market, whose living space is at a premium.

That's curious. I remember them saying in some gaming magazine that they were going to make a smaller console to appeal more to the Japanese market, whose living space is at a premium.

Considering it's about the size of a PS2 and that did ok in Japan, I'm sure (for that part at least) they'll be fine

PyromanFO wrote:
Beyond that, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I can't see the point in getting one until the line up of games is stronger.

So ... why are you in this thread again?

"Man sports are so boring, I cannot understand why anyone watches them, I think I'm going to hang out in the Sports forum." ;)

I'm in the thread because I've an interested in the 360. I didn't say all sports are crap - just that I'd wait a while before watching the sports channel. You know, until co-ed volley ball or Bangkok table tennis comes on.

I'm all for the excitement of anticipation - it's good to imagine what we can do with new technology. But until the games come along, I'm not sure that technology will be fully appreciated. Maybe 360 folks are just happy that the next gen has rolled around and, in the next few months, we'll have some (one hopes) decent uses and games for it.

Do you guys want to buy one now because you're early adopters or is there something else?

Certis what are all the games you have for the 360?We need more updates damn it!

I preordered mine at EB in May and they called and said I don't get one till the second shippment....I'm I the only one going to Walmart Monday night?

I'll be there trying to get a system to ebay it.

something so simple I noticed it's one of those things more companies may consider- the wireless controller with the power button on it. if the game is in the tray, just turn it on without walking over to the system, and of course turning it off. this does, however, make me afraid of Soul Calibur on Dreamcast rage. "Hey, where's your controller?" ,,, "I threw it out the window after I cut the wire of and bashed the controller into the bedpost." now it would be "Hey, where's your 360 controller?" ,,,, "Dunno, out there... somewhere....."

the 360 dashboard is really slick.

the AA batteries for the wireless controller and the remote are Energizers, not those funky Ochiban Brown Cap Batteries Fun GO!

Ridge Racer 6 is great on single player. For some reason Perfect Dark was difficult to control for the first 15 minutes, and I can't figure out why parts of the video seemed so jumpy- the in-game framerate is fine, but when the camera approaches to give you the first person, the background seems to stop and skip every other second.

Sunday is NFS:Most Wanted. Monday is Quake 4. Tuesday comes the onslaught of online gaming to find out how these games play online, when more people have systems. Also bringing over my gamertag from my ClassicBox seemed a little more difficult than it should have been, the thing tried to set me up with a new tag and profile until I got it right.

no HD for me, but I do have this perfect working Commodore 64 monitor, and everything still looks great from the 360.

Mills wrote:

no HD for me, but I do have this perfect working Commodore 64 monitor, and everything still looks great from the 360.

Wow, I remember the C-64 days, and owning like two of those monitors. Anyway, it's good to see some user opinions on the unit; I feel like a kid again, waiting for this launch to commence. Oh, and this is my first post here...found out about this place while scanning through posts on the official xbox forums (as any good masochist would do). Hi folks...

one thing that doesnt make sense, is why the 20 gig drive is filled with 8 gigs already. i deleted the (lame) pre-loaded music and videos, but that only brought it up to 13 gigs. i suppose it's emulation software for the games, and the dashboard software.

i guess.

Live files, etc, as far as I understand Mills.

What about the people that get the core system and a 64 mb card?What are they going to miss out on?I thought you could download all that live stuff?