Jun 6, 2006


Well that was weird. Somehow I managed to snag myself a free Xbox 360. Nothing illegal mind you. Just incredibly lucky. I was planning on picking one up when they became a little more available. But free will do nicely.

I think most of the reviews of the 360 have focused on it being evolutionary from the original Xbox. But for me at least it really is a revolutionary piece of equipment. And get this. I haven't even bought a game yet. How so?

First the setup is simple. No screwing around with anything. The worst of it was really finding a spot behind the TV for the humongous powerbrick and punching in those God awful long keys for the wireless WEP security.

The hardware is nice. The controllers truly are perfection. They just feel tight in your hands. And the fact that they are wireless gives you so much more freedom. Some have mentioned that the console design is nice (Apple-like), but it doesn't do much for me. On the other hand I really don't care as it gets slotted into my paltry media shelf and I never see it again. The wireless adapter, while pricey, is so tiny and works so well it's totally worth the 99 bones I paid. Configuring for my wireless signal was amazingly easy. And then connecting the Media Connect to the Xbox (more later) was seamless.

The bootup screen is actually kind of lame considering all the things they could have done. But again that's picking nits. The dashboard however is just perfection. From the screenshots I saw I was prepared to be underwhelmed. But they really thought outside the box on the organization of the elements and how you move around. It works well and is really intuitive. The transitions and responsiveness really ice it for me though. It's hard to describe, but it is just really well designed. And the dashboard upgrade was made with minimal effort.

There really are two things though that make the 360 the bee's knees for me. Downloadable content and media streaming.

The possibilities for content delivery are huge. I hooked the system up and went into the marketplace. Thankfully they don't aggregate the downloadable content. Otherwise it would be just too hard to navigate through so much stuff. But there's enough to keep you entertained. I tried out a Scanner Darkly preview, Cars preview, Red vs. Blue short film, an Avengers cartoon, and a Matisyahu music video. It's effortless, runs in the background, and is quite fast. They also capture the best aspect of PC gaming - downloadable demos. How huge is that? I can try out a game before I waste any money. And then there are the downloadable mini-games. Geometry Wars really is the most incredible game I've played in years. Kameo and Battlefield 2 are cued up next. I presume they are smart enough to charge for advertising fees for this.

If they could rent movies or TV shows I'd probably cancel my Netflix account. If they could do an Amazon and figure out what else I'd like to watch or play the system would be perfect. The small hard disk represents the only real problem here as it limits the number of movies you could store. Note there's a nice RSS feed of new Marketplace stuff here.

The internal media delivery is seamless as well. I downloaded Media Connect on my PC, pointed it to a set of media files (luckily I'm anal about filing), let my 360 connect and presto I have all my music and pictures available on my TV screen. No waiting around to scan the folders. It was all just sitting there on my TV screen waiting for me to pick something. Most people pooh pooh this feature but for me it's probably the best feature. I have tons of pictures that I actually like to look through (those with babies will understand) but sitting in front of the computer just isn't that much fun. And my music collection is all ripped with CDs sitting in storage so playing music has also been relegated to my computer. Sitting back on my couch watching a slideshow of our vacation while playing my favorite album in the background is just pure bliss.

The only downside is that now I'm contemplating upgrading my shitty 10 year old CRT standard definition TV to something new. And I'm kind of proud of the fact that I have a shitty old TV.

No comments: