Dec 8, 2011

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Xbox 360 Dashboard Update Review

Xbox 360 Dashboard Update Review

The new Xbox 360 dashboard update hit 360s this week, and while it might be missing some key features in the television space, the new look is very much welcomed. The new style takes some pointers from the PS3 XMB and Windows Phone’s theme. The vertical design is gone and replaced with a horizontal XMB that allows for easy access to games, music and apps. This new design not only looks sleek, but is the best Dashboard design yet, allowing gamers to quickly access everything on the Xbox, which means you will no longer struggle with finding where you download demos.

I disliked the previous dashboard design the moment it was installed. Everything seemed to be hidden behind ads, numerous ads being shoved in my face while I search for the Netflix app or a demo that was recently released. Not to mention not being able to quickly see who is online, without having to use the guide button.  Navigating the dashboard was tedious, and I always wanted Microsoft to either use the horizontal style of the PS3 or go back to the blades. Now with the new design, the horizontal theme works much better, but those hoping to avoid ads will be disappointed. One of my biggest complaints about Xbox Live is not being able to turn off ads. We pay to use the service, yet we are still shown ads constantly? At least now you’ll be able to launch a game right away from the dashboard without having to navigate past ads to do so. You’ll still see a great deal of advertisements throughout the dashboard, but at least you can quickly ignore them now.

Video Review of the Xbox 360 Dashboard Update

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With the new design everything can be quickly accessed; from apps to games, you can scroll horizontally to find what you need. Much like the PS3 XMB, the dashboard displays all the major sections you might want to access: Social (Twitter, Facebook, Friends Avatar, Achievements, etc.), Video (movies, game trailers, etc.), Games (Game marketplace, demos, purchased games, etc.), Music (Zune Marketplace, Music stored on your HD, etc.), Apps (Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, etc.) and Settings.

Overall, things seem to be the same, with a few aesthetic changes. It is frustrating to have to download the apps again, but that’s not a big deal. Each sectionhas different windows to allow you to quickly navigate to the desired application. There are some ads mixed in of course, which is annoying. Recommended games are displayed for you, along with any other content that is brand new, very similarly to the PS Store theme. It’s nice to actually be able to find what is new right in front of you while you are navigating to find your desired content. Before it used to be first thing you see, but now it’s there just in the background.

 

One nice addition is the “Quick Play” window, this allows you to jump to the most recent apps, games or content that you’ve used. We’ve seen this on smart phones, but having it on consoles makes a lot of sense. Now you can quickly get the apps you use all the time, making it even easier to navigate the dashboard. Cloud storage is another big feature that was introduced. Giving you over 500 MB of cloud storage, you can now access any content from any Xbox provided you login to your Xbox Live Account. I feel bad for those people who bought the Xbox USB drive, although to be fair, it’s their fault for doing that in the first place. Bing search function was also introduced, giving people the ability to search for all kinds of content available on the Xbox Marketplace. A nice feature, but one I will never use.

The new Xbox 360 dashboard is the best interface we’ve seen, and the only thing holding it back from greatness are the ads. It looks great and it is easy to find everything. The ads thrown all over the place no longer bother me as much as it used to, since you can get to what you want without having to navigate past ads, well at least in most sections of the dashboard. You do need to keep in mind that a large amount of these features require an Xbox Live account and a separate subscription fee, making it not so attractive compared to the free PlayStation service. Still, the redesign is very much welcomed, and even though a big draw was supposed to be Kinect controls (which I didn’t test), the dashboard works great without it.