On November 19, Microsoft is rolling out its most ambitious Xbox 360 system update yet -- an entirely new dashboard that bears little resemblance to the series of panels users currently use to navigate the gaming console.
Dubbed "The New Xbox Experience," this ground-up overhaul of the system's front-end interface also introduces several new features--most notably an avatar system to represent users online and the addition of streaming video content from Netflix, similar to that offered by the Roku Netflix settop box.
Others have, so having lived with the new dashboard update for the past week, we'll instead present some initial impressions--the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The new dashboard divides content, settings, and functions into eight categories, each represented by a horizontal row of boxes. The new look is clean, easy to navigate, and aesthetically pleasing, although it all seems designed to push the maximum in Xbox marketing materials and advertising come-ons to the user.
Three of the rows are fully dedicated to ads and notifications from Xbox Live, while two others are mostly ads. Only the "Welcome" row, with basic instructional information you probably won't have to refer to more than once, and the "Friends," and "My Xbox" rows are exempt. The "Video Marketplace" row, for example, combines local content on your Xbox with links to (both paid and free) video selections from the Xbox Live Marketplace and Netflix.
If the new dashboard has one killer app, it's the Netflix viewer. Similar to the
Controlling the videos with the gamepad is a little trickier, and it takes some time to get used to how the buttons and triggers operate--we were constantly accidentally backing out to the main menu by hitting the "B" button. Using the
The avatar system is stylistically close to (but more detailed than) the Nintendo Wii's Mii characters, with large heads and exaggerated features. The opening screen throws a bunch of random characters up, and asks you to choose one as a template. From there, eyes, noses, hair, etc. can be swapped out. Some categories, such as clothing, seemed a little thin, but we suspect new outfits and body parts will be added eventually.
Also notable in the new Xbox dashboard is the ability to put entire games onto the hard drive for faster loading (although you're still required to put the original disc in the drive). We tried it onand didn't notice much of a difference, but other games may yield better results.
Those are our initial impressions after playing around with the new dashboard for the better part of a week. Stay tuned for a more extensive