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New Xbox 360 Dashboard: What to expect

Tomorrow will be a special day if you own an Xbox 360 -- your Dashboard is being refreshed. Among other things, you'll be able to buy and download full games directly to your Xbox

Tomorrow will be a special day if you own an Xbox 360, because your Dashboard is being refreshed.

You'll revel in some of the features Microsoft outed at its E3 press conference a few moons ago. These include direct downloads of full Xbox 360 games, an Avatar Marketplace to buy brand-name clothes and accessories for your Xbox avatar (a Halo 3 t-shirt costs 80 Microsoft points), and more options to sort your achievements and friends by.

But let's get back to direct game downloads, since they're the only thing to get marginally moist about. There are 21 to choose from at launch, including CNET UK favourites Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Assassin's Creed and Tomb Raider Legend.

They cost £20, and work thusly: pay cash, download game, devour gigabytes of limited hard-drive capacity, lack re-sale options and enjoy the DRM's ability to allow you only to play the game while you're signed in. Your sister? Yeah, she's going to have to buy her own copy, the freeloading grabass.

CNET UK user's preview: "Nothing to get too excited about"

A few lucky Xbox gamers got to try out the new Dashboard for a week before it launched. One was CNET UK regular Pokeh, and he's not convinced by the idea of the Avatar Store: "Wouldn't you rather spend your money on some actual game content like map packs?" he asks. "I'm more excited about Awardables, which unlock clothes for your avatar, like achievements.

"The Dashboard update offers a lot of improvements and refinements, but it's nothing to get too excited about. Personally, I'm waiting for the update that arrives later this year."

The update he's referring to contains the rest of the goodness Microsoft promised us earlier this year: streaming movies in 1080p high definition, integration with Twitter, Facebook and CNET UK's sister site Last.fm, and the Sky TV service which we previewed a few weeks back.

For a quick peek at what to expect tomorrow, check out our screenshots of the new Dashboard here, and leave any thoughts you have in the comments below.