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CNET First Look
OnLive MicroConsoleAs a $99 set-top box, OnLive's MicroConsole offers an intriguing low-cost alternative to traditional living room game consoles.
-Hi, I'm Dan Ackerman, and we are here taking a look at the new OnLive MicroConsole. Now, if you haven't heard of OnLive that started off as a pretty clever idea for a PC gaming service. Essentially, you take any laptop or desktop you have sitting around, whether or not it had a graphics card, and you could play a lot of PC games on it because OnLive would actually render the game play remotely and then send you back a streaming live video of you playing the game. We were really skeptical about it at first but when we get our hands on OnLive and tried it out, we thought it actually worked pretty well. Now, they have a version you don't even need a computer to use. It's called the MicroConsole, and it's this little box right here. You plug it into an Ethernet jack. It's got an HDMI output. There's also a component output adapter kit available; and, of course, power supply. You connect this wireless control that looks a lot like an Xbox controller, and you hook the whole thing up to your TV, and you can access the online service on your TV without having a laptop or a desktop. The interface looks exactly like the computer version of OnLive and works the same way. You have a marketplace where you can go and buy games, and you have an arena where you can actually watch other people playing games live. That's one of the more clever inventions here. And, of course, you can go into your "My Games" tab here and actually play one of the games that you've bought. You're not playing it directly off this box. It's actually, again, streaming from a remote location. So we've got the wireless controller hooked up here and we're gonna go into DarkSide. That's a very console-style third-person action game. That works pretty well with this wireless controller. We also managed to hook up a regular Xbox wired controller. I actually liked the look and feel of that controller a little bit better. They work about the same. For a third-person action game like this, got a little bit of lag that's built in to OnLive because you're streaming, kind of, your data out to the farm. It's rendering it and sending it back, isn't really perceptible; works great for this. For first-person shooters, the gamepad-style controls really aren't the best. There's a little bit of lag there, and of course, you don't get that sort of snap to aim that you get in the console versions of these games because you're really playing the actual PC version of it. So, in that case, you can plug in a keyboard and a mouse because you've got 2 USB ports right here. So, I'm gonna plug my keyboard in right here, and I'm gonna plug my wireless mouse dongle in right over here. So, for a traditional first-person shooter like this, you really need to have the keyboard and mouse plugged in because you don't get that sort of snap to aim assist, and it's really hard to play with the gamepad-style controller. Much like the PC version of OnLive, this MicroConsole version, largely works as advertised. It does output 1080p video. However, the quality is not gonna be as good as if you hooked the game console up to a big screen TV. There's some softness here. There are some compression artifacts. You are streaming the game footage live online. So, it's really dependent on your network connection as well. However, compared to spending $300 or more in a game console, this MicroConsole is $99. That gets you this box, the wireless controller, and a free game. And the games run the same as retail games. It's about $50 for A-list titles. You can pre-order the OnLive MicroConsole right now for $99, and it should start shipping around the very beginning of December. I'm Dan Ackerman, and that's the OnLive MicroConsole.