If there's anything 'next-gen' about Microsoft's Xbox 360, it has to be the fully integrated online experience. Perhaps even more revolutionary than the hi-def graphics (which PC gamers have had for years), it's the Xbox Live service that's miles ahead of anything else at the moment, integrating online gaming, downloadable demos and the Xbox Live Arcade into one great-looking, great-value service.
Which is why it's such a shame that Microsoft didn't make the console wireless out of the box. If they can include it on PSP and DS, then we can't see why it wasn't implemented on the most powerful games console in the world. The most painful blow was that they saw fit to make the USB adaptor £60, when similar PC technology is around a quarter of that. Nevertheless, we asked Microsoft to send one in for us to try, and to see if the convenience of wireless online gaming justifies the high price.
Setting up for wireless wasn't completely foolproof, but if you've set up your own wireless home network then you'll probably know that it's never easy. The adaptor neatly clips into the back of the console, taking up the USB port on the rear, but when you turn the console on it doesn't ask you to set up the network immediately. We had to delve into the settings menu and then search for our home network, and the Xbox 360 didn't actually find our ZyXEL wireless adaptor. We had to type in the SSID ourselves, but after that we were flying happily along with our Xbox Live account just as easily as if we were using a wired connection.
The 802.11g connection is also fast enough if you want to use the Xbox 360 as a media server, which is one of the most overlooked features of the console. True, the video playback features are limited as it won't play DivX or XviD video files, but if you want to play music and photos from your home PC or media centre, then the 360 works a treat. It'll even stream high-definition Windows Media Video files.
If you don't fancy having the builders completely rewire your house for home networking, you can buy the Xbox 360 Wireless Network Adaptor now, RRP £60. -GC