First Impressions: The New XBox 360 Dashboard

I woke up Thursday morning just like I always do, put my pants on, went to class, came home and booted up the 360.

The console, which I have set to start on the dashboard, immediately notified me of an available update. After quickly downloading some files using the old-school dashboard, it booted into the new one and finished downloading/installing the rest. The entire process took about 4 minutes, although I’m sure had I been on a day early during launch the strain on the servers would have been heavier.

XBox Avatars

After agreeing to a new privacy policy, I was immediately instructed to “abduct” a new avatar. Seriously.
As far as avatar customization goes, it’s pretty much the Mii creator with a little more variety, and accessories. I’m sporting some slick fuzzy gloves and an awesome battle scar.

The left stick very intuitively adjusts your avatar’s head for a better view while customizing – it’s good to see a character generator finally get this right.

You have the option of taking a snapshot of your avatar and using it as a gamer picture.

Your friends list now also puts their created avatars front and center – which allows for some very interesting social revelations, especially for those friends you don’t know in person or haven’t seen for a while.

Hey M$, you know what you should be able to do? Use your gamerscore to buy new clothes. Or at least let gamerscore have some sort of positive connotation…

There are also arcade titles now available that use your Mii in-game. Oops, sorry, I mean your avatar.

Look, Feel, and Sound

It’s like a titanium-coated Wii interface on ice. Coverflow meets analog sticks. XP collides with Vista. It’s attractive and unique. Although one could say it feels very similar to an Apple UI, this has a distinctly Microsoft feel to it.

The navigation is faster and more fluid, more intuitive, and visualizes many layers deep, allowing you to find where you want to go before you’re actually there. It’s also worth noting that this dashboard is a LOT faster than the old one. At least on my system, things were getting quite laggy. Thumbnails, menus, and everything else pop up at a rate that is no longer complainable in the least.

The sound is simple, crisp, and subliminally makes you want to play chess. Although I’m going to miss that whooshing sound of the slides going back and fourth on the old dashboard…

Here’s a double edged sword – there are no more blatantly placed advertisement banners, in fact, it’s now impossible to tell exactly what is an advertisement and what isn’t. The new Xbox experience is fraught with slick product placement. That’s the future, might as well get used to it.

Finally, the Xbox guide button functions similarly, but brings up a different menu. This menu turns out to be a minimalistic re-design of the original dashboard.

New Features

Having a Netflix subscription just got a whole lot more attractive, with access to instant streaming.

Parties of up to 8 can get together and chat, or “roam from game to game”.

Taking a page from the book of Sony, you can now install full games onto your harddrive. The disc will still be required to play. But your load times will be decreased, and your disc drive won’t be making as much ruckus.

You can also now shop the Xbox LIVE Marketplace from your PC, via http://marketplace.xbox.com. Stuff can be downloaded upon your next sign on.

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