New Xbox 360 Dashboard
Last week Microsoft released an update to a selected few to test out the new dashboard coming out in Fall of 2010 – which is, of course, Kinect compatible. After updating to the new dashboard last week, I immediately noticed the difference and it started out by the new Avatar linked with your profile. At first, I thought my TV was glitched, but then realized they made all the avatars skinnier, and taller than before. Obviously trying to improve the realistic measurements of the avatars, there was clearly nothing wrong with the previous versions – so why change it? Luckily, you can easily go back to the Avatar Editor and resize it to look normal again.
Overall, the display looks about the same as the old one. The only major differences were the designs. You can tell Microsoft believes “The future is now” and knew the balance between creative and simplicity. It actually looks pretty good, but nothing surprising over the old one – even though the old one looked fantastic as well. As you’re browsing through the dashboard, it reminds you of the Nintendo Wii since they also use the design of the white boxes layout and overall, the dashboard is just an expanded grid of the Wii’s home screen.
As expected, the marketplace is very similar to the old one, in terms of style and display. However, they included a new method of organizing the games. The Game Marketplace section is just like before; You start out on “Explore Game Content”, then certain game ads, then your actual game library. When exploring game content, you’ll notice the changes as soon as you scroll around to browse what’s there. When you go to “Games by Title,” instead of having a listed order of all the letters, they give you tiles – just like the front page. Once you select a letter, you choose whether you want to browse that letter by title, release date, popularity, or top-rated. They’ve also included another new section of the game marketplace called “Specialty Shops”. From there you can choose Avatar Marketplace, Indie Games, Game Room, and 3 Music Stores for Rockband, Guitar Hero, and Lips. All just a waste of space, and proving “Specialty Shops” is completely redundant – since all those can be accessed from either the dashboard, or from “All Downloads,” which makes more sense than “Specialty Shops”.
Next we move on to the Video Marketplace where they have Zune, Netflix, and OH MY GOD ESPN! That’s right you can now watch ESPN straight from your 360. And the best part is, it’s completely free for all XBox Live Gold subscribers. We’ll first take a look at the Zune service. Just like before, there are constant 35MB updates almost every day you use it. Not much has changed since the previous Zune Marketplace, except for the search feature. Now, instead of going to your computer to search for a song or move, you can just search it right from your 360. Most videos have a preview before you buy it in either SD or HD. Netflix hasn’t changed much either, still having the same layout as before, and using the same tiles as the new dashboard theme does. Of course, just like the Zune Marketplace, they have added a search future that allows you to add movies directly to your instant queue by searching for them on your 360. No longer do you need a computer to search for movies. Other than that, Netflix is the same as before.
The ESPN Service is the newest and most-hyped features of the new 360 dashboard. This is only for XBL Gold Subscribers, and people who have the right internet service provider – I use Comcast and it works fine for me. To see if your internet service provider is compatible for ESPN, go to http://www.ESPN.com. ESPN allows you to watch live events of almost any sport being shown nationwide including, baseball, basketball, boxing, football, golf, soccer, and much more. I have noticed that they don’t show all live events on ESPN. For example, my uncle told me to watch the Raiders game last Monday on ESPN, but it wasn’t on ESPN on my 360. The most common live event is college football which seems to be a strength in ESPN. They have also included an On-Demand section in which you can watch a replay of games from the past. But still, they only focus on NCAAF, but not NFL. In fact, I don’t even think you can watch anything that’s not soccer, poker, tennis, or golf. They only have some news about players and events but no live watching or on demand listings. Due to all the sports you can browse, the organization isn’t that bad. I was able to instantly find my sport and see what they have available. You can add a My Sport section in which you pick your favorite sports, and see what they have available for the sport you like.
Last but not least, they changed the avatar customizations. Just like the Zune marketplace, there seems to be an update almost every time you enter, but it doesn’t sign you off of Xbox live. After browsing the different options they have, instead of having the old grid view, they expanded the grid and instead made it columns but still very easy to get used to. Nothing really changed in terms of the old one. The only major difference is the gamer picture you can take for your avatar. They have a bunch of preset faces with the picture already taken that you can choose from. And now, instead of having only color backgrounds, you can now have pattern backgrounds like a color pattern or a nice beach view. But don’t worry, they still have the traditional camera for you to take your own picture.
Overall, the new dashboard isn’t that bad, but nothing too fancy other than ESPN. It does seem a little more child friendly with boring elevator music and happy avatars. The full video review is below.