Xbox 360 Initial Review

Post ImageI am calling this an “initial review” because I expect that my opinions will change over time as I use the system more, learn more about it, and get some new and interesting games. So far, I am incredibly impressed with the Xbox 360, and here’s why:

Physical Design
The Xbox 360 is a very attractive device, and is definitely more than just an evolution over the original Xbox. Dickson remarked that he thought silver might have been a better color, but I actually quite like the white and silvery-grey color scheme. The 360 is also a very appropriate size, meaning it’s not big and clunky, but it’s not tiny and fragile either. The ability to stand upright or down flat is also a cool design feature, and one that I think more devices should have. Another nice feature is that the console doesn’t feel too heavy. The USB ports are nicely hidden away until you need them, as are the memory ports. The controller feels natural and comfortable in your hands, unlike the original Xbox controller.

Perhaps the only design feature that I really do not like about the 360 is the power brick. The thing is massive, as you can see here. I guess they were really worried about another problem like the original Xbox had, but seriously, the thing is massive. The console itself is smaller, lightweight and perfect for taking from place to place, but that damn power brick would seriously make any trip a lot more work.

I’m sure you’ve heard all about the three cores the Xbox 360 has, the fancy video capabilities, etc. Unfortunately I haven’t really been able to see them in action yet, so I don’t really want to comment. There’s other technology though, like the wireless controllers – easy to setup, comfortable, and you don’t notice any lag or anything. They work great! I like that there are three USB ports (two at the front, one at the back), though I wonder if I could plug in a USB hub – I’ll have to try that. Would have been nice to have wireless Internet integrated, instead of a separate purchase! I have to go to Andrew’s to try the HD features on his fancy TV, but the cable alone makes me want a better TV!

Xbox Dashboard
I really like the Xbox Dashboard (the software that acts as your interface with the device). The interface is extremely intuitive, and it also looks very attractive. Everything seems to be laid out quite well, and the different areas of the console (Xbox Live, Games, Media, System) are color coded. The only oddity is that sometimes an information screen or input panel appears on the right and sometimes on the left. There’s probably a pattern, I just haven’t used it enough to figure it out yet. (I don’t know what they call them, but think of a horizontal toast (those little MSN popups in Windows)).

Xbox Live
The integration of the console with Xbox Live is very deep, and I think it works very well. Xbox Live definitely feels like it’s an integral part of the console, one of those killer features. I only have a Silver membership right now but that will probably change as soon as I get some more games. My gamertag is MAQXBL. I definitely need to explore the Xbox Live Marketplace and some of the other features before I comment too much. So far I have noticed there’s lots of videos and demos for download (I am downloading the Kameo demo now).

Much has been written about the 360 being Microsoft’s trojan horse into the living room – and my oh my were those articles ever correct. I am currently listening to music that is stored on my computer, but is being played through the Xbox 360 (which is hooked up to the big speakers). I can also view pictures that are on my computer on the TV using the 360. If I had a Media Center PC the integration would be even tighter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Xbox 360 spurs sales of those computers. The interface is pretty good, and everything just works which is the important thing. Well almost everything. I couldn’t get the 360 to recognize my Zen Touch or my Canon Digital Rebel, though the instructions say I need to change a setting on each of the devices to make them send stuff over the USB. Not sure how to get that working, but I’ll play with it a little more.

Finally I get to the games, which is really what the console is all about right? I picked up Perfect Dark Zero yesterday, and Dickson and I played a few co-op missions last night. It’s a pretty neat game, though in some places it felt as though it was sort of rushed. There is lots more to explore in the game though, so I’m quite happy with it. The 360 also comes with Hexic HD, which is an Xbox Live Arcade game similar to Bejeweled. It’s pretty addicting, even though it’s quite simple.

When you play a game on the Xbox 360, you can press the Guide button (big Xbox button on the controller) to bring up a screen showing your Gamer Card, the music player, links to Xbox Live, and some other stuff. Very neat integration! I need to get some different games to see how it works, because I expect there will be some cool Marketplace integration too. Unfortunately the screen isn’t available when playing an old Xbox game on the 360, but that’s okay.

There’s lots of little things about the Xbox 360 that are just great. Here are some of the things I noticed:

  • The ability to turn the console on using just the wireless controller is a very smart feature.
  • I like how the Xbox Live headset plugs into the base of the controller, which makes sense having a wireless controller and all! Would be neat if it supported Bluetooth though too.
  • The music player has some really intense visualizations!
  • The ethernet cable that comes with the Xbox 360 is very long – much appreciated! I hate when the cables you get are like two feet long.
  • The only impossible to open package was the second controller I bought. None of that annoying hard plastic stuff in the console box, just easy to open plastic bags. Again, much appreciated!
  • The hard-drive is removable. Genius!
  • Halo 2 works as expected.

The lineup yesterday morning at Best Buy was fine until they opened the doors and just let everyone through. It was utter chaos as people pushed and shoved their way to the accessories and games. I was very lucky to have grabbed the second controller. Just a sign that Microsoft has done a great job stirring up interest in the console. I wouldn’t be surprised if Xbox 360 sales shatter the predictions all the analysts are making.

So I’m hooked now. There’s so much to like about the Xbox 360! I can’t wait until I get some different games as well, to see how the Xbox 360 really performs.


7 thoughts on “Xbox 360 Initial Review

  1. Indeed the 360 is an amazing piece of hardware!

    I love the visualizer (as if you can’t tell by my alias and 1up page ;-)) and Arcade is awesome! I don’t want to let go of the controller….. mmmmmm 🙂

  2. I don’t see what all the fanfare at this point is all about. The games it’s launched with are abysmal, not a big name or a must have in the whole bunch. And the games that have launched don’t even utilize all the processor cores available. I love my console gaming, but at this point I consider XBOX to be vaporware. Of course though, with Microsoft’s backing it’s not going to stay that way forever.

  3. Kevin – While it is true that the games don’t yet utilize all of the processor cores, that will undoubtedly change. And once you’ve played with the device for a while, you’ll understand a little better what the Xbox 360 is all about, and it’s not strictly games.

    Justice – I don’t think it plays videos from the computer actually, though I admit I haven’t taken a good enough look. I’ll check it out.

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