Some Thoughts About Xbox 360 Hardware and System

I’ve been slowly accumulating an assorted set of positives and negatives about Microsoft’s entry into the next generation of consoles. They’ve done a lot right, but there’s still definite room for improvement. Hopefully the fact that the X360 is so obviously an “online” console means that we’ll see operating system patches that will address some of the current Dashboard deficiencies.

Without further ado, here are my early impressions of the X360 from a “system” standpoint. This isn’t particularly about the games, more about the whole “we want to establish a meaningful presence in your living room” efforts from Microsoft.

Positive:
[ul]+ The blade UI is generally quite slick and streamlined. It’s pretty much all modal, and therefore well suited to an unsophisticated user that wants to accomplish a single task and move onto something else. The little touches like audio feedback when you switch between blades and the transition animations are very polished.

  • Plugging in a USB keyboard in order to do the mass add of people to my Friends List was a no brainer.

  • My USB keyboard is a hub and has a couple of USB ports on it. I plugged my iPod into one of those with some small trepidation, not knowing if it would work, and the X360 didn’t bat an eyelash. iPod detected!

  • The simple ability to plug a third party device into the X360 and get at your music and photos is a great one, and means you don’t need to dedicated much of your precious HDD space to music.

  • Getting the Xbox 360 to talk to my Windows XP SP2 box via Windows Connect was pretty straightforward, and the first time I chose to play music streamed over my network connection from my PC during a PGR3 session, I nearly creamed my jeans (to quote Cheap Trick’s “High School Confidential”). It was the latest Gorillaz album and tearing around Manhattan to “Demon Days” that was actually on my wirelessly connected laptop was just too cool for school.

  • Receiving game invites while you’re in the middle of watching a DVD is amazing. The pop-up is subtle, and it succeeds at opening my eyes to a future where all my entertainment and communications are linked. It reminds me of those “smart home” demonstrations where the young, hip couple is watching TV on their plasma and the phone rings, the caller ID popping up on their screen and they choose to answer the call, which turns into a video box in a picture-in-picture view on their display. I’m sure once the video camera and conferencing is added to the Dashboard, it’ll be just like that, and we’ll all be living in 2010… TODAY!

  • The upsell from a trial version to the full version of the Xbox Live Arcade games is perfect. I was trying Joust, and just getting into the groove when I came to the end of the trial. And there, option “X” was “Activate the full game”. So I pressed X. And since I hadn’t given Microsoft my credit card number yet, I was prompted for that. And once that was done, I bought the required number of points, unlocked the game, had a tiny download, and resumed playing! It was amazingly easy and I see the future of gaming in its simplicity and easy upsell potential.[/ul]
    Negative:
    [ul]- The modal UI means that you can’t accomplish anything in the background. If you start a download going, navigating away from that download interrupts it. This is pretty ludicrous when you consider that there are effectively 3 processors in the X360. If their OS isn’t multi-threaded, then I’m befuddled. And if it is multithreaded, then let me take advantage of that! Let me start downloading and go play a DVD, or a demo.

  • I thought the Ring of Light on the console itself, as well as the mini-one on the controller, were supposed to indicate by flashing if you have messages waiting for you in the Dashboard. Mine does not seem to behave this way. I had a text message waiting, but nothing was flashing.

  • When you bring up the Dashboard while watching a movie, the movie does not pause. This is different from a game, where bringing up the Dashboard does pause the action.

  • The optical disc (DVD) player is VERY loud when playing my PGR3 disc. It’s quiet with a regular movie DVD, but it sounds like a jet engine when the console is sitting vertically and like a slightly quieter jet engine when the console is horizontal. This may just be my copy of PGR3, I haven’t popped in another game to test this out yet to see if it’s all game discs.

  • While playing streamed music from my XP box in PGR3 I often had the music break up as if there were network congestion. The only 2 systems on my network at the time were my laptop (connected wirelessly via 802.11g at 54 Mb/s) and the wired X360. I wasn’t downloading anything or doing anything network intensive on the laptop at the time, so I don’t know what was causing the stutters and hiccups on the internal network.

  • It would be nice if the X360 would remember where you were in a DVD that’s “in progress” by keeping a small data file somewhere. I’ve seen other Media Center type devices do this. This would allow me to watch a DVD, exit to play some Joust, and come back in where I left it.

  • There is no intuitive way to ask someone on your Friends List to add you to a game in progress. A bunch of Qt3ers were playing PGR3 the other night, but I couldn’t figure out how to get invited. It seems that the only way is to message someone and hope that they are either the game host and can invite you, or that they ask the game host to invite you. It would be great if you had a “request an invite” option in the Dashboard. Or at least see who’s hosting the online game.

  • You can’t use the keyboard to navigate around the Dashboard UI. This leads to really awkward moments when you finish typing a text message and press enter, and then awkwardly try to use your keyboard’s arrow keys to select the “Send Message” option before you realize that it just isn’t working. So you reach over and pick up the joystick and navigate. It’s just clumsy.[/ul]

So, there’s a few of my bouquets and brickbats. Feel free to throw your own in! I might have some more to add, but this is a good start. Overall, Microsoft is off to a great start when it comes to taking over my living room and associated entertainment activities.

/Eph

This is a PGR3 problem and not a 360 problem. It does this with me as well and thats either streaming or playing from my hdd.

Glad you made this topic because I had some thoughts and didn’t know where to throw them.

I’m one of the (apparently few) people who has a 360 with no games simply because of the arcade features and backcomp and free demos until Gamefly comes through with my Condemed.

Anways first impression is that the console itself is blindingly white. Like a naked shell or something. I wonder if they made it so plain as to encourage people to buy the customized faceplates. Looks out of place with the other TV equipment & gaming consoles.

Secondly I got to agree with you about the downloading issue. I knew that there are some hefty demos and I wanted to start the DLs right away but I soon realized that I couldn’t do anything else while downloading? That sucks. :( So I just left it overnight so that I could try NFS in the morning.

I was astonished that they flubbed this, given how well almost everything else works. Some of these demos are in the region of 100Mb, so your console effectively becomes a brick when you’re downloading. I can’t imagine it’s that difficult to let you navigate away and do some other stuff while the download continues in the background. I hope this is one of the first things they patch.

Oh, and the “request game invite” thing. That’s another obvious one they missed.

PS, has anyone tried plugging a PSP into it yet?

Upon seeing your post, I did.

It works, but not quite as well as when you plug in an iPod. It shows up as a Portable Device when you go to the Media blade, but it puts you right in the root of the memory stick, so you need to browse into the PSP folder and then the Music folder to get to your music.

I guess this makes sense, as I could also have photos on the PSP, but just seeing your Artists, Albums and Playlists show up when you plug in an iPod is just so slick it sets the bar pretty high.

I wanted to ask: Does anyone else notice how loudly PGR3 (and perhaps other games) spin in the DVD drive? Or do I have a potentially bad drive? That thing is LOUD.

I agree. I thought this was just awesome. It took me all of 5 minutes to add everyone on QT3.

Does anyone know if this is a general or PGR issue? I seem to remember PGR 2 letting me join a game of friend that was in progress and too noticed this glaring omission with the third iteration. Could it be something with public/private games?

It’s a private game thing. If I need an invite to a private game, I’ll just send a blank message to one of my friends in the game to alert them that I’m there. Although now that everyone has 360s, they’ll usually just invite me when they see the message pop up that I’ve signed on.

The background downloading thing is being fixed in an update.

Good deal. Now let’s have some sexy wallpapers.

Good deal. Now let’s have some sexy wallpapers.[/quote]
Gary “Porn” Whitta hasn’t already sexed up his 360 background? You can set any photo you want to the background (albeit only one image for all four blades), so long as you can navigate to it on some device or via media connect.

does it detect game controllers ie; Logitech Joystick, Drving Wheel etc?

Do you mean old USB game devices? If so, I don’t know, I don’t have any to test with. I tried plugging in a USB wireless ethernet adaptor and that didn’t work, but I wasn’t really expecting it to, even though it worked perfectly when I plugged it into a Series 2 TiVo. Microsoft wants my $129 CDN for wireless connectivity, it seems…

[EDIT] PS: I just unashamedly gave my thread a 5 star rating, just wanted to mess with the new vBulletin stuff. It’s really not that great a thread, though. So consider it an “IGN” style 5 star rating, and not a Gamespot/Kasavin one.

I just gave this thread a “1 star” rating, just to balance it out. So there.

Didn’t try a driving wheel but I know USB joysticks and Xbox controllers with USB adapters just don’t work.

Anyone have a clue as to why I can share music files but my pictures aren’t showing up (Wtih WMC)? I can see them if I copy my pics to the music folder on my PC but Windows Media Connect should already share the pictures folders.

I wanted to ask: Does anyone else notice how loudly PGR3 (and perhaps other games) spin in the DVD drive? Or do I have a potentially bad drive? That thing is LOUD.

Yeah, its pretty loud. I don’t really notice it when I’m playing a game but I found it so obnoxious when trying to watch a DVD that I switched back to my regular DVD player after 20 minutes.

I notice it in PGR3 when I start it up. Once I’m playing, I tune it out pretty well, but it’s definitely still loud. I don’t remember ever noticing it during DVD playback.

That’s disappointing to hear. I haven’t downloaded anything yet on my 360, but by overall impression of the UI was entirely positive iuntil this bit of information. Still, it’s absolutely wonderful having Live fully integrated into every game. I love being able to quickly and easily tab over to check and see who’s onbline, what’s going on, etc. Of course, as of yet, my technolust still hasn’t worn off, so it will be some time before I can give an honest impression.

I think the situation they’re trying to avoid is when a noob starts downloading the big 'ol Madden demo and then goes to play a game online - they’ve saturated their 384k DSL bandwidth and now the game is performing poorly, and they blame it on the game or the 360 itself. That said, I think you should be able to navigate away from the download and do any non-gaming tasks without interrupting the download, and only get the warning about interrupting the download once you fire up a game (Arcade or disc).

At least you can go back and resume the download without losing any progress, though.

  • When you bring up the Dashboard while watching a movie, the movie does not pause. This is different from a game, where bringing up the Dashboard does pause the action.

This actually varies from game to game. In most games it pases the action or brings up the pause menu. But not in some cutscenes and not in online play (though in some games it brings up the pause menu). What the game does when you bring up the Guide is up to the game maker, I believe. I agree with you - for DVDs, it should pause them and auto-resume when you close the Guide.

  • The optical disc (DVD) player is VERY loud when playing my PGR3 disc. It’s quiet with a regular movie DVD, but it sounds like a jet engine when the console is sitting vertically and like a slightly quieter jet engine when the console is horizontal. This may just be my copy of PGR3, I haven’t popped in another game to test this out yet to see if it’s all game discs.

It’s not really the optical player, it’s the console’s internal cooling. The fans are heat sensitive and when all the cores fire up full speed for a major disc-based game, it gets loud. When watching a DVD or playing most Arcade games, they basically shut down two of the cores to save power and drop noise. Welcome to the world of 200W console systems, and get ready for the PS3 to be just as bad. :(

Overall, Microsoft is off to a great start when it comes to taking over my living room and associated entertainment activities.

Isn’t it funny how everyone hated the very premise of this, but once someone does it RIGHT and makes it simple, effective, and attractive, we all can’t wait for our new living room lord and master to take over. :) I just hope that, as capabilities expand (I’m sure they will do OS updates - they did on the Xbox), they don’t get more restrictive.