Xbox 360 as Media Hub
Got a call yesterday that the second shipment of Xbox 360's had come in and the one I'd pre-ordered in June was now waiting for me. I swung by GameCrazy on the way to the store and picked up my shiny new Xbox 360. It also included a limited edition Media Center Remote that will likely go unused. I also picked up:
- Second wireless controller
- Perfect Dark Zero
- Call of Duty 2
- Project Gotham Racing 3
- I also got an aftermarket HDTV cable because the guy told me the Xbox 360 didn't include optical support. This is false and true. The 360 DOES come with an optical hole, but no optical cable. It comes with a big cable that includes composite (SDTV) and component video (HDTV) and a hole for the optical. So, this $20 accessory was a waste unless someone wants an optical cable + Xbox 360 component cable for $19 from me. :)
Of course, I didn't get a chance to use it until Z and Mo were asleep so that probably wasn't very smart. I was up until 2 with the Xbox and until 5:30 with Z.
It's the shiznit. It's freaking awesome. If you can, buy it. Now. Seriously, stop reading.
Gotchas and Things To Be Aware Of IOMHO
- Getting just the Core System without hard drive just makes no sense. You get $150 in accessories for the extra $100 the standard bundle costs you.
- The 360 is totally THE killer app for HDTV, so very much more than DVDs in their 480p glory. Running the dashboard in 1080i is glorious. Call of Duty 2 is fantastic. Better than my PC with its 1680x1050 resolution? No, probably about the same. Except the Xbox 360 cost less than my video card. Drink that in.
- Folks have been complaining that there's only 13gigs free on the 20gig hard drive. The forums are alight with the standard logorrhoea that "the system takes up much of that." Well, if one does some digging, they'd see that the hard drive comes preloaded with a Titanic Video (literally from the movie Titanic) that is a 1gig, a Warren Miller video and two others weighing in at about 750megs each as well as a bunch of music. It's mostly the schmutz that makes you lose space. However, I'm not really sweating the space as it's all scratch space as far as I'm concerned.
- I started by using my existing Xbox "classic's" wireless ethernet bridge and it worked great. However, I switched over to my 100base-T wired connection for snapper Media Center PC response.
- Since all emulated games run in HDTV, if you liked stretching your 4:3 games to 16:9, you can't do that anymore.
- Funky (read: optimized) games like Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory still have some work to do, as it seems that you can run the single player game in 16:9, but the multiplayer (which is basically (smells like) a totally different codebase) is 4:3.
Xbox Live Arcade
They finally got the casual gamer thing right. My wife will actually be able to play Bejewelled without finishing her PhD. It's very clean and elegant. It also uses a form of micropayments to accomplish two things. One, the conversion between "Microsoft Points, the currency, and dollars, isn't in-your-head easy, so one could find themselves spending money without "feeling it." Two, it allows someone to sell a game for $3.47. I bought Joust and Bejewelled off the bat, and I'll likely get Geometry Wars also.
Original Xbox Emulation
The first thing I did, before I even played a single 360 game was try out the backward compatibility emulation. I'm so relieved they chose to stick with it, as they'd really have been shooting themselves in the foot if they were going to launch the 360 all alone in the world without the rich existing Xbox library of games.
A few games I like haven't been updated yet, including Lego Star Wars, but the important ones like Halo 2 and Splinter Cell worked. Also, Yourself: Fitness worked so that's awesome. All in all, my conclusion is: Classic Xbox for sale - $75, used for only 2 months, I won it in a raffle.
I was pleasantly surprised that you can download and play demos. I downloaded and played FIFA World Cup Soccer (it was a 600meg download!) and while it's getting crappy reviews, we really liked it. It's not something I'd have rented, so I'd never have played it. Because I could download it as a demo I'll be more likely to buy this game I might have overlooked.
iPod (MP3 player) USB Support
There's three ways you get audio/music playing on your Xbox 360. The first and easiest is just plugging your MP3 player into one of the 3 USB ports on the Xbox 360. I plugged in my iPod Nano and it was immediately (no wait) recognized and showed up as "Scott's Nano" and I was playing music directly off it immediately. I also tried a generic USB MP3 player and it works great as well. There's also an optional downloadable support for unprotected AAC files, so I grabbed that also and it works nicely.
Windows Media Connect 2.0 Support
I installed the new Windows Media Connect 2.0 which is a fancy way of saying "a uPnP server built into Windows" and pointed my Images, Music and Video folders from my main PC and was able to play music off it for hours. It's actually still playing this moment, and it'll let you view photos as the music continues which is a nice little attention-to-detail thing.
Windows Media Center
Here's the big one. The Media Center Extender stuff. It's awesome. I tired and suffered with the original (largely unusable) Classic Xbox Media Extender. Because of this and other factors, my Media Center PC has remained in the guest room, largely usused except for a MAME machine.
Enter the 360. The UI is exactly (by my eye) the same UI that you'd get if you were actually sitting at the actual Media Center. It's snappy, in HDTV, and gorgeous. Not only that, but all the HTML-style Media Center applications like NPR and MTV Overdrive work great. We spent a few hours last night purusing the vast MTV database of videos and watched at least a dozen on-demand music videos with family visiting from out of town.
Here's a video of the Media Center (the quality is iffy) in action.
File Attachment: MediaCenter360.wmv (1585 KB)
Additionally, you can press the Media Center button on the 360's remote (you may need to buy one if you didn't have one included) and it will turn on the 360 and connect to the Media Center PC in one fluid step. This helps the Wife Acceptance Factor greatly.
Harmony 880 Universal Remote Control
I love this remote and I'm convinced that for the dollar it is THE remote to get if you have a complex system. I was thrilled to see today that I could just tell the Harmony online system that I'd bought an Xbox 360 and it became immediately integrated into my larger system. The folks at Harmony (Logitech) are really passionate about their remotes and it shows. I've spent time on the phone in the past with their tech support and it was a pleasure. I had the whole thing working in about 15 minutes.
This was put to the test this evening when some of Mo's co-workers came over and they were able to show pictures of the baby (via Media Connect) without any of them having used the Xbox or the remote before.
Well, it ain't Halo. Not even close. It's actually pretty lame, and I'm disappointed. We'll see, maybe it'll grow on me.
I got this just because we have an 8-year-old visiting and staying with us and I've got him checking out the Game Rating (ESRP) systems. I didn't want to buy only "M" games, so I picked this one up. Wow, what a cute and interesting game. It's a very thoughtful and interesting puzzle/physics game with a silly storyline. It looks a smidge like World of Warcraft in it's ethos, although certainly less serious. I suspect I'll play this game the second most often. It also has a nice co-op 2-player mode which was an unexpected plus.
Had to get this if only to show off the system. It's OK, but until I get a wheel I'm doomed to suck. It's pretty slick, but I should have waited for a Rallysport-type game. I tried Forza on the Classic Xbox but it was too realisitic. I continue to go back to Rallysport2, it's REALLY amazing. See, there I go, talking about an older game when I'm supposed to talk about PGR3. Kind of says something.
Wow. Wow. Seriously. This game is brilliant. Truly and fantastically immersive. Get it, as anything I can say about it would just be silly and over the top.
As an aside, I'm looking forward to the new Splinter Cell: Double Agent and if it looks half as good as Call of Duty, it'll be great.
Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF)
It works with the current remote and she can show pictures of Z without my help. 'Nuff said, she's happy. If I get it paid off before she sees the credit card receipt we'll still be in business.