I've had Microsoft's new and ambitious dashboard in my hands now for almost a week, and I gotta say - there's no looking back. From the streamlined interface, to the slick graphics, to the ton of new features; it's a good day to be an Xbox 360 owner.
By now you've read the countless previews and reviews around the web of the new update. You know it's going live on November 19th this month, just a few short weeks away. What we hope to do is break down some of the really cool features that stand out. So here are ten things you may or may not know about the New Xbox Experience.
- The update actually comes in two pieces. The first installs like a traditional update, taking only seconds. Then upon system reboot the update downloads and installs from the NXE servers. Our install and download took around 5 minutes.
- The first thing you do is choose an avatar, whether it's pre-made or custom is up to you. The avatar options are pretty limited in some areas (namely clothing), but I found it incredibly easy to make a little guy that looks quite a bit like me. Once created you can snap a gamerpic of your avatar using an in game camera.
- Microsoft included a help channel to guide you through the new features and options of the NXE. This channel can be disabled and removed if it's no longer needed.
- Voice chat quality is greatly improved as Microsoft has switched codecs. The voice quality is now smoother and less cell phone in a tunnel sounding.
- Your games library page allows you easy access to all games you have installed including demos, Xbox Live Arcade, and Full Game Installs. Each one of these entries has a full set of panels associated with it that show off achievements, leaderboards, relevant content, screenshots and more.
- The new guide is reminiscent of the old blade system. Everything you can do from the new NXE dashboard you can do in the blades in a no frills version. This includes marketplace, music, code redemption, system settings, and more.
- There's a new quick launch option in the guide that allows you to launch anything that resides in your game library. This can be done anytime you bring up the guide.
- The party system allows up to 8 player to join together to travel around the Xbox 360 playing games and chatting. Players can be doing different activities, or can be invited in one button press to any game. If you disconnect from Xbox Live for a game update, you'll automatically be reconnected to your party.
- The dashboard version of the friends list shows your friend's avatar, the game they are currently playing and what looks to be some sort of contextual backdrop. If that player is in a party you will see the other avatars of that party with your friend, even if those people aren't on your friends list!
- There's a brand new Events Channel that shows you upcoming community events and promotions. This is where you can find things like Contests, Frag Doll Friday, and of course Co-Op Night!