Xbox 360 December Dashboard Update – First Impressions

Announced earlier this year, the much-anticipated Xbox 360 dashboard update is now live for all users, after experiencing some slight delays earlier in the day (along with a few launch bugs). The new theme is designed akin to the Windows Phone dashboard, and contains some hints about future content to be released to Xbox Live Gold subscribers.

Upon first glance, the style itself is aesthetically pleasing. The ability to navigate menus with the left and right bumpers remains, and seems more fluid with the new look. Immediately at launch, a few quickly pleasing changes can be seen. On the new “home” tab, the cursor defaults to playing whatever currently occupies your disc tray – a miniscule, but pleasant improvement. More substantial, however, is the addition of the “Quickplay” function, which allows for quick and easy access to XBLA titles, as well as any apps you have recently downloaded or accessed. Yeah, they’re calling them “Apps” now.

Speaking of which: There’s now an App Marketplace. New apps currently available include Today and Epix, and two “coming soon” tabs tease at future availability of content such as MSNBC, UFC, iheartradio, MLB.TV, and YouTube. The ESPN app continues to improve, showing added Kinect compatibility and complete fluidity between managing sports, favorite teams, and accessing content.

A new face on the “videos” pane is Last Night on TV, or as I like to call it, “a-third-TV-viewing-option-for-some-reason”. Streaming shows are available for 160 MSP per episode in SD. The idea of paying for episodes of shows that you can generally access online for free still goes way beyond my comprehension, which can also be related to the Hulu Plus service. While Xbox is certainly benefiting from every product it makes available on the device, it baffles me that there are three options on the same tab of the dashboard offering literally the exact same content, which would compete with each other outside of Xbox yet link to each other within the system.

Just to the left of the home tab is the new addition of the Bing search engine integrated into Xbox Live. Surprisingly, it performs quite well: A search for “halo” provides anything you could possibly relate to the Halo universe, sorted by its idea of relevance. It even goes to far as to link to videos containing Halo content.

Accessing the Xbox Guide gives way to a couple of new features as well. Beacons look like a neat new way to connect with friends; you set a ping for a certain game or activity (say Gears of War 3 multiplayer), and then Xbox notifies you when members of your friends list are setting a similar beacon, or have acted on yours. Chat and IM remains directly integrated, allowing you to quickly set up Video Kinect or plain, dumb ol’ boring text chat. Settings in general are also much easier to access now, and parental controls are as simple as they could possibly be without shoving it right in your face.

As more products become available, we’ll give word. Stay tuned to GameTaffy for the latest!


About Alex Larrabee

Everybody still thinks "The cake is a lie" jokes are funny, right?

Posted on December 7, 2011, in Latest News, Launch Details, Tasty Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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