Initial impressions of the new Xbox dashboard are good. The new ‘Metro’ interface is a huge improvement over the previous interface, which was both confusing and boring to watch. Digging deeper into the new tiled interface reveals that some things at least haven’t changed, the avatar editor being one of them.
Microsoft has called this a media-centric update and with all the additional media services to come, that’s certainly true. Looking at the way they’ve done it, by adding an apps section and the new App Marketplace, Microsoft seems to be following the lead of the Apple store and the Android market, although at the moment they are all media-based apps.
Metro style interface
The first thing you notice about this interface is the new tiles. Each menu item on the board contains large and small rectangular tiles. Generally, large tiles contain highlights and smaller tiles contain less important items. The web-style top menu provides a way to quickly jump between menu items and consists of the following items: bing, home, social media, television, video, games, music, applications, settings.
Microsoft’s Bing search engine was installed with the new update and provides a single place to search all content on your machine and online content within Xbox Live. Initial impressions are good. Text Search includes predictive search suggestions that are very useful when trying to type with a standard Xbox controller. You can also filter your results by media type, for example, video, music, game, etc.
DVD tray – The start menu item contains a tile with the current game, the DVD tray.
Quick Game: Show 10 recent games, press X to see game details and reveal another Metro style interface.
Welcome Video: Dan Marr from ‘Inside Xbox’ presents a short welcome video to show you what’s new on the board.
Announcement: Microsoft continues to sell ad space on Xbox, the ad shown today was a BT Infinity ad. Large Featured Tile – Contains a rotating ad for various games, Sky, and Lovefilm.
There have been some good social media integration updates, especially with Facebook.
Friends – A small tile that shows your Xbox Live friends.
Login / logout – no wonder it only allows you to log in / out of profiles
Your Avatar – Takes you to the message center, avatar, and theme settings.
Social Apps – Dig in to find 3 more apps, Video Kinect, Twitter, and Facebook
There is no download with this. They have used the usual Twitter presentation in the style of a speech bubble, this time with an animated background. Features include scrolling Twitter feed, Tweet feature, free text, and trending searches.
Accessing the new Facebook application leads to a small download. A fairly small download considering the changes they have made.
After you are prompted for a username and password. A privacy screen is displayed. There are 2 settings; Displays My Xbox Live information and Live Online auto sign-in. Selecting the first one will show your Xbox Live gamertag along with your Facebook name. This is something you might not want if your coworkers can access your Facebook page. Working from home and having a quick Call of Duty session at lunchtime wouldn’t look good on all of Facebook.
Facebook’s new interface isn’t that different from the old one, the biggest change is how the app integrates with games. You can now search for Facebook friends on Xbox Live and Xbox Live friends on Facebook. Sending a friend request to any of the services is very easy.
Kinect Games – A little tile for Xbox games, a strange place for this, maybe they had nothing else to fill the space.
Xbox Only: A small tile advertisement exclusively for Xbox titles. Again, a strange place to put this.
Featured Tile – The featured tile contains links to both the new Sky Television app and Lovefilm.
New Sky app
This is a very awesome Sky app and it is part of the Sky Go app for online devices. Sky subscribers can register only 2 devices to Sky Go, for example an iPad and Xbox 360. To get started with the Sky app, you need to sign in or register a Sky ID. You can do this with a PC beforehand.
The Sky app provides live and on-demand video. Live video selection reveals a large number of channels, including Sky HD channels. You can also select Live Video using the built-in Sky planner.
Video on demand is where this app really shines. You can drill down into your favorite TV shows to reveal a list of recent episodes. Selecting Sky Atlantic HD and searching for Carnivale reveals 4 recent episodes. Each video has an associated availability, for example. 7 days, a duration and data size in MB, for example. Carnivale S2 E9 was 496MB in size, but it started playing almost instantly after a short ad, of course.
The app contains a new Sky community where you can “Like” videos and add a comment through a menu system, or recommend to a friend. The 4-level multi-phrase option comment menu system is a bit clunky to use, but it’s better than typing stuff using the controller. Here is an example comment of a comment: “I was satisfied with the scene, in the end, a great episode!”. Not cool.
You can also search video content by most recommended, most viewed, etc.
The Sky Action wheel (press Y) gives you quick access to the main functions, for example, the planner, recent activity, etc. Once you’ve installed the Sky app, the Live TV tile will take you directly to a live Sky TV broadcast. The video-on-demand tile takes you directly to the Sky Go home page.
LoveFilm App – Another featured downloadable app. I’m not a member and couldn’t be bothered to sign up for the free trial so I don’t have much of a game with this, however from what I saw it looked very fancy with its Metro style interface.
My Video Apps – Dig into installed video apps, for example Lovefilm, Zune, and Media Center
Zune Video Marketplace: Zune, but with an improved Metro-style interface Four ad tiles – for paid video content, for example from Lovefilm and Zune
My Games – Looks like a full flat list of installed games, but digging into the filter tile reveals another set of tiles with filter options. E.g. Demos, Arcade, etc.
Game Marketplace – New Metropolitan Tile View of Downloadable Games and Content 2 Ad Tiles – Contains Featured Titles.
My Music Apps: Contains a list of installed music apps, such as Last FM
Zune Music Marketplace: As usual, you can download music videos here, the new subway-style tile interface looks good. 3 ad tiles: for paid music content
Contains a set of uniformly sized tiles with a list of installed multimedia applications.
App Market – Lists music, video, and social media apps and a preview tile for each future app. Settings This section contains a nice concise tile layout. Just like before.
If you’re wondering where the new Beacons feature is, you can find it in the Xbox guide. Press the Xbox guide button and it will appear on the home screen.
The cloud saves
The cloud appears as a memory device along with the hard drive and memory unit. Screenshots suggest that each account is allowed approximately 500MB of storage.
This gives you the ability to use your Live account and profile on any Xbox 360 console. We have yet to discuss this feature.