Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Xbox 360 Dashboard

I have played with the updated Xbox 360 dashboard for a few weeks, and really am enjoying several of the new features.  The new additions that I like are better support for using an Xbox Live account on multiple Xboxes and improved support for  new video content sources.

Multi-Xbox support

We have two Xboxes in our house.  The second Xbox is upstairs, and has been used mainly as a Windows Media Extender and as a way to watch Netflix and Hulu content.  We haven't used it to play games because it was too much of a pain to either recover our Gamertags or copy the profile and saved games to a USB thumb stick.

With the new Dashboard update, Microsoft added two features that help with users with multiple Xboxes.

Roaming Profile

Microsoft renamed "recovering" profiles to "downloading" profiles.  With this you can "download" a profile on multiple consoles, with specifying the password.  This allows you to use the same Xbox Live account on multiple consoles (though not at the same time.)  With this functionality, I am able to play a game on the upstairs Xbox while my wife or kids are watching something else on the downstairs TV.

Cloud Storage

Along with Roaming profile support, the new Xbox update also includes support for storing game saves in the cloud.  This allows you to either use the same game profile or continue a previously saved game on a different Xbox 360 consoles.


There are some things that I discovered in setting this up:

  • If you have a pass code on your profile on a Xbox 360 console, when you download it to a different console, it will not have a pass code.  You will need to set each time the profile is downloaded.

  • Not all games support Cloud Storage.  If a game supports Cloud Storage you will be prompted to choose either it or the hard drive for when the game tries to initiate access to storage.

  • It is annoying to be prompted to choose a storage device whenever you launch a game that supports Cloud Storage. It would be great to have the ability to specify a default storage location that should be used for each game that can be stored with a profile. (Or at least use the last chosen selection for each game)

  • The storage selection dialog, with cloud storage as an option, is shown even for non-Xbox Live local profiles.  This is pointless, as it isn't possible to log into these local accounts on other Xboxes.

Xbox video content sources

The other major feature that was added in the latest Xbox 460 dashboard update was support for new streaming video sources. Some of the video streaming services that the Xbox update currently supports are:

One of the best things about this implementation is that the Xbox allows you to search for content across all the content providers, using your remote or with voice recognition.  This eliminates the need to search in each content provider when looking for a particular show or movie.


There are some issues with this new implementation

  • Poor support for parental controls, with search.  If you do a search using the global search functionality, only content that falls within the parental control limits will be returned.  This is a problem for us as we would like to enable parental controls to prevent our kids from watching inappropriate content.  But if my wife and I wanted to watch a movie, we would like to have this content included in the search results, with the understanding that to play the content, the PIN would be required.

  • Poor implementations/lacking features of individual video applications

    • Netflix - When selecting an item in the content list, from within the Netflix application, The video automatically starts playing.  This is generally fine for movies, but for television series, this may not work for every user.  The "next" episode starts to play in this case, but sometimes the user may want to have more control about which episode is played.  (The previous version of the Netflix app would didn't have this auto-play feature.)

    • YouTube - Movies that are rented from YouTube are not playable on the Xbox


Final Thoughts

So far I am pretty impressed with the new Xbox update.  Once the Comcast video on demand application becomes available on the Xbox, our Xbox could easily be the main way that we watch content.

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