Dashboard Review: Xbox360 Metro

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Microsoft has been hyping up the new Metro Dashboard for the Xbox360 for the past few months. The new dashboard has been released and I was able to update my Falcon Xbox360 this morning, although it was a tad late than I expected. I was expecting it yesterday, but there were delays that was announced by Major Nelson himself.

The new dashboard has been announced for a few months now. The look is based on Windows Mobile 7 and the upcoming Windows 8 OS. The purpose of this is to unify the experience of all Microsoft products. The questions is, is it a better experience overall?

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Generally, it feels a lot better. Going around menus are a lot faster since one section can show up several featured icons which you can select very quickly. The previous dashboard called NXE (New Xbox Experience) feels very cumbersome because even though it looks organized, it takes a lot of time before getting to a section you plan to use. The NXE feels very much the same as Sony’s XMB (Cross Media Bar), the only difference is that rather than the sections displayed horizontally, the old NXE sections are displayed vertically. Now the sections are displayed horizontally and on top of the screen where all the subsections are shown in the main screen. Since the menu is very visual, it looks pretty attractive.

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The controls are pretty straight forward, it’s very easy to get into. The control pad moves around the the main menus and the submenus, but you can use the Left and Right Button to select the main sections, but that is optional. My only problem is that when you get to inner sub menus, it kind of reverts to the old system with bigger icons.

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I like that they added a section called Apps. My only problem with it, is that at the moment, it’s pointless for Asian accounts. The Apps are supposed to be full of programs like Last.Fm, Netflix, Hulu and other media stuff. It would have been fine if we have access to it, but no. The Apps section for Asian accounts are empty except for Facebook, Twitter and Video Kinect. So, if you are using an Asian account, it’s pretty empty. If you’re using an American account while you are in the Philippines, you’ll just be frustrated because you’ll be banned to see all the previews that you keep seeing on your menu.

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One of the best things I like about the new dashboard is not the dashboard itself. It’s the ability to put your game saves on a cloud service with 511Mb, only if you pay the Gold service. This is similar to what PlayStation Plus offers (150MB), which makes paying the service a little better. Although it’s still hard to match PlayStation Plus users since they get free games and Xbox Live Gold subscribers don’t. Also, Xbox Live Gold charges like $80 for a year of service while PlayStation Plus is only $50.

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What’s also new is the Bing search screen. Although using the Asian service only searches for games, while the American service can look for TV and music too. This makes searching for a particular title a little easier rather than manually looking for things through the menus.

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The dashboard is particularly designed for Kinect users. This is something that I don’t have at the moment, but from what I read, the experience is so much better.

So, what do I think of the new dashboard? It’s a good experience overall. Accessing everything is a little faster and visually appealing. Although the cloud service is only accessible to Gold subscribers, but it’s a little justifiable because Sony does the same thing. Would I prefer the old dashboard? No, the new one is fine and works better than I expected.

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