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Customer Review

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Multimedia Console, 26 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Xbox 360 250GB Console with Kinect Sensor: Includes Kinect Sports and Dance Central 2 (Console)
I've been putting off getting XBOX for quite some time - for a long time, indeed. When I last decided to get a game console, I opted for PS3 and this was on the basis of reviews at that time, as well as some experience with an old XBOX model at family friend's house.

PS3 couldn't do everything I wanted either. However, it served us well with some family-oriented games and kept the kids entertained, particularly during festive seasons (with dance and adventure games that involved kids and grown-ups alike).

Okay, what makes my choice a bit complicated is that I'm not a gaming person, else I suspect I could have easily fallen in love with PS3 or XBOX. Despite this, I didn't mind the occasional family games, even in watching role, and, in fact, I enjoyed some of the dance games to burn calories (and thanks to the kids who convinced me that I could expend more calories with 'Just Dancing' on PS3 than go out for cycling for the same duration).

What I really wanted from a console of type PS3 or XBOX are:

- primarily, the support of home multimedia streaming so that I can stream our home collections of music, pictures, and video from a home server (or any PC), and be able to play-out on living room TV;

- support for good remote control, so that we won't be compelled to use a painfully slow 20th century input method to interact with 21st century multimedia technology;

- good support for free on-demand streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, 4oD, and so on;

- good support for paid-for streaming services as an option in the background when we needed (such as LoveFilm, etc);

- parental control for contents.

The XBOX 360 scores nearly 100% on each of the above and I am really pleased with this purchase (yes, on the pretext of Christmas gift for our kids!). The game-changer in all this seems to be the Kinect sensor which makes the gaming experience so great (in contrast, waving the PS3 Motion now looks a bit too embarrassing!) as well as improving the remote control functionality through the sensor built into the Kinect camera; On the other hand, when it comes to home multimedia streaming (my #1 criterion listed above), being the same Microsoft pedigree as Home Server PC operating system is in fact the most critical factor.

Home media streaming is now amazingly blissful, the Zune software on Windows Home Server does all the job of streaming to XBOX 360 over the home LAN (you'll note that the development of Zune software/hardware and XBOX by Microsoft was tightly coupled over the years). Contrast this with the painful DLNA tweaking on PS3 which was a hit and miss and always ended up in frustration particularly for video streaming.

Yes, surprise surprise, you can also use Windows Phone to act as your remote for your XBOX 360 so this is another pleasant surprise why I like this system even more. I can say, I can see the twinkle of 'full integration' at the end of Microsoft's tunnel, but it seems this useful technology hasn't received much attention. It is called SmartGlass and you can install the SmartGlass App on your Windows Phone as well as on the all-new Windows 8 for the purpose of controlling your XBOX 360. The catch is that all devices must be logged in to the Microsoft XBOX Live (though it would have been nicer to limit this to a private home LAN, but they want to know everything we do, don't they?).

Support for the likes of BBC iPlayer and 4oD is very good and I've had no issues at all. There are also other free services such as YouTube that get enabled only upon XBOX Live subscription which you can purchase here on Amazon and redeem for your annual membership - Xbox LIVE Gold 12-Month Membership Card (Xbox 360) at least 25% cheaper than paying at XBOX Live website.

The parental control built into XBOX 360 is very intuitive; where the content is rated it works as expected (e.g., most family games and dance games are rated by age), but where the channel or content is not classified, as in YouTube, it acts as a gate-keeper, and you can only proceed with a PIN saved into the system while setting up the parental control. Furthermore, the system will also allow any content to be included to, or excluded from the parental control list. Overall, a very re-assuring control if you've to allow children to use the system without your supervision.

What you get with this console:

In addition to the console and Kinect sensor duo, you get the following game bundles:

- KINECT ADVENTURES!, a fun game, no doubt, will be enjoyed by everyone;
- Kinect Sports, #1 best-selling Kinect game according to Microsoft;
- Dance Central 2, you get a scratch card that reveals the code for downloading this dance game from XBOX Live website. It is really good and according to our kids much better than the Just Dance 4 dance game we bought separately.

By the way, Amazon mistakenly suggests the bundled game - KINECT ADVENTURES! - to be purchased with this console. If you've already bought this game separately, no doubt the refund will be made at no extra expense to you ('cos it's Amazon's fault!).

The 250GB hard disk is also one of the largest disk sizes for game consoles and it can handle almost anything you throw at it, such as downloading games, or even installing DVD games on to hard disk for improved speed. As should be expected, a standard XBOX wireless controller is also included.

A Composite AV cable is provided for connection to TV, but I don't understand why Microsoft expects customers to settle for an inferior AV interface, when Component HD AV or HDMI connector provides superior digital video and audio. My only guess is that the Composite AV cable provides a common denominator for most customers spanning low-end to high-end TV sets, but worse still in a rather very terse user manual Microsoft doesn't make it clear how best customers can configure the AV system for best enjoyment. It's a shame you don't get an HDMI connector cable but you can pick a reasonable quality one from under £5 to about £10 depending on length, brand, and construction material (like gold plated pins) so make your pick here on Amazon. Personally, the £10 is a reasonable upper limit but if you have money to spend there are HDMI cables as expensive as £897 (this is not a typo!); I have even seen one priced at £9999.00, and all of these here on Amazon. I have no idea what these cables do beyond acting as a conduit for electrons to flow, which cheap cables can do the task as well, but it is ultimately the choice of the buyer.

I can carry on writing more on this well-designed game console, but I should stop here. If you have similar usage scenario as I tried to explain above and would like to know more, you can ask a question and I am happy to reply to if I can. By way of a tip, one very important thing that comes to mind is to consider putting in place a wired LAN connection, particularly where wireless connection can be erratic with some distance between the wireless router/switch and your XBOX 360. Yes, you have guessed right - XBOX 360 supports both wired and wireless network which is great but wired network with good cabling and firm terminal connections is always superior. Also, please be advised that if you plan to do home video streaming I was alluding to above, then you need to encode your video collection to formats such as Windows Media Video (WMV) format or MP4 which are more suitable for streaming. This requires additional software tools (and possibly hardware by way of a PC with adequate power for video editing and encoding).

Downsides? You can always come up with 'I wish I had this and that feature' but I can live with the downsides of XBOX 360.

The lack of Blu-Ray disc player support comes as a notable disadvantage (which PS3 console supports) but historical reasons would convince you this being no surprise -- Microsoft was teaming up with the Toshiba HD DVD that was killed off by the Blu-Ray standard promoted by Sony's team. I knew this before the purchase so cannot hold it against Microsoft who, by the way, conveniently believes that online video streaming will soon kill off the Blu-Ray media. If you plan to get a Home Cinema anyway, get one with Blu-Ray player and the lack of Blu-Ray player would be solved. Most Home Cinema systems nowadays have an integrated Blu-Ray player. [Oh! sorry I'm still writing ...]

One major downside for me is Microsoft's failure of supporting HDMI-CEC standard. The HDMI-CEC standard, among other things, will enable an attached TV to detect devices like XBOX 360. That way, switching on XBOX 360 will automatically turn on the TV and make it switch to the appropriate AV port (such as HDMI 1, HDMI 2, AV1, AV2, etc). As it stands, because of the lack of HDMI-CEC support, such auto detection and switching is not possible. The PS3 console worked happily with my Sony W5500 TV made possible with Bravia Sync (Sony's name for HDMI-CEC) but unfortunately the Sony TV and XBOX 360 don't know each other at this electronic level; we have to set the TV to HDMI port XBOX 360 is connected to, and we have to power up the TV even if we first switched on the XBOX 360. Although not a complete solution, the Microsoft Media Remote (Xbox 360) provides part of the solution for controlling XBOX 360 and connected TV with a single remote, but still you have to reach for your TV remote as this remote only does the basic functions such as Volume and Input selection. (As an aside: thank you to the consumer electronics industry who made our lives so miserable - and continue to do so - by choosing non-cooperation amongst yourselves!)

Overall verdict: a superior console for home multimedia streaming, online multimedia streaming, and possibly gaming.
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