Microsoft has the New Xbox Experience ready for you,
but are you ready for it?
November 19th has finally come around and Microsoft has so graciously bestowed the New Xbox Experience (NXE) on its customers to, well, experience. It seems that many were not anticipating this change, not wanting to be ripped away from the old blade system that they have grown so fond of. Instead of complaining, you should know why the NXE is a step forward and not just the unwanted child of the Cross Media Bar and the Wii fridge.
It is actually interesting to scroll through your friends list, looking at how everyone represented themselves in this space. The only downside is the horrible, incredibly feminine pose that the avatars take when standing still and due to their “cutesy” nature, any motto, which are now represented in speech bubbles that stem from the Avatar, that is in any way violent, aggressive, or offensive, looks incredible moronic coming from this cute little person.
After creating an Avatar you will be set out to explore the NXE on your own. Instead of an unwieldy departure from the previous blade system, the NXE is a much more efficient, streamlined approach to organizing content. Now you no longer have to scroll through endless lists to find a download you want. Simple go to the games or video marketplace, select browse content, pick your category, select browse, then search by letter or genre. Another great add on is, now when searching through standard content windows, images of said content are all lined up to quickly flip through to find your desired piece.
The menus seem to load faster and give you a much better, more detailed description of the content. Click on a Halo 3 map pack, for example, and you are taken to a menu for Halo 3 with that particular map pack highlighted. You can flip through Halo 3′s pages, seeing the featured downloads, screen shots, a video preview, all the downloadable content, details on the game, and a description. If you are lost in the menus, simply press “Y” to pull up a blade to go to the menu you desire. The Inside Xbox, Spotlight, and Events channels work in a similar fashion. Now you can view archived Inside Xbox videos and sign up for events simply by clicking on them and clicking register. The Games and Media Blades have been merged into the My Xbox Blade.
So it is streamlined, why does that matter? The blades worked perfectly fine, why should you have to deal with this upgrade? If you feel that way then fine, do your basic boot up and then you never have to deal with it again. Just hit the “Guide” button and boot everything through the new blade system, you only have to navigate the new menus when in the store. The new blades allow you to check your friends list, load videos and music, invite people to a chat or party, send messages, boot games, view achievements, load marketplace, redeem codes, view active downloads, and change settings. It replaces the old single blade slide out from the blade system, so now you can do much more in game. If anything, use the NXE simply for this better version of the blades system.
For those in the United States who are gold subscribers, Netflix streaming is a huge plus for upgrading to the NXE. It was one of my most anticipated feature, so far the one I have used the most, and even as I write this I am currently streaming various video from. Netflix integration, while not instantaneous for those subscribers, is fairly simple. If you are a current subscriber, just follow the steps listed on the application; if you are not a current subscriber, there is a way to subscribe strait from the Xbox, though I did not try that out. Once you get logged in, your instant queue is spread out just like in the marketplace. Unfortunately, not all of the instant movies are available on the Xbox, but there are still thousands of movies to view. Depending on your internet connection, your movie will pre load, and as long as your connection does not falter, it will stream perfectly. If you stop watching, Netflix will remember when you stopped and will ask whether you want to resume or restart. Even your remembered times from before the NXE (one of mine was at least six months old) import. You can remove movies from your queue from the NXE but you can not add movies. This feature is one of the best additions to the NXE and quite possibly worth subscribing to Netflix if you are not a current subscriber.
One of the highly touted features of the NXE is game installs. Now it is possible to install games onto the hard drive to reduce load times and drastically reduce the noise output that comes from the Xbox when playing games. For this article, I installed Gears of War 2 onto my hard drive. It took up 6.7 gigs of space and the install was about seven minutes long. While the load times were not substantially different, not worth taking up the space on the hard drive, the sound factor was enormous. With Gears, when the game was started, the sound never increased in volume from when the NXE was running. I never realized just how loud the Xbox ran until the sound went away.This will be the reason why I finally upgrade to the 120 gig hard drive.
Saving the best for last, of course, is the party system. Finally after three years Microsoft finally understands that people want to chat with more than one person at a time. They successfully integrated not only chat, but the ability to take a party into a game and still stay together (beat Sony to the punch). The party stays together even through updates. Parties can have up to eight people within them and they are displayed on your friends channel. When flipping through the friends channel you can see your party, everyone being represented by their Avatars, and your friends parties no matter who is in them. When selecting a party, it not only shows you the friend’s gamer card, but the cards of all those who are in the party. This is by far the best feature of the NXE. Now it is much easier to organize matches with friends and to just relax and have a nice chat.
The New Xbox Experience is almost everything Microsoft promised it to be. It only lacks a few features that will be later patched in (Prime Time). While not all may agree with or like in any way, the Avatars do serve their purpose and will hopefully be better used than the Miis. I urge you to download the NXE; its substantial upgrades outweigh its faults.