Microsoft is using this November's release of the company's motion-sensing initiative to revamp the Xbox 360 dashboard. The new update, due out later this fall when Kinect hits stores, gives the dashboard a complete cosmetic upgrade, zippier navigation, and more features and functionality. We should note that Zune, ESPN, and Netflix features require an adult Gold membership on Xbox Live.
You'll notice the change right away, as the opening splash screen has a different look and welcoming sound byte. Mostly all of the current dashboard's sounds have been disregarded, save for the iconic "pop-up." Instead, the interface now carries with it more soothing sounds. Visually speaking, Microsoft has opted for a minimalistic and angular presentation, with more concentration on grays and whites.
Performance-wise, there have definitely been a few tweaks under the hood. The Xbox Guide is definitively faster--absent now is the lag the previous version suffered from when launching the Guide mid-game. Browsing through the Game Library seems quicker too, and items installed on the hard drive populate the screen with ease.
Among the updated features is a new version of Netflix. Most notably, the option to now search the entire Netflix library has been added, and items not available for instant streaming can now be added to your traditional queue with the click of a button.
ESPN makes its debut on the Xbox 360 with the fall update, but users with an ISP (Internet service provider) that has not signed a contract with Disney won't have access to ESPN3 HD content, which includes the streaming of out-of-market sports. We experienced this issue firsthand as Cablevision in Northern New Jersey has yet to agree to terms that allow for such services. There's better news for customers in New York City as Time Warner has come to an agreement with Disney, but there has yet to be anything signed. You can check to see if your ISP has a deal in place by heading over to ESPN3.com.
If you're among these unfortunate souls like we are, the ESPN on Xbox 360 experience is a bit watered-down, but does include plenty of streaming highlights and clips from ESPN's various networks and items appear to be frequently updated.… Read more