New Xbox Experience (NXE) and Netflix Recap

. Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I have to confess - in one stage of life, about a year ago I gave in to temptation to have my own digital entertainment/gaming system- aka Xbox 360.
I assumed after a while most of problems associated with the Famous RCD - Red Circle of Death should been solved and gather together some money put aside for toys and become a proud owner of new Xbox 360 Elite system - Why elite for me? I wanted to have two things: bigger HD is plus (thou its shame how much MS charges for it ! ) and HDMI port. Black (or actually very dark gray) colored body was a added bonus.

I personally find nothing wrong with "blades" menu navigation system Xbox had until today, but someone at Microsoft decided that this system appeals mostly to geeks (like me self :), but should be easier to use for masses, currently attracted to Wii.

Microsoft decide to bestow upon us a new menu navigation system, which someone "very creatively" named - New Xbox Experience or for txtrs crowd - NXE.
As lots of other reviews noticed the new menu looks very Apple TV alike and it's no wonder - Good consoles borrow. Great consoles steal.

Me, being lucky owner of Elite version - I'm blessed with "huge" 120gb hard drive so for me, 128mb of space needed for NXE were a breeze, not so much for owners of Arcade version which doesn't include hard drive at all, but a puny 512mb flash card... MS to offer "storage solutions" aka a change to make even more money on overpriced hard drives.

Some of new features include ability to create and customize your own full body sized avatar (*cough* Idea stolen of Wii *cough*)
Multiplayer parties were several of your RL or virtual buddies. I haven't tested it yet, since none of my Xbox owners friends had a chance to update the console yet.
Themes and Full game installs bring Xbox much closer to PC than I personally liked it to, but the game running of hard drive does bring some speed boosts.

and Finally

Now, I'd like LOVE to tell you that this feature launch rolled out smoothly and problems free, but I would be lying.
Several issues from small ones to big still haunting this great feature.

Lots of people including me, stuck with unable to simply enable the integration of Netflix and Xbox 360, as I tried multiple times without success. An internet search revealed bunch of other people with same problems as It appears as the integration didn't worked quite as good as it was with Roku's device. Some people suggested the problem was on Netflix web site - But alas next day things started to move along and I was able to begin my Netflix movies on my Xbox 360.

Too bad for Roku since basically Microsoft made the product basically obsolete since Xbox 360 supports Netflix HD streams as well, while Roku doesn't :(

As owner of 15mbps downstream cable, the 2mbps downstream minimum suggested bandwidth was breeze for me as movies started pretty quickly only after a minute or two. Quality wise the picture worse than DVD , but still huge step up from other movie streaming services like Amazon Unbox.
Rewind functions works well as performed as expected.

Regarding HD, as per Netflix - streaming HD content requires connection of at least 8mbps - It poses no issues for me [evil grin]

The quality was very good. Next to regular SD content it's sharper and doesn't stagger and feels like much higher frame rate. While it's a far cry from Blue-Ray quality or even downloaded Xbox Live HD movies, it's closer to some of my cable HD channels as they compress the crap out of them to squeeze every drop of aging Mpeg-2 to add more crappy "Stretch-o-Rama" fake HD channels like new additions of reality shows channels: VH1 and MTV.

However there is a big catch - Fast forwarding and rewinding have been completely disabled. Instead, you can only "skip" in 10-minute intervals. Ouch.

Plus there are reports of unlucky owners of None-HDMI setup - streaming HD Content on Xbox 360 Netflix DOES require HDCP ! You still can use analog component or VGA cable, that is until Netflix decides to close the analog hole , but for now enjoy while you can - I got the feeling they will force down sampling or disabling it completely in future update.
So if you unlucky chap with DVI is your ONLY option - sorry - you are out of luck - no HD Netflix for you buddy :(

But if you think you all through - you got HDMI connection and your Xbox was successfully integrated with Netflix , Sony decided to drop the ball -

As for now all Sony/Columbia titles on Netflix streaming are not available only for Xbox. Netflix hopes to see issue resolved soon.
Something tells me PS3/Netflix integration with Sony content will be much more smoother :)

But for now we are grateful for additional value we got thanks to Netflix and Microsoft efforts.