Xbox 360 First Impressions

I feel the need to include a disclaimer before getting into this: I don’t own an original Xbox, I own a Playstation 2, I consider myself a casual gamer, I’m a fan of Open Source and not Microsoft.

I purchased this box on the first day because early versions of consoles are generally easier to modify. With the PSP ver. 1.0 it was easy to run homebrew code, but with each successive firmware version, Sony makes it harder. The original Xboxes that are being sold now make it almost impossible to run Xbox Linux because of a hardware change.

Before we get to my experiences, here are some links that you might find interesting.


3060000000055690This is the current hot topic (puns are always intended), so I’ll start with it. As you can see from the photo above, I have experienced problems with my 360. You can see more photos on the Flickr Hack-A-Day photo pool. While observing a race that
Joystiq was in, I brought up the sidebar to play music from my iPod. This resulted in severe graphic glitches (the music wasn’t playing right either) and I had to reboot. Another time while playing PGR3 I brought up the sidebar and the system froze; I could still chat, but the system would not respond to any button presses, so I rebooted. I feel that both of these issues are Dashboard problems and not heat related. I’m guessing these problems will probably be cured in a future Dashboard upgrade. When you access Live for the first time the dashboard upgrades from ver. 2.0.1888.0 to 2.0.2241.0.

I haven’t experienced any problems that I would consider heat related. That being said: This console is extremely hot. Heat pours out of the back out the machine even when doing menial tasks like playing MP3s. If you place a hand across the right side of the box you can feel the suction from fans. This is the largest intake and because of that I think standing the box up on carpet would be a really bad idea. The feet are short enough that I wouldn’t feel good about standing it up on a hard surface either. The power supply has been blamed for most overheating problems. It has intake and exhaust ports that consist of two rows of holes in a 2×1/4 inch space. The power supply doesn’t get too hot; I’m sitting with my feet on top of it right now using it a foot warmer.


From the top photo you can see I’ve got the 360 plugged into my
Dell 2405FP
using the included component cable. The component cable also has a composite video connection so you don’t need a different cable when connecting to an SDTV. Yes, 720p looks amazing and I’m glad that Microsoft has required support for it in all games. It looks a lot better than the jaggie 480p from my Playstation 2. The clarity of the HD is a little lost on me since I use this as my regular computer monitor which can support resolutions up to 1920×1200. I did buy this monitor specifically for the HD support and it should be able to handle 1080p, if the Playstation 3 manages to support it. It’s also nice being able to work while monitoring Live using the picture in picture.


Following the trend set by Nintendo, the Xbox’s OEM wireless controller is great.  They added two shoulder buttons, but unlike the Playstation, placing four fingers on the shoulder buttons doesn’t feel natural. This is fine because the upper buttons are used for occasional tasks like switching view points; you spend most of your time with index fingers on the triggers. The light on top of the controller indicates which number 1-4 the controller is assigned to, a nice touch. It would be nice to see the possibility of more players supported on a single console though. The wired USB controllers can be used with Windows, but not the wireless controllers when connected with the “play &charge”. The obvious conclusion is that: the play & charge is just a power cable and doesn’t add any sort of USB functionality. I think the headset connector is identical to the original Xbox: 2.5mm jack like cellphone headsets, I also have a 2.5mm RCA cable from my digicam that would work. There are two slots next to the headphone jack that have two metal contacts each which aren’t used by the headset.


One of the first things I did was plug every USB device I had into the Xbox to see how it behaved. My keyboard worked fine whenever there was an on-screen keyboard (It’s the keyboard from the Playstation 2 Linux kit). The system really hated the mouse; none of the other peripherals would work when it was plugged in. My video iPod came up almost immediately and was identified by its name “pwn3d by hackaday”. Plugging in the camera, card reader and flash drive all worked, but not at the same time. It also doesn’t like the card reader built into the monitor, but the flash drive and keyboard both work when connected through the monitor’s hub. My Prism2 based WiFi adapters were not recognized by the box.


One of the main reasons I purchased the Xbox was its media streaming ability. Using the Windows Media Connect you can access music and photos stored on your Windows XP machine. The software will also stream video, but not to the Xbox 360 because Microsoft has decided to cripple it. This is an attempt to sell more Windows Media Center PCs since you can stream video using them. Media Connect uses the UPnP AV protocol to stream media, but the Xbox won’t recognize other UPnP servers like uShare. If it did, it would be easy to stream from a Mac or a Linux machine. The Xbox also doesn’t appear as a media renderer when using Cidero UPnP control Point software. Here is a good overview of the media center features. [via Xbox360Fanboy]

Playing music is easy enough. It was a lot more enjoyable navigating music stored on the iPod than on my roommate’s XP machine. The iPod is neatly organized while Media Connect scrapes every directory you give it, listing every random music file and playlist it comes across. The interface is pretty easy to use, but I have a couple complaints. Adding a song to a playlist takes at least three button pushes. When you click “add to playlist” it takes you to the playlist and then you have back up to get back to where you were before. They should dedicate one button on the controller for adding the song and not make you jump back and forth. Also, you can’t save playlists that include music not stored on the hard drive. The easiest way to manage playlists is building them on your PC or in iTunes for your iPod instead of using the Xbox interface. The Xbox does work really well if you want to play by album, artist, or genre though.


I’ve enjoyed playing on Xbox live. Being able to jump easily into a game with friends is great. Delivering free demos to consoles is a wonderful idea: I’m much more likely to buy games I’ve already played just like buying DVDs of movies I’ve already seen. It would be nice to receive videos from videogame review sites too. The downloads from Live are extremely slow, they should really use a distributed system since they have a huge network of identical consoles. I wish Live had a way to organize friends into groups like I can on IM: coworkers, readers, random.

Money, money, money

This is what I hate the most about the new Xbox 360.

  • Sure, you can buy a Core bundle for $299, which isn’t anymore than the last version, but it doesn’t come with a hard drive. The hard drive is a $30 SATA drive, but since it is for the Xbox it costs $99.
  • The free Media Connect software is fully capable of streaming video, but you have to buy a Media Center PC to do it.
  • Media Connect is using the open UPnP AV protocol, but you can’t use other UPnP software to stream to the Xbox
  • Xbox Live costs extra – Didn’t I pay a huge entry fee by buying the console? Why do I have to pay a monthly fee just to use it?
  • Micropayments – Sure, these little bits of content aren’t worth much, but we are still going to make you pay for it.

The bottom line

Is the Xbox 360 worth buying? If you have prerequisites like an HDTV and a Media Center PC the Xbox 360’s support for these items will make it well worth your time.  If you want to just use it as gaming system, it’s hard to justify the expense right now. Like most console launches, the titles aren’t that revolutionary. I think the best plan would be to wait till next year to make the purchase: the console will be cheaper, the selection of games will be broader, used games will be available, you’ll know the Playstation 3’s features, the Xbox 360 games will be making better use of the console’s power, Microsoft will have most of the bugs ironed out and you might be able to run Linux.

110 thoughts on “Xbox 360 First Impressions

  1. Microsoft has again taken a toll on gaming. I mean, whoever heard of a console CRASH? or overheat? or glitches!? okay, i lied, plenty of glitches. xbox 360 is just a half-developed system. Sure, it’s specs are great, but if you look at the entire thing, giant screens, new look, and fast processors won’t fix your mistakes of overheating, expensive, glitching, crashing, rebooting, dying, etc etc. Microsoft should have put in more time into a system than simply set a date to release it when the system wasn’t 100% complete. (yes I could have written this more professionally, no i will not)

  2. i agree ps3 will own all xbox isnt even 100% reverse compatable as i have heard. ms fuxed up majorly im not going to waste my $$ on it. not untill xboxlinux goes 360 or it gets chipable

  3. hi guys, long time reader, first time poster

    i have a question, coul someone test to see if a normal USB drive can be used as a memory unit?this would make the core system a slightly better deal (20 for 256 megs usb stick instead of 40 bucks for 64 meg)

  4. As far as I know it only allows music and photos to be read from the USB storage devices. No moving of files too and from the device. The 64MB cards/extra 20GB HDs are expensive because they want people to buy the premium/full system rather than the core. The worst thing they did was not make the HD standard – it means that it might not be utilised by developers for caching and game addons because not all the users will have one.

  5. Nice review :-)
    I went and checked them out in a future shop..they’re a lot smaller than the high-res pics make them look like.
    I’d be really worried about that air use for cooling, though. That much air must bring in fair amounts of dust, no matter how clean you keep your house. How easy would it be to add an attractive dust filter to the intake? People want to show off the system, so it would have to be acceptable..

  6. heh i wonder if its just the premium packages that have this problem… i have the core system and upgraded it w/ the hard drive and wireless. no problems at all. i am not sure what the differences are in the console(s) but i have no problem at all with mine. either that or they relased alot & pulled a fast one like apple with the nano and these “glitches or hardware issues”.. lol noone realizes that there is so much advertising for free from news stations if there is a “problem” and all they say is to call them or go to the xbox website. alot more people are talking about it w/ the problems then the console itself..the only people that buy it right away are the obsessed ones, and later on the actual consumer where microsoft will make the money…think about it..

  7. I have the premium and it’s been going pretty much non-stop since the launch with several of us using it. The console is upright and the power brick is on the carpeted floor. The headphone jack while like the original doesn’t have the old puck mute and volume and you must use the dashboard menu for this. Backward compatibility works fine but of course you can’t currently copy old game saves over.

  8. Why do ppl keep saying this is a half developed system when they seem to be ignoring the obvious: that sony is using the cell chip which is completely untested in any environment? For all we know, the ps3 will crash more and put out more heat. Sony is the king of bad launches, just look at ps2 with the lasers and the psp with the dead pixels and button issues. I have a feeling the ps3 release will be highly comical given sony’s past. Maybe we will even see a rootkit or two ;).

  9. Could I buy a core system and add my own hd or is the whole internal interface missing? An adapter will have to be made, but where’s the fun in plug-n-play? :)
    Along the same lines, could I add more system memory? Maybe by removing the 8 samsung chips and replacing them with a higher capacity set? Obviously much harder and more time consuming, but is it even possible?

  10. Has anyone tried any other USB HID-compatible controllers? I have a Wingman that I’m curious about. . . Plus, adaptors are available for most old systems’ controllers to USB.

  11. 17, the microsoft website jives with what eliot said, media connect allows picture and music streaming with xp, video streaming is only enabled with media center.

    how’s perfect dark, i loved “challenge mode” in the original and am wondering if that has carried over to perfect dark zero

  12. #15 – No, there is no use in upgrading the memory. While it is possible, there would be no performance difference seeing that games are designed with only 512mb of memory in mind. If (when) the xbox360 is hacked and an alternative OS is put on it, well then we’ll see if more memory would be good.

  13. I would be willing to bet 99% of you who complain about Xbox360’s problems don’t even have one and have never played one; so why don’t you STFU!! because you have no idea what you are talking about. If you are a Microsoft hater then go buy yourself a PS3 when it comes out in in year or better yet; why don’t you make your own game console out of an old router, a few paperclips, and a toaster, run Linsux on it, sell it for $399 and launch it all over the world simultaneously and tell us how well it goes…

  14. It’s good to see that you offer some improvements for the system (given your anti-ms stance).

    Its easier to see that some of the crippling features were intended to give other microsoft products some of the xbox shine, which in my honest opinion, is a good business decision. I am pretty sure that alot of people who interested in the xbox are wondering now what the hell is microsoft media center edition.

    Microsoft still have the ability to create media connect like software for other platforms. Kinda like how ipod/itunes was mac only at first. However, in that case apple needed windows users for ipod to be successful. Don’t think the xbox has such a dependence on apple and linux users.

  15. I think the need for media center pc to stream video will not be a big issue in the last years of the 360 life span.

    The reason: The majority of home desktop pc’s being sold today are media center edition. Further, Vista (launching next year) will include media center in the common home bound sku.

    I assume in the next 2 or 3 years media center will not be a rare thing among PC owners.

    I think MS chose to require media center for two reasons:
    1. Help speed the migration of current windows users to media center edition and/or Vista when it ships.

    2. Media center provides functionality that you can’t get with just media connect. Tivo like UI, plugin’s for various tasks and so on.
    Sure, software could be written to duplicate the features of media center, but that would be duplication of efforts. Sure, 3rd parties already offer free media center software, but of course MS is not going to build extender software into the 360 for Myth TV or anything other than their own media center (and I wouldn’t expect them to).

    You have to admit, in 4 years from now when the 360 core system is selling for $150 and it can extend your media center to another room of the house – it’s a very intriguing solution even if the 360 is not hacked.

  16. I love the ability to download movie & game previews & game demos. Game demos average about 500mb each. But I found that the downloads are very fast. Unlike fileplanet, they begin immediately.

    Xbox Live Arcade games are very cool…at least most of them are. Definately try Geometry wars…very cool…very tripy.

    Using Windows XP and Media functionality amazingly just works! It’s very fast and very easy to use. Photo slideshows are very cool. You can play music from your computer while doing a slide show.

    Controller is amazing…Xbox Live improvements are outstanding.

    I hope all attempts to hack Xbox fail. You hackers are what ruined Halo 2 on Xbox Live. Hacked boxes increase vulnerabilities to Online gaming. I’m paying $60 a year to not have to deal with the bull crap you hackers cause to an otherwise fun online experience.
    I beg to differ that Xbox 360 is locked down. Are you kidding me. The 360 has more capability than any console in history. You guys got to give it up, in 4 years MS has changed the face of console gaming as we know it. Progress is welcome…makes you think…maybe MS is successful because maybe some of their products are innovative and meeting and exceeding consumer expectations.

    Other than a weird glitch while playing Halo 2 on live and a lockup in Perfect Dark once, the 360 has been running many hours just fine.

    Battery life on controllers is great, even though it’s been rumbling like crazy during Call of Duty 2.

  17. #26 – When we refer to hacking the xbox, its not to get cheats to work on it. Its to utilise the hardware to its greatest potential. I, for one would love to see the xbox360 hacked. It would be a $400 (or 300 if you could get the core system to run with a hdd) great gaming and multimedia PC. The people who worked on breaking the first xbox are the great engineers of our time, and hopefully will move on to greater projects One last thought…
    ” I’m paying $60 a year to not have to deal with the bull crap you hackers cause to an otherwise fun online experience.” Think of the people who pay $120+ for games like world of warcraft and still have to deal with cheaters. It sucks but people will find a way to cheat, which is not the fault of people who like to hack hardware.

  18. It’s arguable whether or not it’s not your fault but you surely can’t argue that several forms of cheating through mods are a clear side effect of modding consoles.

    Funny thing is, for the same reasons you claim “to utilise the hardware to its greatest potential” are the same reasons why I don’t want hackers / modders to be successful. When others mod their boxes and eventually game files and maps, it keeps my 360 from running at it’s full potential cause I have to deal with all the crap.

    Don’t fool yourselves into thinking you are doing anyone a service. To all you hackers and modders, your work has a huge part in ruinning the gaming experience of thousands and thousands of people. And for that you want someone to pat you on the back and salute you…???!!!! I for one never will. May MS work their damdest to protect my investment in their product by making it as difficult as possible to hack / mod their system, online service and all games that run on their system.

  19. It’s arguable whether or not it’s not your fault but you surely can’t argue that several forms of cheating through mods are a clear side effect of modding consoles.

    Funny thing is, for the same reasons you claim “to utilise the hardware to its greatest potential” are the same reasons why I don’t want hackers / modders to be successful. When others mod their boxes and eventually game files and maps, it keeps my 360 from running at it’s full potential cause I have to deal with all the crap.

    Don’t fool yourselves into thinking you are doing anyone a service. To all you hackers and modders, your work has a huge part in ruinning the gaming experience of thousands and thousands of people. And for that you want someone to pat you on the back and salute you…???!!!! I for one never will. May MS work their damdest to protect my investment in their product by making it as difficult as possible to hack / mod their system, online service and all games that run on their system.

  20. Hacking consoles -is- a great service… thanks to xbox-scene and XBMC I’m always streaming media to my $150 XBox… and as for unlocking hardware’s potential, my copy of Dragon Quest 8 plays much nicer without loadtimes thanks to the fact that some determined hackers figured out how to run PS2 games from the harddrive.

    I can’t imagine how upset I’d be if I purchased a XB360 for upwards of $300 and realized it doesn’t have the media functionality of a first generation XBox.

    As for hackers enabling cheaters, I was pretty sure consoles with mods enabled were banned from live?

  21. According to this, you can not get on live with a modded xbox.

    The OP is mistaken about cheats in xbox live. The cheats that I know are possible are caused by glitching in game (alot for halo 2, that I know of). I don’t understand how “When others mod their boxes and eventually game files and maps, it keeps my 360 from running at it’s full potential cause I have to deal with all the crap” statement. Those who modded their hardware cannot play online and if they do select any live enabled tabs, they will be banned. Its simple science, if your EEPROM checksum doesn’t match your original in the database, you’re pretty much fucked.

    I don’t think we (a hacking community as a whole) are fooling ourselves into anything. As with any new technology, there are both dark and light sides to it. Lots of great medical research comes out of the development of chemical/biological/nuclear weaponry but the fruits of the research could be the devistation of mankind. That works backwords too, good discoveries can sometimes turn into a very bad thing.

  22. I’ve hacked around half a dozen normal xboxes for friends and family.

    Zero of these xboes can use Xbox Live in their hacked state. With a flip of a switch and a reboot they act 100% like normal xboxes. But that’s because they *are* normal xboxes, unhacked.

    The person insisting that I can’t modify the thing I own is the one trying to take rights away from other people, not vice-versa.

  23. #35 you need to read bungies weekly reports for the last few months. There has been continual problems with map modding and recently some crazy crap has been happening that never happened before on Halo 2. Yes Halo 2 had a few bugs which mostly were fixed with their updates, but none of the issues I’m talking about are attributed to bugs. The problems I’m talking about arrived only shortly after the release of the new maps. Once people used the maps as a delivery system for mods everything went all to hell real quick.

    And yes…thanks to the modding community, some smart ass figured out a way to add a switch to an Xbox. Toggle one way and you can disable the mod as to where you will be able to access Xbox Live just fine. This has been well known for some time now.

    So YES…modded Xboxes can get on Xbox Live.

    Anyone that’s played Halo 2 allot over the months knows what I’m talking about.
    Bungie has aknowledged these problems on their weekly updates for months now.

    #34 You seem to be missing the fact that the 360 is enourmously more capable than the original Xbox in terms of media center functionality. I don’t know how you hypothesize that it is not.

    The bottom line is…modding is bad for gamers. Great for tinkerers, great for do it yourself techno freaks (of which I am one), but bad for gamers. I am a gamer and so I protest.

    And by the way I’m on this site cause I followed a link here.

    I absolutely respect the modding community and the many cool things that come out of it, but just wanted to voice the bad as well.


    Seems pretty clear to me. I totally agree with you on people who hack ingame. Ruins the whole experience. Its the reason i stopped playing Counter-Strike.

    Most of the hacks (for halo 2 at least) are software based. While those are only uploaded and allowed because of modchips, its not the modchip maker’s or the people who figured out how to break the xbox security’s fault. It’s a double edged blade. Just like P2P software. It can be used for legal purposes (like distributing F/OSS) or for illegal (for all that pr0n on your friend’s hard disks).

  25. Well, first off, to #30, you do, in fact, need a gold subscription to play games online, a silver membership is basicly only god for chatting and leader boards. That said, I think people are making a bit too big of a deal out of the few glitches, it’s new hardware and it’s not that uncommon for a gaminc system launch to have a few glitches. Sony and Nintendo launch their systems in Japan first largely for that reason (and the fact that Japanese gamers are likely to be more forgiving to them.) I did have my powersupply overheat once, after the box had been on a good 8 hours. But that was easily enough remedied by leaving the power supply dangling off my entertainment center.

    And the media center thing is kind of cheap, but hey, I’ll eventually find a way to pirate Media Center Edition and be able to stream IPTV to my TV constantly, so it’s all good.

  26. #37: Sure, many Xboxes have switches to turn mods on and off- the thing is, if you toggle to disable the mod and access Xbox Live, you’re _removing the mod’s functionality_, hence accessing Xbox Live effectively unmodified.

    #11: That’s Sony BMG, not Sony :)

    Agreed with #30, an Xbox Live Silver memership is free with every Xbox, without a monthly fee. It’s an Xbox Live Gold membership that you have to pay for- and imho it’s pretty nice recieving the downloads, movie trails and other stuff as a free value added service.

    And for those of you who want to get the media connect functionality working on linux or mac or whatever other alternative OS and platform, perhaps someone should start looking at the protocol and seeing just where it differs from the open protocol it’s supposedly based on :)

  27. I believe that all Microsoft products usually sound great to begin with, but soon to find out there are errors and bugs here and there. This problem with the cooling system happened on the original X Box as well if any of you can remember. Soon people will figure out a way to boot some form of Linux. And mod chips will be produced. So don’t worry. As it currently stands Microsoft looses about $100 for every system they sell. where they make the real money, is the games. As most of them start at $60.00. I rather keep my old X Box then go out and dump my money into a game system that has issues.

  28. I dunno man, I’m kinda loving my 360 – and I live a 100% Microsoft-free life. I just got a 51″ HDTV and man, it pretty much pwn3s. (rear-projection CRT, but it’s a Hitachi unit. I have to turn into a fanboy on this – I had my doubts, but it looks better than every mid-range plasmas and a good number of higher-end ones. check it out and see for yourself! just tune it with Avia to avoid the burn-in)

    Granted, the launch lineup isn’t that hot – then again the last decent launch lineup was N64. But playing CoD2 and NfS:MW (aka Acronym City) in 720p on 51″ is just ridiculously fun. The detail level is fantastic, and is only going to get better with the next batches of games. Live is simple to use. The hardware setup is simple. The wireless controllers are near-perfect (I think they could stand to be a BIT bigger, and the triggers could definitely have wider range)

    Overall I’m really happy with the purchase. The games are basically just prettier versions of current-gen stuff, but if you have the visual hardware (read: HD) to get the most out of it, I’d say you wont be disappointed…

    Also, Perfect Dark Zero sucks. Single-player, at least. I had high hopes. Totally bites. Zero story, Zero good voices, Zero decent action, Zero pacing, Zero clues as to your objectives… bleh.

  29. “Microsoft has again taken a toll on gaming. I mean, whoever heard of a console CRASH?”

    God I hope you aren’t serious. Ever heard of this thing called Nintendo? or Sega? These things used to crash like it was there job also. It’s practically a given that you had to do the “blow very hard a few times on the game, and then into the system” before a game would even load. Go be an anti-MS fan boy some where else.

  30. My TFT native res is 1280 * 1024, its a nice screen but when I use a res less than this you can tell its being stretched. Won’t the same thing happen with the 360, especially with a res of 1920×1200?

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