Alright Xbox 360 owners, with the launch of the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii around the corner, Microsoft is doing what they can to make the Xbox 360 look just a tad more impressive this holiday season. Tomorrow the Xbox team is releasing the second major dashboard upgrade since the release of the Xbox 360 last year, in the Fall System Update. Some of the more impressive additions are 1080p output for both movies and games, and the ability to stream video (WMV only, though) from any PC running Windows Media Player 11 or Windows Media Connect. Here is a list of all the new goods:
Expanded HD Display and Video Playback Options:
- With 1080p resolution, gamers now have the ability to enjoy both game and video content in the best HD resolution currently available.
- Expanded video playback options increase the ways gamers can enjoy video content on Xbox 360. It is now possible to stream WMV video from a Windows PC running Windows Media Player 11 or Windows Media Connect.
- Gamers can now play video files from data CDs and DVDs, as well as from storage devices like USB 2.0 flash drives and Xbox 360 Memory Units.
- Xbox 360 will support 50hz HDTV display modes, providing viewers greater choice in how they watch DVD and HD DVD content.
Xbox Live Arcade Enhancements:
- Keeping up to date on Xbox Live Arcade games is now even more convenient with the ability to automatically download newly released Xbox Live Arcade trial games. This eliminates the need to manually search for new downloads on Xbox Live Marketplace each time a new game trial is released.
- Fast enumeration of games: you’ll see the games in your Xbox Live Arcade collection appear almost instantly. Get in and play right away.
- With so many games to choose from, Xbox Live Arcade added new sorting options such as “Recently Played” and “By Category.” These enhancements make managing Xbox Live Arcade collections faster and easier than ever.
- A new expanded Friends Leaderboard within Xbox Live Arcade allows gamers to compare themselves directly against their friends and view leaderboard details of their top 10 friends.
- A new expanded Achievements View within Xbox Live Arcade lets gamers view their full Achievement details for their Xbox Live Arcade games including descriptions, icons, allotted Gamerscore and more, right from the Xbox Live Arcade dashboard interface.
- The “Play Now” launch feature has been streamlined. Selecting “Play Now” after downloading a game in Xbox Live Marketplace now bypasses Xbox Live Arcade and takes you directly to the game.
- Xbox Live Arcade now offers a “Tell a Friend” feature. Select this option from the game info screen to send any friend on your friends list a message telling them about the Xbox Live Arcade game.
- Amateur game designers will be able to test and play the games they create using XNA Game Studio Express on their Xbox 360 systems when it launches later this year (separate download and subscription required).
Here’s one less piece of electronics equipment that you need to worry about. Haier Korea has announced its new 46-inch LCD TV, which is capable of recording without a VCR. The model L46A18-A HD DSM TV is equipped with PVR, has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, a contrast ratio of 800:1, and a viewing angle of 178º. It made its debut at the KES (Korean Electronics Show) 2006. Contact Haier for pricing and availability.
A GamePro editor got to sit down with Phil Harrison, an executive at Sony Computer Entertainment America(SCEA) at the Tokyo Game Show and had an interesting Q&A about the Playstation 3’s Blu-Ray and 1080p advantage. The interview was short, but very interesting. Phil of course touted the 1080p support, “True HD” he called it, that only the PS3 has out of the box. This is true at present, but as reported earlier this week, the XBOX 360 will be receiving a software upgrade to support 1080p, likely for the launch of their HD-DVD drive. It was also interesting to note that Phil stated some games look better in 720p. I’m not quite sure how that would work, but I guess we’ll see soon enough.
My favorite part of the interview was about Sony’s choice to use a Blu-Ray drive in the PS3, which has driven up the price and helped to make setting a launch date a nightmare. A lot of the critics, and apparently Microsoft, think that the only use of the Blu-Ray drive in the PS3 is for HD movie playback and just makes the device more expensive even for those who don’t plan to use it as a movie player. I will leave you with Phil putting the “Smack-Down” on that idea.
“There’s this sort of misunderstanding that the Blu-ray disc player for movies is somehow burdening the console with unnecessary cost. That is completely not true. We put our Blu-ray Disc functionality in the console purely from a game design point of view. Once we had that storage capacity on Blu-ray Disc, adding the movie playback functionality was extremely cost-effective, [the cost] is actually non-existent.
So games like Resistance which, as a launch title, is up to 20-something gigabytes already. And that’s day one—think about four years, six years from now. We’ll be pushing the 50 gigabyte limit with dual-layer Blu-ray very quickly. So we absolutely need it as game designers, and in that regard, the consumer is getting the movie functionality effectively for free.”
—Phil Harrison, Representative Director SCEA
Read More | GamePro
Microsoft has finally announced pricing for their HD DVD Player add-on for the Xbox 360 in North America, making it know that the unit will sell for $199.99 USD. While no date has been set, Microsoft did give us a few extra notes - the HD DVD Player will included the HD DVD version of King Kong, along with the Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote control. With the next Xbox 360 dashboard update comes the ability to output the signal in 1080p, allowing Full HD compatibility.
While not super-cheap, getting and HD DVD Player for $200 can’t be seen as anything other than a bargain, as the cheapest standalone unit runs for $500 USD - and that one can’t even play Xbox 360 games.
Read More | Playfeed
Recently, Asus has been pushing very hard in the mobile computing market. Earlier this year they released a new Lamborghini line of laptops and now Asus has decided to jump on the HD-DVD bandwagon with its new W2P laptop. The 7.25lb monster sports a new Mobility Radeon X1700 with 256MB of dedicated GDDR3, an ever so important HD-DVD drive and and HDMI port for simple connection to your HDTV. To complete the multi-media package, the unit also comes with an analog (NTSC) and digital (ATSC) tuner built in along with a Dolby certified sound system. The system also comes with the normal bells and whistles of todays high end laptops including Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Ethernet and a Modem. The system will likely come with Windows XP Media Center Edition standard, but with its specs, and new Radeon chip, this system would make for a great HD gaming system, and would be very well suited for XP Home or Professional. Pricing and availability have yet to be announced.
Read More | RegHardware
Some info from the Tokyo Game Show 2006 has stated that the XBOX 360 will receive 1080p support (1920x1080) through a dashboard update coming this year. Current games and even DVD’s will be up-converted to this extended resolution, but no native 1080p content has been announced yet. I would imagine that the update is namely due to the upcoming release of the HD-DVD add-on which supports 1080p media. It is also a good tactic to take away some of the hype from the PS3 being released in November, which will support 1080p. Now if they would only add an HDMI port to the thing, it’d be a true HD machine!
Read More | Playfeed
Movie makers are planning to begin to use RFID tags embedded within media to prevent playing of pirated disks. The technology will be applicable to DVD’s, HD-DVD’s and Blu-Ray disks. Essentially, the system will read the ID tag to ensure the disk is authentic, which will require the unit 1) To be able to read RFID tags and 2) To be able to connect to some database to retrieve valid ID tags. All of this is going to be, of course, at the consumer’s expense.
I have a few issues with this upcoming system. First of all, there will undoubtedly be ways to rip and re-burn the video into some generic form that will not require the player to scan the RFID. Otherwise, it will make recording home movies and such impossible, so it doesn’t totally rid the potential of pirated media. Additionally, when these new security measures come into affect, people with older systems that do not have the RFID capability will be forced to upgrade in order to view the new releases. At $500 a pop for the low-end Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players today, I find it obscene to expect consumers to purchase a new device to incorporate new anti-piracy technology that likely will not be totally effective. Unless U-Tech, IPICO or the movie makers decide to upgrade consumers current equipment for free, I don’t think many people will find this a great idea.
Read More | VNUNet
You know how TiVo released the new Series3 DMR on it’s site a few days ago, apparently allowing people to get their hands on one earlier than they would be able to get one at retail? Oh, and the whole “if you buy direct from TiVo, then you can transfer an older lifetime subscription for $199”? It turns out TiVo has seemingly duped us all on both fronts and more.
So-called TiVo “VIPs” placed their orders for their Series3 units with the knowledge that they would be getting the units earlier, and that it was the only way to transfer a lifetime subscription. Nice service to offer to your most loyal of customers. However, the fiasco that followed has nothing nice about it. Get the full scoop after the jump.
Toshiba has announced the release of their HD-A2 and HD-XA2 HD DVD players. Both output HD DVD content through the HDMI interface in 720p or 1080i. The HD-A2 incorporates a 297MHz / 12 bit Video DAC with high-quality, 4x oversampling, while the HD-XA2 also features 1.3. HDMI for 36-bit (RGB or YCbCr) color depth.
Both models come with picture setting functions that allow you to optimize picture quality with settings for color, contrast, brightness, edge enhancement, and noise blocker. Set to be released in October, the HD-A2 carries a MSRP of $499.99. For last minute Santas, the release of the high end HD-XA2 will follow in December at a MSRP of $999.99.
Read More | Toshiba News Release
After its recent debut at the IFA, Philips has released its Ambilight TV with models 32PF9731D and 42PF9731D, featuring 1366 x 768 resolution panels, and its 37PF9731D with a 1920 x 1080 1080p set. All three feature Philips’ Pixel Plus technology integrated with digital tuners and boast 2x HDMI ports along with two RGB scart sockets, component video input, S/PDIF in/out and an Ethernet port on the rear. Philips also utilizes Dolby Digital for full surround sound, and a USB connector for easy play.
Philips claims that Ambilight “makes an impressive contribution to the overall viewing experience with ambient light to complement the colours and light intensity of the image on screen. It creates ambiance, stimulates more relaxed viewing and improves perceived picture detail, contrast and colour.”
To experience Ambilight for yourself visit Philips. At price points of £1,799 (~$3396), £2,499 (~$4717) and £3,000 (~$5663), we may have to wait to catch Ambilight at the neighbors’ next Superbowl party.
Read More | Trusted Reviews