Ever since its release, I'd been excited about the new model Xbox 360 S - the S standing for Slim or Small, although @themolk likes to call it the Stealthbox. I really wanted one, primarily to take advantage of the quieter running in our lounge room, but also to make use of the larger 250Gb drive and the 802.11n wireless. There's still nothing wrong with my original launch-day Xbox 360 - still works perfectly, and the 100Gb upgrade I gave it a while back has helped in extending its lifetime, especially with the ability to copy games to the HDD.
Although I was keen to get hold of a 360 S, money has been tight, so I had resorted to trying to trade an unused drive for it. Through the generosity of a few AuTechHeads members, though, I was lucky enough to get an offer of a steeply discounted brand-new 360 S - part of a Kinect bundle, where the owner already had a 360 S and didn't want a 2nd one - and the cash to pay for it! It's sometimes overwhelming to see how generous people can be - thank you, you have no idea how much it meant!
I had considered what to do with my old 360 - not liking to leave it idle when it's perfectly fine. My wife likes to play the Xbox too - leading to occasions where one of us is playing and the other wants to, but can't. We have different tastes in games, so we don't generally play 2 player (and I also find it irritating when she beats me through button mashing!)
Over the years I've accumulated quite a number of Live Arcade games and Xbox titles that are well suited for my daughters, and the Xbox 360 has a bunch of family safety features that I think are terrific in ensuring that they don't play the 'less suitable' titles. So I figured I could put the old 360 into the playroom- alongside their Wii - and solve the challenge of conflict with my wife's gaming tastes.
One of the best things in moving to the 360 S is finally being able to use HDMI. I'm not terribly attuned to the difference between 1080i and 1080p - having moved from an old CRT television, I certainly appreciated the move to 1080i - but I like HDMI for its neat single cable approach. My TV has 2 HDMI ports, so I knew I'd be able to connect both our blu-ray player and the Xbox 360 S without any fuss - I just had to pickup another HDMI cable.
The old Xbox 360 doesn't have HDMI, but that's ok for my daughters' television - it only has one HDMI port, which is used by their DVD player. The Wii was using composite cables - which would mean I couldn't use component for the Xbox - but the TV also has a VGA port with its own sound input. I decided to buy component cables for the Wii and the VGA HD adapter for the Xbox 360. This worked out perfectly - now the girls can seamlessly switch to Wii or Xbox just through the TV remote, and the Xbox's 1080p output looks surprisingly good on their little 22" TV. Their play room is a much bigger and more open room than the lounge room, so the noise of the old Xbox 360 is not anywhere near as big an issue.
One of the 'features' of the Xbox is the licensing for Live Arcade games. The games are licensed both to your gamertag, and to the console that they are first downloaded to. This allows anyone on that console to play the full version of games. After some research, I found that I could safely move my Xbox Live gamertag from one console to the other, while leaving the other gamertags able to play the Live Arcade games - and if there were any I wanted to play, I could download them to the new console via Xbox Live. The only drawback would be that on the new console, only my gamertag would be able to play the full versions.
Initially I was just going to have my wife and daughters using the 'Silver', or 'free' gamertag accounts on the old console. My daughters already had Live ID's because we use the Live Family Safety feature on our computers, so it was no big deal to associate them with gamertags to have their own achievements. But then I found out about the new Xbox Live Gold Family Pack, and I became very interested in it. The key features, such as the Family Center allowing me to control the Family Settings, the online activity reports, the 'points allowance' feature, and the discounts on family friendly games were really attractive. I especially liked the idea of being able to allocate points to allow the purchase of Live Games.
The price point is not bad - as the various ad details say, 4 Xbox Live Gold accounts for less than the price of 2. The killer for me, though, was a deal that gave you an extra month for free (so 13 months in total). My Xbox Live Gold membership had only just been renewed, so upgrading to the Gold Family Pack cost only $50 because they credited the value of my own membership toward it!
You can add and remove accounts at will, to a maximum of 4. That's perfect for us, because there's 4 of us. You have to have the gamertags on the same console to start with. Once created and associated with the Family Safety account, though, you can move them to another console!
Moving between consoles is really quite easy. You can simply copy your Gamertag to a USB key, which is formatted for use by the Xbox 360. I understand this is relatively new, Microsoft having abandon the "special" memory sticks that you used to have to buy. USB keys are so cheap and readily available nowadays - I just used a 1Gb one that I had sitting spare, and I also shuttled some of my saved games to the new console. I found that you should generally sign out before moving your gamertag though.
Dealing with content is perhaps the only challenge. I had received a redemption code for a free Xbox Live Arcade game, and I realised that if I were to activate it on the new console, then only I and the people I moved to that console would be able to play it. Instead, I moved my gamertag back to the old console temporarily, redeemed the code and downloaded it there, so that anyone on the old console could play it. Then when I moved back to the new console, I was able to download it there for play under my gamertag!
Although I think in some ways this approach to DRM for games is somewhat restrictive - I like the Steam model where I can download a game to any computer I sign in on - it does work fine for a 2 console approach. If we were to have more than 2 - and that's not likely for us - then it might become more of an issue. I'm generally pretty happy though.
The 360 S itself is as awesome as anyone has told me.It truly is quiet, the Wi-Fi is fast, the HDMI output is great, it's overall neater (less cable clutter)... I also get the impression that the DVD and HDD drives are a bit faster, but that might just be my own perception. It's certainly allowed me to get a new appreciation for the Xbox experience - I've loved it since launch day, but the improvements in hardware make it all the more awesome.
I don't have much interest in the Kinect right now. Being a long-time veteran of console gaming, from the Atari 2600 and Intellivision through the Master System, Megadrive, Xbox, and Xbox 360, I'm well aware of the propensity for peripherals to die off. Even the Xbox 360 has had its own, with the HD DVD drive and the Xbox Live camera - although with the release of Kinect, it's possible to pick the camera up for ridiculously cheap prices, and there are nonetheless games that do make use of it. I do view that Kinect may well fade, and the mode of gameplay just hasn't excited me to date (I'm also not a big Wii player).
One extra addition I did make though - I finally bought a Chatpad for my game controller. Boy, does that make life easier!
I'm very lucky and appreciative of people's generosity in helping me out with achieving my 360 S dream. I was thrilled to accomplish it, but I'm more thrilled by the hardware itself. It truly is everything I hoped for, and the Family Pack has made it all that much better!
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