A Primer For Today's Xbox Dashboard Update

Today Microsoft has unveiled a major overhaul to the Xbox Dashboard which comes complete with a ton of new features and enhancements. While the aesthetic improvements may seem small — on-screen selections are now flat panels, similar to the Zune interface — but there’s a lot that’s been changed under the hood, with a serious eye toward Kinect-friendly alterations.

Here’s a look at everything that’s been upgraded in this free update:

1) The user interface. The entire dashboard appearance has been upgraded with a streamlined appearance that’s designed to make browsing via Kinect a snap. The Xbox Live Marketplace has a whole new organization, making it easier to get to a download in fewer steps.

2) Avatars 2.0. Xbox Avatars have gotten an upgrade that elongates their features a bit to make them more proportionately/anatomically correct. This was needed to help with 1:1 movement tracking in Kinect games that are Avatar-friendly.

3) The virtual keyboard. The QWERTY keyboard that pops up when you need to type something is easier to read now with a silver appearance, and it includes some nifty new functions like “repeated text entry.”

4) Achievements. If you have fully completed a game with 100% Achievements earned, you’ll find a new means of browsing those Achievements to fully appreciate your accomplishments.

5) Voice chat. Audio codecs for Xbox Live Party use have been upgraded, so you should be able to hear and understand your friends better than before.

6) Wireless networks. It’s easier now to see all of the wireless networks available for you to join. (Of course this only works if you’re using a wireless add-on device or one of the shiny new Xbox Slims.

7) Gamertag creation. When creating a new Gamertag for the first time, if you try to pick a tag that’s already in use, you’ll be provided a handy-dandy list of suggestions for ones that aren’t taken, a la AOL.

8) Controller sign-out. Now you can use your own controller to sign-out controllers that your friends are no longer using (like say, the drum kit in Rock Band), instead of them needing to do it themselves. Sounds handy.

9) Family settings. Parents have simplified controls now that make it easy to protect their children from harmful content. With a password, you can set customized privacy and activity settings for every member of your family, based on their ages. You can also set exceptions to this rule on a title-by-title basis.

10) Netflix search. Gold members will find a streamlined search organization that get you to your movies and TV shows faster.

11) Zune. Lots of enhancements across the board here, again for Gold members, who get some social networking and interactive upgrades.

12) ESPN. Last but not at all least, the long-awaited ESPN channel has at last been added to Xbox Live. All of the promised features are here — for Gold members, anyway — including full access to over 3,500 live sporting events every year, interactive viewing parties with friends, personal customizations to suit your personal sports tastes, and much more. The catch is that in order to enjoy the live events, in addition to a Gold membership, you’re also required to have “an ESPN3-affiliated broadband provider.” Without that, you’re stuck watching recorded clips from ESPN3.com.

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Robin Parrish

Unathletic, uncoordinated tall man with endless creativity stampeding through his overactive brain. Comes with beard, wife, and two miniature humans. Novelist. General blogger and main Gaming Geek for ForeverGeek. Lead Blogger, Apple Gazette.

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