Yesterday was a big day for the Xbox, the arrival of one of the best (if not the best) racing game available – Forza 3, as well as the launch of the Xbox Live Update Preview Program.
If you applied, like me, then you may have received an email acceptance into the preview program.
Available in the update for Australia is Facebook and Twitter integration as well as the brand new Zune Video Marketplace.
Xbox Live Update – Zune Marketplace
Other than the Zune desktop software, this is Zune’s official introduction into Australia. The Zune Video Marketplace offers movies in 1080p that start streaming instantly. It’s recommended you have least 4mbps to get HD, given how Australia’s broadband speeds are tiered, 1.5Mb will be too slow, so your going to want at least an 8Mb connection.
I hired the movie Uninvited in HD to review the quality and was very happy. Let me precursor this with the fact I’m on an ADSL2+ connection. The movie did in fact start straight away, with lower quality, then after about 30 seconds, the quality kicked in and the video was indeed great quality high definition. Now this is still obvious a lower quality bitrate than Blu-ray, so for those HD purists out there, this may not be for you. But for me this is a great service.
With HD using a large amount of data, you may be concerned about your download quota being chewed up by renting movies. A number of ISPs will offer Zune Video Marketplace content unmetered. An official list has not yet been released, but expect most to do this, it’s the only feasible way this service will work for Australian consumers.
Lets make no questions about this, the current movie selection is horrible. It is important to keep in mind this isn’t a product that’s officially launched, so by the time this goes public, I’d hope the catalogue of movies to choose from is dramatically improved.
|Rent HD – 420 Microsoft Points (A$6.93)
Rent SD – 360 Microsoft Points (A$5.94)
|Rent SD – 300 Microsoft Points (A$4.95)|
Xbox Live Update – Facebook
Xbox Live Update – Twitter
In terms of updates, this is a good one that actually ads a lot of functionality. As for Last.fm, there’s no sign of it.
The new Zune Video Marketplace with a better catalogue will become my movie rental service of choice. Compared to Blockbuster On Demand available through the TiVo, the Zune rentals are in HD and millions of Australians already have their credit card with Microsoft, lowering the barrier to entry. SD videos on Zune are 4 cents cheaper at $5.94 compared to $4.95 on Blockbuster or iTunes.
The social features are nice, but without the messenger kit add-on, i don’t see people contributing content via the Xbox much. It’s $29.99, will this be the new must-have accessory ?