Review: Zune Video for Xbox
by Travis Pope
last updated on November 17, 2009
first published on November 17, 2009
For the last few week’s we’ve had the opportunity to try out one of the more exciting product launches for those of you who already have a Zune, and own or plan to own an XBOX 360. Originally unveiled earlier this year Microsoft has now updated it’s flagship gaming console with a few new abilities to help users enjoy their games, and also their video. One Saturday night your fragging Covenant aliens like it’s going out of style. It’s rainy outside, and you’ve had a hard week’s work. Going out isn’t an option and this week you would like to be low key. So what do you do? Buy a video on XBOX after beating that last level of aliens and get just waste away in front of the ol’ tube!
Simply head to your XBOX dashboard by using the X shaped guide button on your controller and select Zune Video from the menus on the left hand side of your screen. Inside you’ll find access to all kinds of video, from television to movies, it’s all there, at least at first glance but more on that later. Select from one of your favorite networks and go ahead and hit the confirm button, then wait for it to… kidding Zune Video on XBOX allows you to instantly stream those shows, with a differing picture quality depending on how great your internet connection is!
For the purposes of this review I decided to purchase one of my favorite shows when I was a kid, “Doug”. As soon as I hit that play button it was on! Now in fairness Doug wasn’t the best animation I’ve ever seen and to be honest I’m not even sure Jumbo Productions had any idea that one day these episodes would be streaming, much less on video and that does show. Even though my computer was hardwired in and getting the best signal possible, my video wasn’t at all as crisp as I thought it would be, however your experience will vary. My XBOX is hooked up to a computer with a TV tuner in the back using component cables, which I’m sure degrades the quality of what you see on the screen. In all fairness this was not the best video to test the service on either, something I realized only minutes into the episodes. It really depends on the type and speed of the internet connection you have at home. The higher the speed, the better the video.
There are also a few other cool things to come out of Zune Video other than just the 1080p streaming. For starters you can now download videos that you previously purchased on your Zune to your XBOX or vice-versa. This however depends on a couple of things. Although Zune Video is an extension of the Zune PC and device marketplace the two marketplace catalogs are not completely in sync. There may be some shows that you purchased on your Zune they may not have the ability to either download or stream via your XBOX or via your Zune if you purchased them from XBOX Video before the merger. This is due to rights restrictions and should be ironed out over time according to Matt Akers of Microsoft and the ZuneInsider podcast.
The Big Picture
Easily explained the new Zune Video area on XBOX Live although, a little late in the game does offer some compelling features for the upgrade. Being able to in a whim rent a movie, or catch up on your favorite television shows from the comfort of your living room is something that most XBOX users as well as Zune users should enjoy. Yes the video availability on both platforms sometimes does stop you cold, but for me those moments were few and far in between. Others have argued that this is in fact just a rebranding of XBOX Video Marketplace and to a certain degree it most certainly is. The navigation, and selection on the console, hasn’t changed much. The interface looks exactly the same, and to be honest it’s kind of a dull release with the only new feature being the Instant 1080p streaming. However if you look just beneath the surface you start to realize that this is more than just about video. Clearly Microsoft is looking to merge the Video and Audio marketplaces on both devices and when that day comes I am completely sure that you will want to be somewhere in front of an XBOX. This isn’t just about watching Videos it’s about a new “Trojan” strategy Microsoft is using to get into your living room. Years ago Microsoft had this grand idea that every living room would have a computer connected to their television sets. Fortunately consumers realized that having a giant box in your living room nagging you about security software and alerting you to your stuffed inbox aren’t convenient while your catch the last episode of “House”. Microsoft went back to the drawing board and decided to add media center as well as a video marketplace to the #1 gaming console and everyone asked why? Well I ask you this. The XBOX 360 can play games, has a harddrive, mostly sits upright, is always connected to the internet, allows you to communicate across the planet, and is an video entertainment powerhouse. What does that sound like to you? Oh yeah a computer in your living room.
While the Zune Video marketplace does have a little time before it approaches anything close to iTunes’ video selection, it does allow you to stream videos you’ve already purchased from your PC or Zune instantly, download videos to your XBOX’s harddrive if you’re going to be away from your connection and do it all in an elegant form, Zune Video on XBOX is highly recommended.
Zune Video on XBOX