Last week Microsoft began the "next-generation" of video game consoles by launching the xbox-360. On the technical side, this thing runs on a three-core Power PC based processor (not dual-core, tri-core). They also utlize a custom designed graphics card from ATi which is bigger and badder than any mainstream card available for the PC. Rather than synthesizing all the info out there I thought I'd use quotes and links to answer two central questions, What makes it next-gen and what's the user experience like? There's some overlap between these themes, but when your considering droping over $400 for the system and some games you don't go into it blindly.
Part 1: What makes it next gen?
-720P HD resoultions & 5.1 Audio out of the box for all games (put that home theatre to use)
-Ability to stream audio files & pictures stored on a networked PC
-Ever present online connection tracking the games you play... voice chat always available.
-Standard Wireless controllers (up to four).
-supports online "micro-payments" allowing for more episodic content / game upgrades / demos.
-"Convergence" is a term thrown around a lot these days and the xbox 360 has it in oodles. It can use the windows media center UI when connected to a media center PC.
Insider quote on "Next-Gen capabilities"
"I was playing PGR3 on Live with 5 or so other players, racing my ass off in NYC, while Shoe was undoubtedly sitting snug in his den playing PDZ solo -- and so I rang him up on Live and we started a private chat channel while we played our separate games. On top of that, I was streaming MP3s off my PC to use as the soundtrack for PGR3... so in my headphones I had the car engine noises, the music, and Shoe's voice all happening at once. Simply amazing stuff."-Che Chou, 1up Editor
Get to the Point!
Check out this series of streaming videos from 1up.com including video game magazine editors and their initial impressions of the Xbox360 hardware and showcasing the media capabilities (you can controll the audio visualizations with your controller!).
Part II & III later.