Overview Review Environment For every product there was at least one major hurdle to surmount before being able to get it fully functional. It should have been less challenging.
Overview Document Introduction
This review details key aspects of the usage experience for software and hardware solutions that provide a media center experience. While we used a relatively systematic process to review the products, this document is not an audit of what the products can or cannot do. It is meant to provide an indication of what it will take to achieve an optimal media center experience. We have highlighted key positive and negative aspects for each product, grouped into 3 categories: setup, ease of use, and features. The overall findings are summarized at the end of the document as a set of high-level recommendations (see page 25). Please note that just because one product received negative feedback for a function or feature does not necessarily mean that it would be a negative worth highlighting for another product. The overall experience for the other product may be designed such that it is non-issue.
Review Selection Criteria
Key criteria for the products selected was that they needed to:
Long-format Review • Yahoo! Go TV (p.7) • HP MediaSmart TV (p.11) • Front Row (p.15)
• Have a TV-based UI • Allow for control of live TV or playback of DRM content • Allow for playback of personal and downloaded media • Have access to online services Products that received long-form reviews were selected because their experiences are not as wellknown and because of their unique execution of features. Even though a product may have received a short-form review, we still executed the review with the same attention to detail.
Short-format Reviews • TiVo Series 2 (p.19) • Xbox 360 (p.20) • XP Media Center (p.22) • Nintendo Wii (p.23) • Joost (p.24)
Overview The Optimal Experience
“Though I surf the Web with high-speed Internet access, television, with 150 channels at 40 inches and powerful stereophonic sound, was like white^H[LYYHM[PUN3PNO[ÅL^V\[VM[OLZL[SPRLZWYHy, as I gripped the remote and rode the river from CBS (2) to PBS (13), “Entertainment Tonight” to “The News Hour With Jim Lehrer.” Then I shot the rapids through the rest — Marvin Hamlisch (food tips), QVC (wrap tops, sold out in two colors), Queens Public Television (children praying), Spike (mixed martial-arts fights).”
New York Times: Rip Van Winkle Awakens to a Flat-Screen Life William L. Hamilton / December 24, 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/weekinreview/24hamilton.html
Overview Reviewed Products Overall, a frustrating and disappointing experience. Downloaded Personal Media Playback
Yahoo! Go TV Software
Overall, the biggest surprise of the products surveyed. TV-centric experience with lots of potential, but definitely a beta product.
• • •
Live TV DVR EPG
Folder-based selection with file format and codec issues
• • •
LAUNCHcast streaming music Flickr and Yahoo! photo streams Online video streams & searching
HP Media Smart TV TV
Great idea, but an incomplete product that should be easier to setup. Not worth a price premium. Functions more as a novelty product.
WMP DRM content WMP but file format and codec issues
Live365 streaming music Snapfish photo streams
Front Row OS Software
Feels like a polished prototype rather than an actual product. Has some wiz-bang display features but the energy that went into them was misplaced.
Access to shared iTunes and iPhoto libraries
TiVo Series 2 Set-top-box
An overrated UI experience that is being held back by its consistent reliance on a page-based navigation system.
• • •
LAUNCHcast streaming music Movie listings and ticket purchasing Yahoo! weather and traffic
Xbox 360 Game Console
Browsing and buying media was a great experience but lacks DVR functionality and access to other services (photos, clips, radio, weather).
XP Media Center OS Software
May get rough critiques but overall experience is much more complete than that of the other products.
Wii Game Console
The Xbox 360 is cool and techy, the PS3 is slick and sleek, but the Wii is fun and engaging.
Attempts to delivers a TV experience on the PC with social networking functionality. More of a preview or alpha release than an actual beta.
• • •
• • •
Live TV DVR EPG
Live TV DVR EPG
Notable Features & Services
WMP with file format and codec issues
Direct purchase of vintage games, game extras, movies and shows
WMP DRM content WMP with file format and codec issues
Direct purchase of movies & shows Extensive set of services that included photo and video streams, news
Photos via media card
• • •
Weather browser Web browser Direct purchase of vintage games
• • •
Steaming videos Chat Instant messaging
Overview DRM Content/ Movies There are a limited number of sources for DRM content and the catalogs are limited. While you can access the files in multiple environments you generally have to watch them in their target player because of DRM restrictions.
We did not include a detailed breakdown for TV shows because only iTunes ($1.99 ) has a respectable catalog. Xbox 360 charges 240 points for HD and 160 points for SD TV shows.
Content playback is supported $ Can purchase within software/platform
9.99 sub & 3.99-2.99 VOD
24 hr view
24 hr view
24 hr view
24 hr view
24 hr view
24 hr view
30 day store
30 day store
30 day store
60 day store
14 day store
Yahoo! Go TV HP MediaSmart TV
Non-CinemaNow videos may need to be first played in WMP
Front Row TiVo Series 2 Xbox 360 XP Media Center Wii & Joost
Yahoo! Go TV Overview Overall, the biggest surprise of the products surveyed. TV-centric experience with lots of potential, but definitely a beta product. Setup Install was fast but trying to get the TV tuner working turned into a hassle - two store trips were required. One was to purchase a supported TV tuner, the second for coax and a splitter, since trying to control the STB channel using an STB-out connection is difficult to setup. The DVR functionality was very solid and robust, which was not a surprise, as this is built on the well-reviewed Meedio platform. The TV-centric experience for accessing Yahoo! services was a favorite feature. Browsing your Yahoo! photo and Flickr pictures is fun and easy. But, the real surprise was the ease of browsing and watching videos (music and featured). The 10 featured categories were limited, but this was not a negative. The efficiency and easy of use was very TVcentric. If you wanted more you could always search.
Ease of Use Easy Difficult
Features Easy Limited
Installation is a snap but full setup is not so easy.
Simple navigation but needs refinement.
Service integration is great but more is needed.
Basic Install • Installs like a typical application, no surprises • Once setup properly, browsing and recording is immediate Service Accounts • Yahoo! services access is automatic • Multiple Yahoo! accounts are supported TV Tuner Setup • Limited TV tuner support, may require extra equipment • Cable out setup is very difficult to configure • Confusing playback setup My Files • Only one source directory • Unable to change source directories after installation
Navigation • Top-level navigation is fast, efficient and direct • Allows for numeric key navigation • Pressing select within the main nav does not jump focus • No support for alpha-numeric data list jumping • No support for looping to the end of the list • Music navigation is awkward and requires unnecessary steps • Displayed music file path is of limited value • No metadata navigation Alpha-numeric Input • Easy to jump out of alphanumeric input • Submitting searches requires navigating to the main menu
Service Integration • Doesn't attempt to re-create the web-based experience • Next music video auto-plays • No advertisements for featured video providers Content Access • Inefficient use of space and inconsistent UI conventions • You cannot access your recorded shows unless a TV tuner is connected • Only has a full-screen mode Transaction • No support to browse and buy • No premium access for broader content selection • No premium access to skip advertising
Yahoo! Go TV Setup Installation is a snap but full setup is not so easy. Access to services is automatic but getting the TV tuner working and managing your media source directories is not user-friendly.
Basic Install Installs like a typical application, no surprises Downloading and installing the application is easy. The only issue a user will encounter is if you do not have a TV tuner or have one that is not supported, but it does not interrupt the installation process. You can also enjoy a fairly robust experience without the TV tuner.
Service Accounts Yahoo! services access is automatic Once a user is added no other effort is required to access Yahoo! services. You do not have to repeatedly sign-in.
Multiple Yahoo! accounts are supported It's easy to setup more than one account, which is essentially a 2 Once setup properly, browsing step process (ID + password). and recording is immediate Unfortunately, the one negative is that Selecting location and service type it only supports user switching, does loads channel data without delay. not support the ability to So, browsing the guide and selecting sign-out. programs to record is immediate.
TV Tuner Setup Limited TV tuner support, may require extra equipment If your TV tuner is not supported it results in a very disappointing and/or costly experience. *HISLV\[ZL[\WPZ]LY`KPMĂ„J\S[ [VJVUĂ„N\re If your source is an "out cable" from your STB, setting up channel control requires expert knowledge. Cannot rely on users understanding the complexities of this. Confusing playback setup Expert knowledge is required to configure playback, so your recordings play in other apps.
My Files Only one source directory By default, it looks in the standard "My" folders for photos, music and videos, which you can change. You cannot have multiple sources. This is a big issue if you also have personal files in your shared folders. Unable to change source directories after installation You cannot change source directories for your files after installation. This is a huge issue if you overlook the step, assume you can change it later and/or if you have files scattered throughout your computer.
Yahoo! Go TV Ease of Use Simple navigation but needs refinement. Even though the negatives out-number the positives it's still a solid experience that allows you to discover content without fear.
Navigation Top-level navigation is fast, LMĂ„JPLU[HUKKPrLJ[ Main menu sub-lists/options update upon focus, so you immediately see what is available and you never feel lost.
Navigation PrLZZPUNZLSLJ[^P[OPU[OLTHPU UH]KVLZUV[Q\TWMVJ\Z When you press select in the main navigation list it does not jump focus to the first item of the sub-list, which is an expected event.
Music navigation is awkward and requires unnecessary steps Music lists lack an in-list method of backing out, even though Play All is available. Requires a lot of unnecessary key navigation.
In addition, second-level navigation items are clearly labeled with userfriendly supporting text that does not distract from the experience.
5VZ\WWVY[MVYHSWOHU\TLYPJ KH[HSPZ[Q\TWPUN Does not allow for using alphanumeric keyboard input to hyperjump long lists.
Displayed music file path is of limited value Because the file path is truncated within the middle, versus from the beginning, it is of limited value.
5VZ\WWVY[MVYSVVWPUN[V[OL LUKVM[OLSPZ[ You cannot loop to the end of lists, which would be very helpful when navigating long lists.
No metadata navigation of your music You cannot browse your music by album, artist or genre.
(SSV^ZMVYU\TLYPJRL` navigation Second-level navigation lists can be quickly accessed by the numeric keys.
(SWOH5\TLYPJ0UW\[ ,HZ`[VQ\TWV\[VMHSWOH U\TLYPJPUW\[ Selecting left on the left input column jumps to the main navigation list versus looping to the last column, since alpha-numeric input is handled in-line versus as a modal control. Also, uses multiple on-screen input layouts for no apparent reason. Submitting searJOLZrequires UH]PNH[PUN[V[OLTHPUTLU\ Because alpha-numeric input is not modal you have to navigate to the main navigation bar, which is unexpected.
Yahoo! Go TV Features Service integration is great but more is needed. Access to LAUNCHcast, Yahoo! movies and Flickr is well-done but no transaction-based services (movie purchases) are available.
Service Integration Doesn't attempt to re-create the web-based experience Did a great job selecting service features, which results in an engaging TV-centric experience that does not overwhelm the user with too many choices and complexity. Featured videos are probably the best example of this. While there are only 10 top-level categories there is still a wide selection. If you have additional interests, you can easily conduct a search. The only negative is that you cannot create customized lists online for featured videos and Flickr groups.
Next music video auto-plays Once a music video finishes playing it starts to play the next item, so you can sit back and enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, does not apply to featured videos. No advertisements for featured video providers Video content provided by featured sources (ABC News, The Insider, ET, ...) does not require watching commercials. When they are required for music (videos and audio) they are short and do not feel as obtrusive and annoying as in-page popup ads.
Content Access Inefficient use of space and inconsistent UI conventions Space could be better used to display more or larger thumbnails. Multiple visual list patterns are used without any added value.
Transaction No support to browse and buy There is no support to purchase (subscription or single-buy) music, movies or shows. If you like a LAUNCHcast artist you have to manually open your browser and rediscover them.
You cannot access your recorded shows unless a TV tuner is connected If you travel and use an external tuner you will be required to carry your external tuner or use a separate program for playback.
No premium access for broader content selection Does not have premium access, which would provide access to a wider selection of content.
Only has a full-screen mode Does not support a window-mode.
No premium access to skip advertising No premium access, which would allow the users to skip ads.
HP MediaSmart TV Overview Great idea, but an incomplete product that should be easier to setup. Not worth a price premium. Functions more as a novelty product. Setup Overall support of setup is very poor. Despite being a relatively simple system, setup requires intelligent searching via Google. To get access to your online photos and streaming radio you have to setup the services on the HP site. But there is no way to simply browse the HP site to find this page. To get there you have to use Google to search for the products info page (requires specific keywords). The info page has a link to the setup page buried at the bottom of the page. Searching the HP site either pushes you to the store or to the product's microsite. To get access to your media files on your PC you must enable sharing in Windows Media Player, which is relatively simple to do. But to discover that this is required and figure out how to do it takes a lot of time.
Ease of Use Easy
Features Easy Limited
Setup is relatively easy once you find out what you need to do to get it working.
Basic organization results in an easy-to-navigate system but contains many faults.
Service integration and related features are minimal.
)HZPJ0UZ[HSS t No software required t WiFi and Wireless included t Easy media server connection :LY]PJL(JJV\U[Z t Single sign-on for services enabled by HP site t Difficult to locate service setup on HP site t Have to setup services via HP site before use t Only one account supported 4`-PSLZ t Direct integration to Windows Media Player t Limited video file playback
5H]PNH[PVU t Rich set of view-by options t Triple-tap support t PC-independent playback t Support list looping t Very slow t Cannot key-nav photos t Buggy list navigation t No access to Now Playing t No screen menu back buttons 6YNHUPaH[PVU t Supports genre browsing but not sub-categories t No section-specific setting access
:LY]PJL0U[LNYH[PVU t TV-based management of Live365 stations *VU[LU[(JJLZZ t Provides robust search 7*0U[LNYH[PVU t Multiple server support *VU[LU[(JJLZZ t Limited services t Services only play within their environment t No resume option t No scrubbing t No album art t Single value lists t Recommendations off-mark t Provides access to “all” files TYHUZHJ[PVU t No support to browse and buy t DRM playback
HP MediaSmart TV Setup Setup is relatively easy once you find out what you need to do to get it working. HP does a horrible job providing any start-up help to get services working and connectivity to your files.
Basic Install No software required No software is required but you need to configure WMP to access your personal files. WiFi and Wireless included Both WiFi and wireless internet connectivity are supported out of the box – no need to purchase extra equipment. Easy media server connection Once WMP has been configured to share media, selecting and getting access to your files is a simple menu selection. User does not have to configure any settings on the TV.
Service Accounts Single sign-on for services enabled by HP site You use the HP site to manage services, so you only have to enter one user name and password.
Service Accounts +PMÄJ\S[[VSVJH[LZLY]PJLZL[\W on HP site It’s very difficult to locate the HP MediaSmart home page and very difficult to find the setup page – cannot browse HP site.
My Files Direct integration to Windows Media Player Essentially works as an extender to Windows Media Player, so if you are a WMP user this is great. Otherwise, you are out of luck.
Have to setup services via HP site before use Before the Live365 and Snapfish services can be used, the user has to set them up using the HP site. HP provides no information explaining this.
3PTP[LK]PKLVÄSLWSH`IHJR For some reason does not play all files for some file formats, even though they play in WMP. Plus, there is no support or help to explain this issue.
Only one account supported Does not support multiple user accounts to product or services.
HP MediaSmart TV Ease of Use Basic organization results in an easy-to-navigate system but contains many faults. Overall failed to execute on small but very important details.
Navigation Rich set of view-by options Users have a wide range of view-by options for their music and videos. Triple-tap support Remote supports triple tap text entry, so conducting searches does not require bringing up a clunky onscreen keyboard. OS independent playback When a file is played, it does not play in its native application. Supports list looping You can loop to the end of lists, which is very helpful navigating long lists, such as songs and artists.
Navigation Very Slow Navigating lists (both menus and photo grids) is horribly slow. The lag time results in frequent navigation mistakes.
Buggy list navigation Using the left arrow to return focus into the menu is inconsistent and often places focus on the last item.
No access to Now Playing While it does show which song is Cannot key-nav photos Within Snapfish you cannot navigate playing there is no method to select through your photos when they are in it, to jump to it, or to advance to the full-view or during slideshow mode. next song. No screen menu back buttons Does not have a screen menu back button, so have to use physical back button. This requires stepping through several extra screens to navigate up one level.
Organization Supports genre browsing but not sub-categories Can browse your music by genre but does not support sub-category browsing by artist name or title. 5VZLJ[PVUZWLJPĂ„JZL[[PUN access To change settings such as slideshow timers and music shuffle you're required to navigate to the settings menu.
HP MediaSmart TV Features Service integration and related features are minimal. There is not a lot you can do with the product. Did not meet expectations, especially for a product with “smart” in its name.
Service Integration TV-based management of Live365 stations Can easily create and edit a bookmarked set of stations using the TV UI.
Content Access Limited services Has a very limited selection of services. No access to video sites such as YouTube or other free online media content.
Content Access Provides robust search Provides the ability to search Live365 service and your media.
Services only play within their environment Service music and videos only play within their environment. So, cannot have Live365 music playing while viewing photos.
PC Integration Multiple server support Supports easy access to and switching between multiple data servers.
No resume option Cannot resume a stopped movie. No scrubbing Cannot scrub music or videos.
No album art Does not display album art in list or after selection. Single value lists Even though the data and the space is available only displays a single data column for lists. Recommendation off-mark The Live365 recommendations are so off-mark they have no value. Provides access to “all” files If all of your media files are in WMP you have access to them, otherwise you are out of luck.
Transaction No support to browse and buy There is no support to purchase (subscription or single-buy) music, movies or programs. If you want to download a movie from CinemaNow you have to do it from your computer. DRM playback Plays WMP DRM protected content.
Apple Front Row Overview Feels like a polished prototype rather than an actual product. Has some wiz-bang display features but the energy that went into them was misplaced. Setup Good idea, but about as useful as Dashboard Widgets. The interface looks good and is simple to use but the lack of features and services results in a lame duck solution. Assumes all Mac owners use the iSuite of products. The oversimplification of menus and lists results an underwhelming experience. The large type is very easy to read but with today's larger TVs there's space to provide more information to improve the experience. Front Row provides no reason to purchase a Mac. MediaCentral is a much more robust product (but still needs work). Visually it is not as polished, but it provides a robust set of internet streams (photos and videos) which you can manually add. Unfortunately they play in their native player, not a TV-based player.
Ease of Use Easy
Features Easy Limited
No setup required.
Very easy to use, since there is Underwhelming. Limited. very little there. Incomplete. Disappointing. Simplistic.
)HZPJ0UZ[HSS t No software to install Setup t No setup required Output t No built-in TV output options t Without remote difficult to start 4`-PSLZ t Direct integration to iPhoto t Direct integration to iTunes
5H]PNH[PVU t Bi-directional slide show play order and navigation t Genre browsing t Trailer box art browsing t Easy-to-use remote t Too simple t No paging t No support for looping to the end of the list t Access to Now Playing is in music section only t OS dependent playback t Cannot view images in nested folders and albums t Music browsing is text based t No setting access t No marquee effect
*VU[LU[*VU[rVS t Full video control t Has resume option t Video thumbnails auto-play 7*0U[LNYH[PVU t Multiple server support *VU[LU[(JJLZZ t Very limited services t Provides access to “all” files t No photo thumbnail browsing t Slideshow music overtakes what is now playing t Single value lists t Limited row count t Shuffle is really play all and no access to repeat setting t No search or alpha filtering TYHUZHJ[PVU t No support to browse and buy t Only accesses saved radio stations t No DVR or TV features
Apple Front Row Setup No setup required. By far the easiest product to start using, as it is integrated into the operating system. It is basically an alternative view into iPhoto and iTunes.
Basic Install No software to install Integrated into OS, so there is no software to install.
Setup No setup required No options or special settings need to be configured.
Output No built-in TV output options You need to purchase a video and sound adapter to connect to a TV, unless your TV has a DVI-in option, which is unlikely.
My Files Direct integration to iPhoto Essentially works as an alternative view of iPhoto, so if you are an iPhoto user this is great. Otherwise, you are out of luck.
Without rLTV[LKPMĂ„J\S[[VZ[HY[ The remote automatically activates Front Row but if you want to use just your keyboard you need to know a very rare key combo. There is no application icon to click-on.
Direct integration to iTunes Essentially works as an alternative view of iTunes, so if you are an iTunes user this is great. Otherwise, you are out of luck.
Apple Front Row Ease of Use Very easy to use, since there is very little there. Extreme focus on simplicity is a fault, not a positive.
Navigation Bidirectional slide show play order and navigation Can switch the direction in which slideshows play and navigate slideshows in both directions. Genre browsing Can browse music by genre. Trailer box art browsing You browse movie trailers by box art, but this is the only place where you browse by artwork.
Navigation Too Simple Extreme focus on simplicity is a fault rather than a positive. Easy to use remote Remote is easy to use since it has very little it needs to control. No paging Cannot page down or page up. No support for looping to the end of the list You cannot loop to the end of lists, which would be very helpful navigating long lists.
Access to now playing is in music section only Access to what is playing is only available in the music section and in no place does it show what is playing.
Music browsing is text-based Cannot browse music by thumbnail grid and album art does not display in lists, even for the item in focus. No setting access All settings have to be accessed within their application.
OS dependent playback When a file is played, it does not play in its native application. No marquee effect Long names do not horizontally scroll Cannot view images in nested when in focus. folders and albums To view images in nested folders and albums you have to expand the folders in the iPhoto source window.
Apple Front Row Features Underwhelming. Limited. Incomplete. Disappointing. Simplistic.
PC Integration Multiple server support Supports access to shared files on multiple computers.
Content Access Very limited services Only service access is to trailers and saved radio stations.
Content Control Full video control Provides a full feature set to control videos.
Provides access to â€œallâ€? files If all of your media files are in iTunes Limited row count and iPhoto you have access to them, Only displays 7 rows of information. otherwise you are out of luck. Shuffle is really play all and no No photo thumbnail browsing access to repeat setting Cannot browse photos by thumbnail Provides list access to shuffle but grid, only as slideshows. actually works as a play all option. There is no repeat setting or menu Slideshow music overtakes option. what is now playing Slideshow music overtakes what you No search or alpha filtering are currently playing without asking Does not provide any ability to permission. search or alpha filter.
Has resume option You can resume a stopped movie. Video thumbnails auto-play Video thumbnails actually play, which is cool but not necessary.
Single value lists Even though the data and the space is available only displays a single data column for lists.
Transaction No support to browse and buy There is no support to purchase (subscription or single-buy) music, movies or programs. If you want to download a movie from the iTunes store you have to do it within the application. Only accesses saved radio stations You can only play stations that are saved in your iTunes library folder. You can't access the full list. No DVR or TV features There are no features related to live TV content.
TiVo Series 2 Review An overrated UI experience that is being held back by its consistent reliance on a pagebased navigation system.
Setup You purchase a TiVo and expect it to work out of the box. First you discover that the Series 3 version you purchased requires a cable card. Then you switch to the Series 2 model and discover you have to purchase a network adapter. But, it is next to impossible to purchase a supported wired version from a physical store. Then you switch to the wireless version but that takes a Google investigation to setup, which requires re-configuring of your Airport and computers. Once you get that going it's very easy to start using the DVR and ToGo functionality. Provides a range of additional services but overall usage experience is often poor. You cannot play trailers in the movie ticketing section and most services are slow to load and frequently do not load.
Ease of Use Easy
Features Easy Limited
Getting a wired network connection working is not as easy as it should be.
The page-based navigation has not scaled well to handle additional features.
Great DVR and ToGo experience; otherwise, limited or disappointing experience.
7VZP[P]LZ t Easy-to-follow wizard approach to setup the network connection and download program info t Wired network setup takes less than 1/2 hour to get functional 5LNH[P]LZ t Does not provide a true out-ofthe-box experience t Requires purchase of adapter to get wired or wireless networking functional t Next to impossible to find a wired adapter at a store t To get apple Airport wireless connectivity requires advanced knowledge and Google searching; no TiVo support
7VZP[P]LZ t DVR is very easy to operate and get running t Full-EPG uses a non-standard format but provides much faster browsing t Innovative use of RW/FF to control slideshows t Pressing play on a personal folder will play its contents 5LNH[P]LZ t Does not provide mini-EPG browsing t Transparency setting of EPG can make reading info difficult t Navigating features requires an excessive amount of clicking and screen views t No support to loop to the end of the lists t No picture-in-window
7VZP[P]LZ t Desktop software provides very easy selection and transfer of personal media to STB and very easy selection and transfer of recordings to PC 5LNH[P]LZ t No support to browse and buy t Playback and viewing of personal media is cumbersome t Personal media is grouped with services, so laborious to find t Software to convert video formats for multiple player types must be purchased t No transfer/playback of PC videos to STB t You cannot play your music or streamed music while browsing t No high-def recording t Showcases service has no value
Xbox 360 Review Browsing and buying media was a great experience but lacks DVR functionality and access to other services (photos, clips, radio, weather). Setup Like TiVo, an extra trip to the store was required, this time to purchase the Live Starter Kit. The hardest part to understand and to get working was associating a gamer tag to your Live account. But once it was setup browsing and buying movies and TV shows was very intuitive. Initially we did not like the idea of buying points but working with a balance was simple and probably resulted in extra purchases. Surprisingly esoteric collection of movies. TV shows were geared towards people younger than 24. Primary disappointment was that it did not have TV features or support online services, but both are really needed.
Ease of Use Easy
Features Easy Limited
Set up of the Live features was Content was well organized not as straightforward as one and easy to navigate using the would expect. game controller.
Not very robust, but the browse and buy experience was welladapted to TV.
Positives • Points system is actually convenient for purchasing content and games • Setting up WMP server connection was well supported Negatives • Physical setup was easy, but it was frustrating to have to purchase extra equipment • Gamer Tag is a strange concept to get used to, especially when you already have Live account • Discovering how to setup a Live account online is more challenging than expected • Non-standard onscreen keyboard format is frustrating to use since characters are not where you expect them to be
Positives • Can quickly browse and buy movies and TV shows, lack of music is not an issue • Works well as a Media Center extender and game controller serves as a great remote • Can access both Zune and WMP content • Supports multiple accounts • Top downloads is well-executed Negatives • Unable to browse photos • Content categories display even thought they are empty • No playback of DRM content • Limited video file format support • No built-in WiFi support • No DVR or TV features • No access to online services
Positives • Remote provides a very intuitive heads-up experience, especially the triggers for paging and sorting lists • Nice balance of information to screen real estate on list/browse screens Negatives • Accordion navigation prevents a more intuitive experience, since it prevents in-line navigation • Valuable space lost to accordion navigation and tray access slot • No ability to scroll show info • A lot of unnecessary steps to exit out of a mode or section • Switching media servers is not intuitive, you setup in one location but disconnect in another
Xbox 360 Download Success
â€œThe relative success of video downloads on Microsoft's Xbox Live and disappointment of Amazon.com's Unbox point to two factors that differentiate Xbox from Amazon and its many other competitors â€“ consumers who download a movie want a simple way to watch it on their TV, and those with high-def TVs want high-def content.
Many in Hollywood had high expectations that Amazon's strength in DVD sales would spur the nascent Web download biz. But the Netco faces the same problems as competitors such as Movielink, CinemaNow, Guba and AOL that launched before it: It's difficult for consumers to burn downloads onto DVD (save for a few titles on CinemaNow), and it's tricky for all but the most techsavvy to watch downloads on a TV.
Variety: Xbox up on downloads, Amazon digital video sales are slow Ben Fritz / December 21, 2006 http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117956232.html?categoryid=1009&cs=1&query=xbox
Though there are fewer than 3.5 million 360s in the U.S. by last count, movies available from Warner and Paramount, as well as content from CBS and MTV on the TV side, are doing at least as well and, in some cases, better than on competing Web sites, which are available to anyone with a PC and high-speed Internet connection."
XP Media Center Review May get rough critiques but overall experience is much more complete than that of the other products.
Setup XP Media Center gets a lot of negative press and rough critiques but the UI is much further developed than all the other solutions. At times it may be overly complex and slow, but they executed the details well. Since it is integrated with the OS there is essentially no setup outside of configuring the TV connection and DVR. This is one key place where it is overly complex. Where TiVo just works this requires effort and configuration knowledge. Our key problem was getting the UI and TV signal to display correctly. We still have not figured out what the problem is. Where things really suffer is the integration of 3rd-party content, which just doesn't work well. The UIs are inconsistent and often poorly executed and service connections are erratic.
Ease of Use Easy
Features Easy Limited
It's integrated to the OS so there really is no setup, but TV connectivity is challenging.
Within the native environment it's great; otherwise, they are a challenge to use.
The only full featured product, but many of the extra features were of limited value.
7VZP[P]LZ t No setup required for initial use, since it is integrated in the OS 5LNH[P]LZ t Setup to enable TV viewing and DVR functionality is cumbersome and overly complex, still unable to get the UI and TV signal to both display correctly
7VZP[P]LZ t Executed on small details such as browsing by album art work, list looping, constant access to Now Playing and inclusion of settings within content menus t When needed, prompts to stop playing current selection t Can scale the application window while using on the PC 5LNH[P]LZ t Slow load times for services, TV experiences are expected to be instantaneous t Inconsistent UIs for online 3rd-party services results in a challenging usage experience t All settings are managed within the TV UI, but the complex ones would be better handled through a software UI
7VZP[P]LZ t Streams, TV, and your media continue to play while you browse – you can play music and browse at the same time t Only displays content (folders) for media that exists, only environment that does this 5LNH[P]LZ t Many of the 3rd-party services felt as though they were hastily designed, engineered, and not properly supported t Had the most complete set of services but using them was more hassle than benefit – much better experience to go to the web to use those services t Connections to many services would get disrupted or did not even work
Wii Review The Xbox 360 is cool and techy, the PS3 is slick and sleek, but the Wii is fun and engaging.
Setup Since we were using a borrowed unit, we were unable to experience the full setup experience. The best part was that it had built-in WiFi and supported multiple network connections, which demonstrates that they anticipated the consoles would be traveling. The initial experience of using the wand to move the cursor was very awkward, but the learning curve was short. However, we have doubt that this will be the case for everyone. A nice control detail was that within some applications you can use the 4-way control to navigate screens. We wish it was universally available, because the wand is not always the most efficient input method.
Ease of Use Easy Difficult
Features Easy Limited
Has built-in WiFi.
Awkward at first to use but has a short learning curve.
Overall Negatives • Slow load times for applications, whether they were being read off of a CD or from the HD • Several of the applications borrowed heavily from traditional software for controls, such as scrolling text boxes. While they were easy to use, it seemed there would have been better ways to implement similar functionality • In some instances, expected to be able to use the 4-way control to scroll lists or page screens but it was not supported • Hand covered up spin box values and there was no auditory feedback, so had to keep moving the hand out of the way to see what the new value was
Overall Positives • It's a visually engaging experience that is just as polished as the other game consoles but not as technical • Has large control targets that are easy to hit • Some screens supported 4-way navigation • While it has limited services, the one that did work (weather browser) was easy and fun to use - you could both pan and tilt the weather map • Many of the screens used unique layouts optimized for their info requirements, but they were still intuitive to use • Had great built-in help that was not intrusive
Limited but fun to use and visually engaging.
• Maximized the use of the screen real estate, but they were not overly dense, which often occurred on the Xbox 360 • Inputting text using the wand was very easy and efficient. The keyboard followed a standard format. The scaling of the characters upon hover was a very nice detail, which helped maintain focus • Supports multiple network connections and has built-in WiFi • Transaction confirmation buttons switch typical order, which ensures no accidental purchases • Users are represented by customizable avatars • It was a lot of fun to use
Joost* Review Attempts to delivers a TV experience on the PC with social networking functionality. More of a preview or alpha release than an actual beta. Setup From a streaming technology standpoint it's very interesting and works well. Videos start to play within 5 seconds and the video quality is good. However, from a usage experience it's very confusing. The program seems to be trying to create a new viewing experience. While there definitely is a need for a better way to browse and watch internethosted videos, this is not the solution. It is neither a TVcentric nor a software-centric experience. It requires use of both the mouse and the four-way keys, which does not support a lean-back experience. There is no chance it can be used on a TV. * Formerly called The Venice Project
Ease of Use Easy Difficult
Features Easy Limited
It's a mess.
Overall Negatives • To control it you must use your mouse and four-way keys. You can use four-way keys to scroll and navigate lists but you cannot use it to navigate control groups, such as the player controls • To switch modes you have to return to the video mode by closing out of the current mode. You would expect to be able to either tab between modes or role your mouse into the relative UI quadrant to active them • Access to the main menu is done from the player control group, which is inconsistent and counter-intuitive • Can only view by channel, lacks any ability to filter (most watched) or to view by (actors)
Overall Positives • Browsing channels works for • The download and install a limited number but once it process was extremely fast and expands beyond their current simple considering a user email offering navigation will be difficult and password was required • Does include a channel manager • Good-quality videos start playing but that will only help those that within about 5 seconds of want to browse a limited set of selection channels • The ability to chat and IM will • Controls behave inconsistently definitely appeal to some, but (e.g. clicking a list item the benefits are questionable sometimes executes an event since you can view in sync with and other times does nothing) fellow chatters • The type is sized for users sitting • When you re-open the in front of a computer application it resumes playing • No thumbnails or channel logos the last video you were watching are displayed when browsing • Allows you to pin widgets (plug“your channels” ins) to the screen so that they • There is no indication for which stay displayed during playback shows are newest
9LJVTTLUKH[PVUZ The following is a set of high-level recommendations based on our experience setting up and using these products. Setup Walk the user through the setup process and provide accessible support.
,HZLVM\ZL TV-centric, but not so simple that the user does not have full control.
Features Live TV, direct downloads and not just any service.
Everything included Do not expect cables but no special adapters should be required. Ideally, WiFi, cable-in and HDMI-out is supported.
Visual-based brV^ZPUN It's TV, not the newspaper, so browsing must be visual.
One environment for 80% of the media experience Do not want to have to use the TV remote's TV/Video (source) button while consuming media.
WizarKZL[\WÅV^Z Provide wizards for setting up and configuring the hard stuff (my media connectivity, TV connectivity, DVR location and service, foundation services). *SLHYWH[OZMVYZL[\WZ\WWVY[ Steps to get the system fully functional need to be easily discoverable and easy-to-follow. :PUNSLZPNUVU[VZLY]PJLZ Support for accessing services via single sign-on regardless of who the service provider is. :\WWVY[MVYT\S[PWSLÄSLZV\rces and WMP DRM Support for my files being located throughout my computer and for my WMP DRM files. iTunes support would be great but that is understandably off limits. :\WWVY[MVY^O`ZVTL[OPUNKVLZUV[^VYR Easily-discoverable explanation of why something does not play. Users will not understand why it's broken. TVVSZ[VTHRLT`TLKPH^VYR If my files cannot be played then users need tools to make them playable. They should not cost extra and should be as easy to use as a single-button camera.
PerJLW[\HSZ[LWUH]PNH[PVU Nothing should feel as though it is more than 2 steps away. *VU[LU[\WKH[L\WVUMVJ\Z When a user moves focus the displayed content (instructions, lists, ...) should update whether or not it's pulling the data locally or from the internet. List hyperQ\TWPUN No matter how the UI is designed user will encounter long lists (text or thumbnail) so there needs to be a navigation method for hyper-jumping. ExtrLTLH[[LU[PVU[VKL[HPSZ Extreme attention must be paid to details. This covers everything from what happens when a user presses select to what happens when a streamed video stops.
Live TV with a DVR Must support live TV and DVR functionality. If the solution is PC-based, easily opens up the capability of advanced management of your recorded shows. Browse and buy movies and TV shows The Xbox 360 did it right: a simple and efficient method for browsing and buying movies and TV shows. A nice addition – but not a requirement – would be the ability to purchase streaming music. Select set of services Inclusion of services that can support an instantaneous TV experience, such as featured videos, photo streams, music streams, movie listings, weather and traffic. Does not have to try and be everything for all users. Let tech-savvy users customize and manage their service selection. If I do not use Yahoo! Photos, why would I always want to see it as the first menu item. And, it cannot be a walled-garden.
9LTV[L[OH[Z\WWVY[Z[OLM\SSL_WLYPLUJL User should not be required to use onscreen controls to do primary actions. A non-standard remote can provide for nearly full control of the UI and still be intuitive to use. HD Potential users will have HD TV sets and will want HD content. On the Xbox 360 HD content outsells their SD counterparts. )HSHUJLK\ZLVMZJreen real estate Screens that are too simple and those that are empty impair the overall experience. Multiple account support Support for multiple user accounts which can be associated with unique media data sets and separate payment accounts. /HUKSLJVTWSL_ZL[[PUNZ]PHZVM[^Hre Ideally all settings should be configurable within the TV UI but there should be a separate software client that allows for efficient management of the most complex features.