December's launch ofthe Metro dashboard has finally propelled 360 into the world of the set-top box.
A good thing? You decide. What's certain is that the huge volume of media, software and general clutter on Xbox Live has demanded much of this new interface, which in turn demands a fair bit of you. Consider this a survival guide, then, for the console's latest reincarnation.
What you need The new Metro dashboard, a Gold account, and a broadband internet connection.
Why do it? Take your saves anywhere and make any Xbox your own.
Cloud saving is one of the best new features of Xbox Live and another good reason to go Gold - among other really useful things, it takes the pain out of playing on other people's machines. Go to System->Storage->Cloud Saved Games to set it up. You'll get 512mb of online space that you can use just like a normal memory card orhard drive. Useful.
What you need The new Metro dashboard, multiple multiplayer games, some friends
Why do it? Play the online games you want to play
Hate hanging around waiting for people to get ready? Just nudge to the Beacons tab and choose a game or activity to alert your friends or social network. Xbox will then alert you when they're sorted. Jump into the Xbox Guide and select Beacons & Activity.
What you need The new Metro dashboard, an inclination towards peace and quiet
Why do it? Make your dashboard STFU
If the sound effects sound a bit too much like someone mouth-breathing in your ear - all that swooshing in and out of categories - you can turn them off by going to Console Settings->Audio->Sound Effects.
CONTROL YOUR XBOX ANYWHERE
What you need The new Metro dash, a phone running Windows Phone 7
Why do it? Control your Xbox from anywhere in your home
The Windows Phone 7 Xbox Companion App isn't quite as full-on as PS3's Remote Play. The app is free to install from the Windows Phone Marketplace. Link it to your 360 via the Console Settings->Xbox Companion menu.
PLAY ANY VIDEO
What you need A semi-decent PC, freebie PC application TVersity, and some videos in irregular formats to play.
Why do it? Watch popular video formats the 360 wouldn't ordinarily support.
Xbox 360 and PS3 are in the same boat when it comes to supporting media formats: neither manufacturer is comfortable supporting them all. For 360, though, you can use PC app Tversity (www.tversity.com) to 'transcode' any video file before streaming it to 360 for playback. It's a bit fiddly at first, and requires a wired connection and hefty horsepower for HD, but it works.