Tag Archives: Xbox

Surprising Results From Finally Taking The Blu-Ray Plunge

9 Dec

I did it.  After fighting the advertising pressure for five years, I finally gave in and bought a Blu-Ray player over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I still can’t see spending $30 a movie, but there are a few surprising things that come with most Blu-Ray players that really made me happy with the purchase.

First off, there are so many internet streaming functions available through many Blu-Ray players and as a media box, it works worlds better than my Xbox 360.  I’ve used the Xbox over the years for a few different types of media streaming, but the functionality, ease, and number of content providers available through my Blu-Ray player is simply awesome.  I had no idea that I’d really like having YouTube hooked up to my TV, but I do.  And with Hulu Plus, Vudu, and some of the other services, I’m going to take a long hard look at cutting back on my cable bill and getting content elsewhere.  Plus, there’s Pandora.  I use Pandora a lot on my laptop, but some of the channels are ideal for pumping through my entertainment center and really enjoying the music.  Last.FM through Xbox just doesn’t compare.

Secondly, as a media streaming device, I expect it to be substantially easier to use video and audio that I ripped to our home network.  I still need some time to work on this, but after spending some time with the player, it seems like it will handle everything that I want it to without having to buy a separate media streaming box or dealing with the less than user-friendly Xbox.

Lastly, and the biggest surprise is the picture.  Of course, I know Blu-Ray is 1080p.  A true High Definition picture and I expected the video quality to be excellent.  I still may choose to buy or rent some films on DVD where I think the clarity of Blu-Ray hampers the film (i.e. cheap CGI which DVD blurs a bit, but obviously appears as crap on Blu-Ray).  Perhaps the companies are slighting us nowadays with the quality of DVDs, since the color pallete often looks a lot more drab than I thought was necessary on DVD, but there is no doubt that colors and the images really pop on Blu-Ray.

However, that’s not the picture that surprised me.  It was when I first tried out a DVD in the Blu-Ray player.  Amazing!  Simply amazing.  I have an Audio/Video Receiver that does a good job of upconverting standard definition video to high def and a brilliant Plasma television that does a great job upconverting.  So why was I surprised?  The perfect digital connection allows the Blu-Ray processing to really display it’s glory.  If you’re like me, then your DVD player at best has component cables (the red, green, and blue ones).  It really provides a nice picture, but it’s analog and therefore you inherently lose a generation of quality when you’re watching it.  Playing the DVD in a Blu-Ray player with the perfect digital signal passing through HDMI cables from beginning to end lead to the best possible picture.

Apparently I’m not going to have to replace my entire DVD library.  One film in and I”m totally impressed.  Looking forward to checking out some of my Superbit DVDs and the last Star Wars Special Edition package I bought (not Blu-Ray).  My wife doesn’t get it, but I’m so happy with the purchase.  I now understand why everyone always said that if you have a great High Definition Television and you don’t have a Blu-Ray player, you really aren’t seeing what your TV is capable of.


ESPN on the Xbox Doesn’t Make Any Sense

24 Oct

I get that Microsoft is trying to make the Xbox 360 and whatever the Next Generation Console will be, the center to our entertainment, but ESPN on the Xbox simply doesn’t make any sense.  The most glaring and obvious problem is that most people who have the ESPN feature activated on their Xbox already have ESPN via cable.  I have ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, and ESPNU, so do I really need more ESPN?

Secondly, though I know there are people out there without cable or satellite who just use Hulu, Netflix, and media streaming boxes like the Xbox for their video entertainment, but even there I think it fails.  Though I find the lack of 5.1 audio on the HD videos a real problem for Hulu Plus and Netflix, the Xbox is a worthwhile delivery system for that content.  Comparitively, the ESPN tool definitely ranks below Netflix and has about the same crappy level of interface that Hulu Plus does with significantly less content.

The interface is a big problem.  It’s so clunky and appears completely disorganized, that even if there is good content there, I haven’t found it.  I think that’s the biggest issue.  We have a desire to watch movies and tv shows on a larger screen than our laptop and to share the experience with family or friends.  Sports highlight, which is what it appears 99% of the content on ESPN on Xbox is, isn’t something I really need to share with anyone else or watch on my 50″ TV.  Besides, if you stream that “HD” content, you’ll possibly become nauseated by the jittery delivery of the video.  If I want to share it, I’m probably going to find the highlights online and post the link to Facebook or Twitter and therein lies the largest problem.

Sure, most of us have ESPN, but even if we don’t, we have the internet for seeking out highlights, scores, and news in a much more efficient manner that yields far better results.  GOOGLE beats my Xbox every time when trying to find something, unless it’s playing the video games loaded on the hard drive.

The day that ESPN starts streaming live games via the Xbox (maybe they already do, but I’ve never found any) and then gets the picture quality to look better than plugging my laptop into my TV, I’ll be interested.  Until then, I’ll stick with cable, my laptop, and my cell phone for my sports updates.  Thanks for trying though.