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If, like me, you have an Xbox 360, you will no doubt be aware of the dynamic and enjoyable facility available to you online, namely Xbox live. Xbox live is a place where you can download demos and game add-ons, chat to your friends, and stream movies and videos direct to your Xbox 360 in glorious high definition. But while the Nintendo Wii and the Sony Playstation 3 can go online straight from the box without any additional hardware, Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, decided not to include wireless connectivity as standard in the Xbox 360.
This leaves you with a couple of options should you wish to get your Xbox 360 online; an Ethernet cable from your router is probably the cheapest way, but in these wireless days I was really looking at reducing the cables stretching around my home, not add to them. There is another method providing you have a laptop with wireless connectivity, but this means having the laptop on and joined to the Xbox 360 with a cable - again not overly practical. On then to what seems like the easiest, tidiest solution to wireless gaming - the Microsoft Xbox 360 wireless networking adapter. This little piece of wizardry wrapped up in white plastic form makes connecting your console to the internet a relatively pain free and tidy solution.
Setting up the wireless adapter is simplicity itself; it clips onto the back of your Xbox 360 or Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive and plugs into one of the available USB ports. Then you need to pop to the System Settings section on your Xbox 360 dashboard. There you will see a network Settings tab which will take you to a page where you can configure the adapter to work with your network. This setup process takes about two minutes to complete during which time you will be asked for your routers WEP number (the number that keeps your wireless network secure). And that is pretty much all there is too it; there are other options on this page including a 'Test network' button, this will tell you the strength of the signal the adapter is receiving and if there are any other problems or issues. A little green light on the adapter itself should signify that all is well and you are able to connect wirelessly.
So I'm all setup, what can I do with my wireless adapter?
Well, the answer to that is, a lot! I mentioned at the start of the review that you can play games online, and that you can download game content to extend the shelf life of those expensive games. You can also download full length films and music videos as well as themes and pictures to brighten up your consoles look. But the biggest appeal of connecting the Xbox to my network is the ability to link up with my PC via the Windows Media Centre; and thus being able to watch, view or listen to the pictures, videos and songs stored on my PC. This function really transforms the Xbox 360 from a dedicated gaming machine into a true multimedia centre for film watching, picture viewing and tune hearing. It must of course be noted though that this can all also be done if you connect your Xbox 360 to your Network via an Ethernet cable, so these are not processes unique to the wireless adapter.
Of course there are, it wouldn't be Microsoft without a small sting in the tail. The wireless adapters pricing can best be described as steep; you will do well to find one for much less than fifty pounds - quite a price when you consider the competition consoles have wireless connectivity built in. There are also no third party alternatives available, basically if you want to connect wirelessly with your Xbox 360 it's this adapter or nothing. You also need a Gold membership to Xbox live to do many of the things I have outlined above, this will set you back another thirty or so pounds. And as if the price of the adapter and the gold account weren't enough, you also have to pay for the majority of films, game add-ons and themes with Microsoft points. All in all connecting and using Xbox live to its full potential add up to a rather expensive past time. That said, these are issues with the Xbox 360 online experience as a whole and perhaps it's unfair to lay all of the blame at the wireless adapters' door. Just that those who buy this adapter thinking it will be the last of their expense are in for a rather nasty surprise.
All things considered I recommend this adapter, and award it four stars out of five. Its simplicity of setup and use mean you don't need a computing degree to use it, and its size means it is an unobtrusive addition to the back of your Xbox 360 console. But the price really is too high. And it's not even a "Rip off Britain" issue - the wireless adapter retails for $82.96 on the American Amazon site, making it even more expensive than it is here in the UK by today's conversion rates (£53.99 as appose to £45.97 on Amazons UK site). So come on Microsoft, either release the licensing of this little dongle to third party developers or give us all a treat in this recession ravaged era, and drop the price a bit so we can all enjoy wireless gaming without the accompanying pain in the wallet.
Lots of detail, I cant understand how you begin to understand all of this! well written
manimal 14.02.2009 02:12
Great review. Used the router and ethernet connection myself. Would have used this option but was far too expensive, has never gone down in price either. Even if you try and get one off e-bay it's still a rip off.