Xbox 360 review

The Xbox 360 Slim is an all-new console with the latest update

xbox 360 S
The new Xbox 360 runs much quieter than the original models

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new xbox 360 250gb

Whereas previously an Xbox Live Gold subscription was seen as a tax on online multiplayer gaming, now that the service has spread to social networking and television, it feels like you get much more for your £34.99 a year.

And even if you only have a free 'Silver' account, it's still worth connecting your Xbox 360 up.

Naturally Microsoft isn't going to prevent you from spending money, so the marketplace is fully open to all Live users. What's more, the BBC has maintained its position that the iPlayer must be free to download on all systems, meaning more frugal Live users will still get to enjoy Auntie on demand.

For subscribers, the reward remains the best online gaming experience around. Friends are managed in a global list and chatting or playing games together is made as simple as possible.

If you're in a multiplayer session, simply bringing up the guide, selecting a friend and clicking the invite button is usually enough to have you playing together in a matter of moments. It makes a mockery of both PS3 and PC multiplayer, which are almost impossible to co-ordinate without an external form of communication.

xbox 360 dashboard update

The new dashboard brings several welcome new additions to the Xbox Live experience. Beacons are a new system to notify friends that you are keen to play a particular game without having to manually invite them all. Add a beacon, select the game you're interested in playing together and set an optional message and the Xbox will inform all of your online friends.

Even if they miss the notification, when they hover over your avatar in the friends list, a speech bubble appears showing the game and your plea for companionship. With the new dashboard's integration with Facebook (which also allows you to post your unlocked achievements to the social network) you can announce your play-date on your wall.

Another new feature is one that will be most useful to more social gamers, or those who own two Xbox 360s. Previous restrictions on profiles have been lifted, meaning an Xbox Live profile is now no longer tied to a single device. This means downloading your profile at a friend's place has been made immeasurably easier.

Working in tandem with this is a new cloud storage facility. This appears as just another storage option along with your system's hard drive and memory sticks, offers 511MB of space per profile and works absolutely seamlessly. There's no noticeable delay as games are saved to it and is a godsend for anyone who has reason to play on more than one console.

Of course, even if you only have a single system, you can always use it to back up your most treasured save games in case of natural disasters, USB drives in the wash or the intervention of the vengeful god of hard-drive failure.

As a service, Xbox Live Gold is absolutely worth a monthly outlay of under three quid for anyone who regularly plays games on the system – it's stable and still easily the most convenient way to play with friends, which given the often hostile online environment is usually preferable. The addition of new or updated apps and, crucially, television services means it's recommended for consideration by casual users as well.

James Rivington

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.