With so many titles available, any experience of the Xbox 360 Movie service has to begin with a look at how well its interface holds up. With the old ‘blade’ interface sported by the first Xbox 360s, I personally found tracking down a specific film a bit of nightmare. But thankfully the new ‘tile/folder’ system introduced with the NXE update improves things considerably.
You can now immediately access short ‘highlight’ lists of the most recent and most popular titles, for instance, with all the titles shown like a row of dominos for you to scroll along. The scrolling is quick, and the presentation quality such that you can usually tell at a glance which films the list contains even without scrolling through them.
Alternatively, you can browse the entire film selection based on first letter or genre, in which case you just get a more standard alphabetical ‘list’ presentation of the titles available under the category or letter you select.
All in all, while the system is no competition for a good web browser listing – or Sky’s EPG – it works pretty effectively considering all you’ve got to navigate it is a joystick.
Also pretty commendable is the level of information provided for each film you’re thinking of ‘renting’. You’re told at a glance if a film is available in high as well as standard definition, as well as being shown the year the film was made, its running time, its certificate, the size of the download file, what audio system it uses (usually 5.1-channel Dolby Digital), what subtitle tracks are available (if any) and what resolution it’s presented in. For the most part, this means 480p for standard def downloads, and 720p for HD downloads.
Which immediately gives us cause for concern, actually. For while 720p is very much an HD format, more and more TVs in the UK are turning towards a Full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. So for these screens to show a 720p film, some sort of video scaling processing is going to have to take place, with a potentially negative impact on the final picture quality.
As well as the ‘technical’ information, tiles are provided for each film giving a pretty in-depth synopsis and key credits – usually just the main actors and the director. One final friendly touch is the fact that you can download a short preview of each film before committing to a purchase.