New Xbox Experience: The loves & hates

Feature: How the 360's new-look can improve

Xbox 360 owners worldwide are currently fiddling around with Microsoft's New Xbox Experience, creating avatars and generally feeling all life-styley.

We've been messing around with the redesigned dashboard for a few weeks now and have had plenty of time to jot down what we like - and dislike - about the console's new face. Without further ado then, here are our NXE loves and hates....

LOVE: Themes
The new premium dashboard themes look fantastic. On the old Xbox backend, we didn't spend a penny for what was basically a bunch of desktop wallpapers we could've nicked for free from the internet. The NXE themes however are well worth the money, transforming the look of the dashboard with different backgrounds and even scenery for your avatars. The Sonic Unleashed theme for example decorates your Friends tab with rings, robotic baddies and even Tails parked up in the Tornado plane. Sweet.

HATE: Simple Avatar customisation
Avatars have already proved to be a hit with the Xbox community. 360 owners have really lept in head first with their customisation, but hardly any of them actually look like their creators because, instead of allowing users to tweak every eye and nostril angle (like Miis), 360 Avatars only allow a simple 'choose and make do' approach. Rare/Microsoft; we need to move our eye brows. Give us the option.

LOVE: Delete zero Ganescore games
Probably one for the more obsessive, nerd-y types, this; finally 360 users can delete those annoying demos and XBLA trials for their game list, creating an actual decent roster of the games you've been playing - rather than trying. To bin games with zero Gamescore unlocked, simply hunt them out on your Achievements list and press X to remove them for good. Have that, Feeding Frenzy trial.

HATE: Inconsistent menus
The New Xbox Experience interface is undoubtedly a much friendlier experience as far as content hunting goes, compared to the old clunky Blades dashboard. But sometimes it feels like Microsoft's got four different designers on the go, slapping together menus from separate corners. You've got the standard, box slider interface, the iPod-style game coverview, big blue boxes that slide horizontally, lists that scroll vertically... make your mind up lads! It all looks lovely, but can we get some coherence across Marketplaces please?

LOVE: Dashboard Parties
How long have we been waiting for this? The Xbox 360 lacked a decent party system from the very beginning, limiting players to just one other player as far as grouping up and chatting goes. We can hook up with more people than that in PictoChat, for goodness sake! Finally, though, NXE allows gamers to party up with dozens of friends to share photos, just chat and of course hop straight into Gears of War. We're going to be using this a lot.

HATE: Limited in-game Guide support
It was mentioned several times on the PR trial for the new dashboard that all of the previous Blade functionality would move across to the new, far better looking Xbox Guide. Now maybe this was us jumping to conclusions, but we're still disappointed that the new Guide lets you do pretty much nothing whilst in-game that you couldn't do in the old one. Try and use the Marketplace links whilst exploring Fable II and you'll be prompted to return to dashboard. Try to look at your games library, return to dashboard. We would've liked a bit more bolted on, but to be frank it still works far smoother and more slick than anything in the old dash.