xbox live youtube logosIn partnership with Microsoft we are looking at the Xbox 360 console to see if it is, as promised, more than games. You can read my introductory post here for context.

Last night I had the chance to try out my new system properly for an annual festive tradition as we sat down to watch the 1970 musical version of Scrooge. Albert Finney and Alec Guinness always bring the seasonal cheer with a number of truly memorable songs and a Christmas veneer so thick you can hang your stocking on it.

Resisting the urge to show off the Minority Report Kinect-enabled navigation I instead used my voice to zip to the desired part of the new Dashboard (which, as an aside, looks fantastic and as a new user of both the Xbox 360 and the new Nokia Lumia 800 with its Window Phone OS I’m still marveling at how Microsoft managed to create something which looks unique and feels completely right in the same way that the iOS did a few years ago) and launched the movie.

Or at least I would have done had I not lost the DVD. Irritatingly my copy of Scrooge was nowhere to be foundĀ  and, not finding a decent alternative, I looked at my other options for my fix of a tuneful Dickensing.

My trusty LOVEFiLM subscription was the first port of call, their streaming movie service coming to my rescue on a number of occasions before now. Installing the app on the Xbox360 was easy as anything and once I signed in there were the usual films to stream. I used this service when it came out on the PS3 and was very pleased to Microsoft getting their own version of the app as, great though it is, having the player streaming to a big screen (as opposed to a laptop) is the only way I’ll use this service. Once installed I said in my best BBC voice, “Xbox. Lovefilm”. A few seconds later I was searching through the films – it was that easy.

Finding that LOVEFiLM didn’t have Scrooge to watch instantly we returned to the dashboard (by voice command, of course) and tried another avenue. YouTube on a big screen has been available for a number of years and through different channels. The PS3 and my TiVO box are both capable of it but I found the quality pretty shocking and the navigation mechanism rusty at best. For such a well known brand, with such a wealth of content it seems strange that it has taken so long to pull the service away from the laptop and onto the TV. If the Xbox 360 was to make good on its promise of being the only box under the telly you’ll need to turn on in future then this was a vital component. Say it with me, “Xbox. YouTube.”

Lo and behold there we were, standing in front of a million pratfalls and cute-kitten overload. The world of YouTube had come to us. Legally dubious but really damn handy at the time was the fact that where my DVD hiding skills had beaten me and LOVEFiLM’s offerings didn’t stretch YouTube held the key to the festive cheer cupboard – some kind soul had uploaded the whole film (in 10 parts which is irritating but understandable) and so we were able to enjoy a singing Scrooge. The one problem I had with YouTube and LOVEFiLM is that searching by voice was not available – obviously this is app-dependent and there’s no real reason why they’d add it in when only the Xbox can use it – but the searching methods with a controller are cumbersome to say the least.

At the end of my second week with the Xbox 360 I can only say good things. The LOVEFiLM, YouTube and other video services have all performed well and I find that I’m using the voice activation far more than I thought. Like the Kinect-enhanced navigation it’s more than just a novelty and I can see myself often shouting at my TV to turn itself off.

So far, so fun.