As part of the new XBOX 360 Live services that are being launched this month, Front Row Reviews have been granted an Ambassadors role. Basically this means we get to test drive all the new features and give you guys a run down on whether they are any good… or not.
The key new application releases so far, with the exception of Bing search facility, are movie based. Until now the XBOX has been very much in the category of Games Console. Not any more – it is now the most powerful entertainment hub on the market.
So, first up in our trial is the new LOVEFiLM app.
LOVEFilM have now well established their grip on the online rental market, after buying out all the competition in the early days of online renting. As good as it is, its not without its drawbacks – like never getting the films from the top of your list, and more likely getting all the fillers from the bottom that nobody really wants, but you just added for a rainy day!
Things are now changing again with the introduction of online viewing. Already available on the Playstation 3 for a little while, the service has now reached the XBOX. So, what’s it like?
The menu system and general usability of the service are great. Once you’ve logged your account details once then that’s it. No further messing around, it just works.
There are 3 areas from which to launch the LOVEFiLM app from the XBOX menu – via Quickplay, part of the HOME section, via the VIDEOS section or via the APPS section.
It is a fantastic new feature to be able to launch the application with voice command. Especially for the lazy among us!
For whatever reason when you access via the VIDEO section – you can’t use the shortcut unless you use the name of the film, which is a bit lame, but i’m sure this will be rectified along the way.
Aside from that it is actually possible to get all the way into watching a streamed film with just your voice – and it is a real joy. Once in, you can then control all the normal playback settings with voice too – “XBOX Pause”, “XBOX Forward”, “Faster” and then “XBOX Play”. It is a truly awesome feature and really sets it apart from the competition.
One thing you can’t do though is search the library with voice control, which i hope will get updated in the near future. It does however still work with the hand gestures or controller… but its not as much fun.
Receiving the content via WI-FI may be an issue for some people, if you have poor connection, then you may struggle with some of these services. Running on a 50MB Virgin Media connection i had no problems whatsoever.
Unlike the range available from lovefilm.com for physical home rental – the range of films for streaming is surprisingly not that great. Yes they are all for free which i’m sure makes a difference. If they were to give away all of the good stuff for free, as part of your subscription then there would no place for the other services of Zune Marketplace or Sky Movies.
There are still plenty of good films to choose from – but they do tend to be the older ones, ones likely you have already seen.
For example the recently added films include: The Prestige, The Goonies, Gran Torino, Anuvahood and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.
Having not used the service for longer than a couple of weeks it’s hard to say how often they update the library. You can see from the films mentioned above, it cannot be relied on completely if you a real film fan. There are plenty of hidden gems lurking in the full library but you do have to have a good look.
Value for money?
If you already have a LOVEFiLM account then its a no brainer to put in your login details and also start to use the XBOX Live version too. That is something i did not expect, i was elated to find that it worked perfectly at first time of asking. A very nice bonus considering you are paying the subscription already.
If you don’t have an existing account – you can always claim one of their famous 30 day free trials and find out for yourselves before committing permanently.
The basic package starts at £4.99 and for that price you cannot really argue. No the selection is not mind blowing but you can certainly find enough to keep you entertained for a couple of nights a week.
Have you tried the new service yet? We’d love to hear your comments below!