Gadget Geek Gear: Xbox 360 Accessories

Gadget Geek Gear: Xbox 360 Accessories
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Your Xbox 360
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Gadget Geek Gear:
Xbox 360 Accessories
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CHAPTER 4 Gadget Geek Gear: Xbox 360 Accessories
The earliest video game consoles typically included two controllers and offered little or no
additional accessories. Although the first NES came with a goofy “robot” for the North American
release, the motive for it was to market the NES as an educational tool because Nintendo believed
that consumers would not buy a video game console purely for entertainment. Times have
changed! Accessories are all the rage today for the latest consoles, and consumers are buying
them. It was once true that most consumers never bought additional hardware accessories for
their console and used only what came in the retail box. But today, with so many different types
of televisions (from HDTV to S-Video to composite) and so many genres of games, accessories
such as high-definition cables, wireless controllers, and driving wheels are popular.
CONTROLLERS
The Xbox 360 is the first video game console to offer a wireless controller as standard equipment
(in the Premium package). The Core package comes with a wired controller.
Standard Controller
The standard wired controller is shown in Figure 4.1. This controller has been refined quite a
bit since the Controller S on the original Xbox came out—greatly improving on the original
Xbox controller, which was bulky and uncomfortable to use in the opinion of many.
Figure 4.1
The Xbox 360 standard
wired controller.
Wireless Controller
The wireless controller is shown in Figure 4.2. This controller uses a radio frequency transceiver
built into the Xbox 360 (located just behind the power button).
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Controllers
Figure 4.2
The Xbox 360 wireless
controller provides
excellent and precise
responses to input.
The wireless controller is powered by two AA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack that is
optionally available. The Charge & Play kit, shown in Figure 4.3, comes with a rechargeable
battery. A controller cable (USB, like the wired controller) plugs into the small socket on the
front edge of the wireless controller, and the other end plugs into one of the USB ports on the
bottom front of the Xbox 360 where you normally plug in the wired controller. This allows you
to continue playing games while the battery pack is recharging, and the nice thing about it is
that the recharger draws its power from the USB port.
Figure 4.3
The Charge & Play kit for
the wireless controller.
Voice Communication Headset
The voice communication headset (see Figure 4.4) plugs into the back of the Xbox 360 controller
facing the player and provides voice chat capability to your games. The nice thing about the
headset is that it works even with the wireless controller!
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CHAPTER 4 Gadget Geek Gear: Xbox 360 Accessories
Figure 4.4
The voice communication
headset plugs into the
controller.
If you are a racing fan and would like better control in games like Project Gotham Racing 3, I
recommend you pick up a racing wheel from a company such as Mad Catz (http://
www.madcatzstore.com), whose products are usually available at major retailers.
REMOTE CONTROLS
Two remote controls are available for the Xbox 360: the Premium Media Remote and the
Universal Media Remote. Both remote controls add a lot of functionality to your Xbox 360 and
are sometimes more convenient for doing certain tasks in the Dashboard.
Premium Media Remote
The Premium Media Remote (see Figure 4.5) is bundled with the Xbox 360 Premium package
and is not available for purchase separately (at least not at the time of this writing).
Universal Media Remote
The Universal Media Remote (see Figure 4.6) is the remote control that is available in retail
outlets for your Xbox 360. This remote is actually more functional than the smaller one. It
provides some interesting control over the 360 when you are connected over the network to a
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Remote Controls
Windows Media Center PC, in which case you can stream live TV through your Xbox 360 and
perform tasks like recording and pausing the video stream.
Figure 4.5
The Premium Media
Remote.
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CHAPTER 4 Gadget Geek Gear: Xbox 360 Accessories
Figure 4.6
The Universal Media
Remote.
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Storage Devices
STORAGE DEVICES
There are two options for storing data for use in your Xbox 360: the memory unit and hard
drive.
Memory Unit
The memory unit for the Xbox 360 (shown in Figure 4.7) is significantly denser than memory
cards in other consoles to date, providing 64MB of storage space for saved games. You can also
use the memory unit to transport your Xbox Live account to another Xbox 360 when you would
like to play at a friend’s house.
Figure 4.7
The memory units can
store 64MB of saved
games and your Xbox Live
account.
Figure 4.8
The standard hard drive
has 20GB of storage
space.
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Hard Drive
The Xbox 360 hard drive (shown in Figure 4.8) is standard equipment in the Premium package
but does not come with the Core package. The hard drive is available for purchase separately if
you don’t already have one. (It is strongly recommended that you use one for the best possible
experience with your Xbox 360.) If you play online using Xbox Live, it’s possible to go without
a hard drive, but if you want to download additional content (such as new levels and items for
your games), you need the hard drive. In addition, if you want to play original Xbox games, the
hard drive is required. Although the hard drive is currently only 20GB, it is likely that new,
higher density hard drives will be available for the Xbox 360 in the future.
AUDIO/VIDEO CABLES
Audio and video cables are often the most confusing consideration when you are thinking about
buying a new video game console system. I will try to clear this matter up for you with regard
to the Xbox 360 to help you select the best cable for your needs.
Composite “RCA” Video Cable
The composite or RCA-style cable (see Figure 4.9) comes standard in the Xbox 360 Core package
and provides support for standard television sets. This cable is what you will want to use if you
have a standard TV (which is known as SDTV). But if you have a high-definition television
(HDTV), you will want the component cable, described next. Figure 4.9 shows the composite
Figure 4.9
The composite cable
works with standard
television sets.
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Audio/Video Cables
cable. Standard TV sets have a maximum resolution of 640×480 and are either interlaced (i) or
progressive (p). However, not all video sources output at this resolution. Table 4.1 illustrates.
Table 4.1
SDTV Video Resolutions
Type
Ratio
Resolution
Broadcast TV
VHS Tape
LaserDisc
DVD
4:3
4:3
4:3
4:3
440×330
320×240
560×420
640×480
If you’ve ever wondered why VHS movies look so terrible compared to DVD video, this table
shows why. At a resolution of 320×240, how did this format ever become so popular over
technologies like LaserDisc? Although an attempt was made to produce an optical disc called
Super VHS using existing CD-ROM technology that boasted a 1:1 resolution of 480×480, this
format never caught on.
In the TV industry, it is standard to list the vertical resolution (such as 330 lines for broadcast
TV); however, the horizontal resolution is never fixed and varies from one TV set to another,
which affects quality. SDTV refreshes the display at 30 frames per second (fps). If you have a
standard DVD player, it outputs video at 480i. If you have a progressive-scan DVD player, it
outputs video at 480p. (And the difference is dramatic.) The Xbox 360 SDTV cable outputs a
480p video signal.
Beyond the Manual
There is a misconception about 480p that many gamers have. 480p is not HDTV; it is SDTV.
HDTV operates at 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. Video games running at 480p look much better due
to the progressive scan of the video, but only if the TV set is capable of progressive display. Most
standard TVs are not.
S-Video Cable
A related technology, S-Video uses the same basic formats as composite video, but it separates
the color signal (chrominance) from the brightness signal (luminance), which produces a much
cleaner, sharper image than is possible with composite. S-Video greatly improves the image,
especially in video games, because it eliminates problems like color bleeding, which tends to
decrease the quality of a composite display. The Xbox 360 S-Video cable is also shown in
Figure 4.9 (as a combined set). If your TV set is not HDTV, your best option is to check to see
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CHAPTER 4 Gadget Geek Gear: Xbox 360 Accessories
if it has an S-Video input and then purchase the S-Video adapter for your Xbox 360. Aftermarket
S-Video and composite wires are usually combined on the same cable.
Geek Speak
Chrominance refers to the color portion of a video signal. Luminance refers to the brightness of a
video signal. S-Video separates the two (for a clearer video signal), whereas standard composite
video combines them.
Component HDTV Cable
The cable to use for a High-Definition Television (HDTV) is the component video cable (shown
in Figure 4.10). The word component describes how this cable works. It uses three cords for
video output to an HDTV set: usually a red cable, a green cable, and a blue cable, as you can see
in Figure 4.10. These three cables are bundled together and collectively called the component
cables, representing the Y/Pb/Pr (YUV) inputs for HDTV. Table 4.2 illustrates.
Figure 4.10
The component video
cable carries the highdefinition signals to your
HDTV.
Table 4.2
HDTV Video Resolutions
Mode
Ratio
Resolution
Frame Rate
480i
480p
720p
1080i
1080p
4:3 or 16:9
4:3 or 16:9
16:9
16:9
16:9
704×480
704×480
1280×720
1920×1080
1920×1080
30 fps
60 fps
60 fps
30 fps
60 fps
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Networking
VGA Video Cable
The Xbox 360 VGA HD cable (shown in Figure 4.11) has a DV-15S VGA connector for sending
the video signal from your Xbox 360 to a computer monitor. Although this type of cable won’t
work with a digital monitor (where a DVI-D cable is needed), the VGA cable is a nice accessory
if you have a high-quality monitor available or if you just want to play with your 360 without
requiring a TV (using your computer monitor). This cable does not output at HDTV resolutions,
with a maximum supported resolution of 1280×1024 (SXGA, 5:4 ratio) and 1360×768 (WXGA,
16:9 ratio).
Figure 4.11
You can use the VGA
adapter cable to send
your Xbox 360’s video
signal to a computer
monitor.
NETWORKING
The Xbox 360 comes with a built-in network adapter, so all you have to do is plug in a LocalArea Network (LAN) cable from the 360 to your router or hub and you are good to go. However,
what if your 360 is located in an inconvenient place that is nowhere near the router or hub (or
your broadband adapter)? In that case, rather than routing a long cable through your house, the
best option is to use the wireless adapter, shown in Figure 4.12. Of course, to use the wireless
adapter, it goes without saying that you also need a wireless access point already set up.
Beyond the Manual
I cover networking in far more detail in the next chapter, so I’m only briefly touching on the
subject here.
If you don’t have a network router or hub yet, and you already use your broadband adapter for
your PC, you will need a router or hub to share the broadband connection between your PC
and Xbox 360. This is the job of a router. You can now buy a router that has a four-port network
switch and wireless access point combined. They are affordable today, typically costing less than
$50 at major electronics stores. (I recommend http://www.newegg.com.)
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CHAPTER 4 Gadget Geek Gear: Xbox 360 Accessories
Figure 4.12
The wireless network
adapter for the Xbox 360.
COSMETIC ACCESSORIES
You can customize your Xbox 360 by replacing the front cover with a custom-designed front
cover of your choice. This offers you the opportunity to really make your 360 suit your personal
style. As you can see in Figure 4.13, there are many different styles of front covers available, like
Figure 4.13
Dozens of designer
faceplates are available
for the Xbox 360.
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Cosmetic Accessories
these four samples. There are already several dozen available from various retailers online (such
as newegg.com), and the list is bound to grow in time. Expect to see custom face plates available
with themes from your favorite games and from themes in popular culture in the near future.
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