Introduction

For better or worse, new user interface is all the rage right now in the console gaming scene. Nintendo was first to the block in 2006 with 3D motion-controlled user interfaces, leveraging a unique combination of IR sensors and 6-axis MEMS accelerometers in a handheld remote. The motion-controlled Wii has enjoyed a nice long run being the sole platform for motion-assisted gaming. Flash forward to late 2010, and Microsoft and Sony both have readied their response to the Wii - the Microsoft Kinect and Sony Move, respectively. 

It’s taken the greater part of four years (and one name change) for the software giant’s answer to make it to market, but Kinect is finally out and ready for mass consumption. We’ve spent nearly a month playing with Kinect and are finally ready to release our impressions.

First off, the Kinect is fundamentally different from Sony and Nintendo’s offerings. Instead of relying on handheld controllers and motion targets, the Kinect uses a purely optical solution which we’ll get to in a bit. The result is that there’s only one thing to purchase to add Kinect to an existing Xbox 360 install - the $149.99 Kinect sensor itself. We purchased a retail kit on launch date, which comes with the sensor itself, cables, some paperwork, and Kinect Adventures. 

Hardware

Packaging for the standalone Kinect package matches the style of the Xbox 360 S packaging - it’s a lot of green and purple. On the box, Microsoft stipulates that you need at least 6’ of free space in front of the sensor to play, which seems a bit optimistic as I’ll show later. There’s an unboxing gallery below in case you want to see for yourself. The Kinect is securely seated in a foam recessed area. 

Inside the box is the Kinect sensor itself, Kinect Adventures, and a suite of cables.

First up is an orange-tipped USB-like cable with a special connector for connecting the Kinect to the Xbox 360 S. This cable is keyed differently than a normal USB cable and allows the Kinect to draw power from the console itself instead of requiring a standalone power supply. 

If you’ve got an Xbox 360 S, this is the only cable you need to use Kinect. The cable physically looks like USB, but the connector inside is visibly different besides the obvious shape difference.

The rest of the cables are for if you’re connecting the Kinect to an older generation Xbox 360. For that, you get a power supply cable which breaks off into a Y connector - one end is orange tipped and connects to the cable coming out of the Kinect, the other goes into your original-gen Xbox 360.

But wait, what about that odd-looking grey cable? 

It’s a WiFi extension cable. Remember that unlike the Xbox 360 S, the older Xbox 360 has just one USB port on the rear, and two in the front. I have an original Xbox 360 Pro from launch date, and also happen to use the Xbox dual band 802.11N adapter to connect wirelessly. If you’re using a setup like this, you’re going to need to run a cable from the wireless card - using the extension cable- all the way around to the front of the box and into one of the front USB ports. It’s an unaesthetic solution that’s an unfortunate consequence of the old Xbox 360 simply not being designed for all these accessories. It’s a bit disappointing there isn’t a hub involved somewhere here like what Microsoft did with the ill-fated HD DVD player (which included a notch and USB port on the back for the displaced wireless adapter), but perhaps bandwidth considerations over the USB hub contributed. If you’ve still got a Microsoft HD DVD player kicking around and connected, things could theoretically be getting very crowded with daisy chained USB devices. With an old Xbox 360 and Kinect hooked up, you eat up two power ports, and with a wireless adapter, are left with only one available USB port on the front for connecting controllers and USB storage. If you’re like me and have your profile stored on a USB drive (so you can migrate from box to box, ostensibly) you end up using all those ports. 

With the Kinect connected using the power supply, I measured a total power draw of 5 watts, which is pretty respectable. The Prime Sense specification says 2.25 watts, but that’s probably before losses are incurred from the power supply and additional overhead from thermal management. 

I used to be attached to my older Xbox 360 purely for aesthetic reasons - it looked cool with a different case, and managed to not sound like a hair dryer after a fan replacement, but my venerable launch console stopped working with the latest dashboard update that brought UI changes and Kinect support (seriously). My original intentions were to try Kinect out on the old Xbox 360 Pro and also the new Xbox 360 S, but the old console alternates between dead and alive for half hour periods so much that it isn’t worth the frustration. One warranty-repair RROD and two x-clamp RROD repairs later, the thing was on its last legs anyway. I did want to illustrate how seriously out of control the cable situation can be - ironically for a new user interface that’s entirely wireless and relies on no controllers at all. Above you can see the cable extend the wireless adapter all the way to the front. Toss in the Y connector, and there can be a heck of a lot of cables running around.

Again, it’s obvious that the least painful way to use Kinect is with the new Xbox 360 S console, thanks in no small part to its higher-power custom USB port. Microsoft will also sell you an Xbox 360 S 4 GB bundled with the Kinect sensor and an extra game for $349.98. 

The Kinect Sensor Itself
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  • docmbm - Sunday, December 12, 2010 - link

    Or is it?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWbLOFGSEDo

    Well try it and give us an update.

    --
    Docmbm
    Reply
  • Hrel - Sunday, December 12, 2010 - link

    I REALLY hope new consoles are at least announced at this coming E3. Even if they don't come out till summer 2012; I wanna know developers have them and can finally move past DX9. I mean seriously, it's been out for what, 10 years now? Time to move forward. DX 11 all the way. Reply
  • nikon133 - Sunday, December 12, 2010 - link

    Some time ago I would say the same, but...

    I was playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on PS3 for long time - more than six months on and off - mostly enjoying online play after I finished campaign. Recently I got new ATI 6870 graphics for my PC and, having now whole PC more than decent enough, borrowed PC version of Bad Company 2 from my friend.

    My box is now capable of running this game in full HD with all the bells and whistles (I think I've got only AA disabled as I'm finding native 1920x1080 on 23" monitor perfectly adequate) so I was expecting to be blown away with difference between those two versions. I wasn't. While PC version does look better, I honestly expected much more for 2 generations of DirectX hardware difference, not to mention all the other resources my PC has over PS3. Higher resolution, smoother shadows, a bit more effects (smoke, fog, sandstorm...) are visible for pixel-peepers, but once I get immersed in the game, I really didn't feel PS3 version inferior, even if I was playing same levels on both platforms one after another.

    Later on I tried Dirt 2, Burnout Paradise... and to the same conclusion. PC versions, to my eyes, were not better enough to make PS3 experience inferior.

    I have a feeling PC programmers are getting a bit lazy and spoiled with all the hardware power they have, they are not putting much effort to optimise their code to the last bit of power. Surely Quad Core with 8GB of RAM, X-Fi Gamer audio and latest DX11 graphics with 1GB of DDR5 should be able to smoke DX9 graphics with 256MB of RAM and 256MB of system RAM much more than this..?

    Back to the topic - while I'm not much into jumping and waving games - part to my humble 42 years of age - I see potential in them, especially that modern consoles should be offering fun for the whole family. I actually got PS Move and am throwing Frisbee and doing other Sports Champions games with my lady often enough to justify this purchase. Games are not BC2 grade, but they are quick fun in their own game.

    Are you guys planning to review PS Move system as well? I enjoyed your Kinect review and would like to see your opinion on other comparable gear.
    Reply
  • CptTripps - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - link

    Bad example on BC2 as it uses DX11 to simply speed up the shader performance, it adds nothing visually (from what I have read).

    I am suprised on the Dirt2 conclusion as I found the PC version far superior.

    You are right though, the dx9 console versions look and play fine.

    I played the move a little and it's not for me, a high res wii basically. I thought the hardware worked very well though.

    I may pick up Kinect as the wife and daughters want it (plus they will finally let me sell that POS called the Wii).
    Reply
  • m3kw - Monday, December 13, 2010 - link

    They should make a video capture of what you during the game play, and when you are done, you can select a option that says "This is how stupid you looked, select to watch", and another option to send to youtube and facebook. The video will be split screen one showing the game and the other showing you. LOL! Is actually will spread like a viral video. Reply
  • Todd33 - Monday, December 13, 2010 - link

    Was the author starring at a big MS check the whole time? So many errors (sports being 1:1), Adventures being great, that's why is is averaging 60% and being called shallow mini games with no depth. Where are some test on the resolution, does a wrist motion in bowling or TT do anything or is it all exaggerated arm motions?

    How does the $150 cheaper than Sony's $99 bundle? Not to mention with the wii you get a whole console for $199, not just an add-on with 3-4 decent games and 12 more shovelware. What about the future of Kinect, can it do anything other than shallow mini-games and dance crap?

    This article just exaggerated all the good and then downright ignored any negatives. I guess I will stick to arstech for more realistic reviews.
    Reply
  • CptTripps - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - link

    You can get a Wii for $200 and play single player games at 480i.... awesome.

    With the 99$ Move bundle you get a camera and one motion controller, add another $50 per motion controller plus another $30 per navigation controller, times that by 3 and your 99$ price point just flew out the window.

    At $150 being able to handle up to four inputs make any price point arguments stupid as you would easily spend that on extra controllers.

    The 360s with kinect for $300 is a great deal and will support 4 players right out of the box. If you think that is a horrible deal that's your problem, but try to be realistic and not throw out BS arguments.
    Reply
  • medi01 - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - link

    Last article on PS3 dated 5/16/2005, eh?
    I wonder, how does this "press" thingy work.
    Who decides what gets reviewed and what not.
    Is it pure 'patriotism" in revieweing only what "US company" does (let's forget the fact, that we talk about transnational companies that manufacture in China), or something else?
    Reply
  • Tuvok86 - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - link

    I tried Kinect adventures at a friend's place and I've found the lag very irritating the arkanoid-like game with the balls was almost unplayable Reply
  • ma2ree - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - link

    I find your article very impressive and informative. Your a bright and funny young man. Thanks for the article. Reply

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