Let's be clear -- your teenager wants an Xbox 360. This video game console, made by Microsoft, is the hottest thing around, offering fantastic games, amazing graphics, and state-of-the-art accessories.
But even if you don't have any minors in the house, or you aren't a current or former video game junkie, you might still want to check out an Xbox. The trend for most technological categories, including phones, computers, and even GPS devices, has been convergence. That is: One device, many functions. While Xbox 360 remains the cream of the crop in terms of gaming, its uses go beyond anything involving button mashing.
Take music, for instance. If you have an iPod, Zune, or other MP3 player, chances are a significant portion of your music collection is on your home computer. Which is great for transferring tracks to your mobile device, but not necessarily for listening to music on the PC itself. Even if you upgrade typically tinny PC speakers, is your office where you want to entertain? Fear not -- the Xbox can access your home wireless network and stream your entire music collection so it plays through your TV's superior sound set-up.
Online community is an integral part of video gaming these days, with the ability for players to compete or cooperate online with friends and strangers. The Xbox harnesses the engaging power of its online interface to enhance its entertainment capacities as well. Take its recent venture with Netflix, for instance. Netflix, which provides movies via mail to its subscribers, can actually stream a portion of its catalog through the Xbox, allowing subscribers to watch a variety of high-quality movies or TV shows on demand. Subscribers can also manage their Netflix accounts straight through the Xbox, browsing choices and ordering movies from the comfort of their couch. Once the DVDs arrive, they can be played right on the Xbox as well.
Similarly, Xbox is set to offer Twitter and Facebook access starting this fall. With the addition of these popular services, Xbox is widening its tent and becoming a household's hub for social media as well as video entertainment and traditional media.
The setup process of getting your Xbox online and on your Windows-based network is not especially difficult, and you only have to do it once. Your Xbox experience starts at about $200, but for a robust package with a few crucial accessories (like a wireless adapter!), you'll want to budget about $400+. Still, since its uses go far beyond computer games, that money goes a long way.
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