The Xbox 360 Fall Dashboard Update arrived overnight, and added a long list of new functionality - although the one thing most people are interested in is the relatively unexpected arrival of DivX/XviD playback. We've spent the morning messing about with it to bring you the lowdown... because we figured your boss wouldn't call watching videos "work."


For the uninitiated, DivX and XviD are video codecs. Chances are, if you've downloaded a TV show in the last few years, it's been an XviD file. Obviously the playback of this format is high on the list of priorities for any so-called "Media Centre" - once hackers made the original Xbox capable of it, many people bought the console specifically for that purpose.

Of course, it wasn't until Sony announced the PlayStation 3 would be receiving DivX/XviD playback functionality that Microsoft put a team on the job of bringing it to the Xbox 360 - and beat them to the punch.

How do I do it?

Sign in to Xbox Live (Silver or Gold account - doesn't matter), and accept the update. Try and load a DivX or XviD file from a CD, USB drive or the network. You might be asked to download an additional package for AAC and MPEG4 depending on the file you load - you'll obviously need to sign in again to do so.

So, how is it?

Files can be played from just about anything - CDs, DVDs, USB drives, Windows Media Player 11, Windows Home Server and even Mac formatted drives. It supports a vast majority of files - everything we threw at it, in fact - but apparently some rarely used, non-standard extras like menus will render the files unplayable.

It will automatically try and fit the content to your TV resolution, but you can manually switch between Letterbox, Fullscreen, Stretch and Native modes to taste - we tried 4:3 and 16:9 content on a 16:9 screen with no dramas. You can set bookmarks to resume from later, or just resume from whenever playback last stopped.

If you've seen the XBMC software running on a modified original Xbox, and you're expecting a similar interface and functionality - you're going to be disappointed. Once a file is playing back, you're laughing - but the process of finding it might not be so amusing.

As yet, playback doesn't work with Windows Media Center Extender - those of you who like mixing up your live TV with downloaded content will be spending a bit of time flicking around the Dashboard.

While the interface issues might keep those with existing solutions from migrating, if you're like me, and previously had to mess around in the back of your entertainment unit to connect your laptop and watch XviD files on your TV, this is a giant leap forward.

Tim Hanlon