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. 


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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  • brundleflyguy - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    "My guess is, if you are using a projector, you should put Kinect in front of you... if there is enough cable length."

    Yeah, I know. :)

    My current set up is:


    I can't get much closer to the wall or my shadow blocks the projected image. My question is: If I replace the WiiBar and the Wii with the Kinect and XBox360 (respectively) would that work? Or would I be too close/far away from some component? I know I can get an active USB cable to reach from the XBox360 to the Kinect.
  • JonathanYoung - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    I think I used up my quota for seeing the word "itself" in an article.
  • brshoemak - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    Totally OT, but I loved the pictures showed for Xzibit - we just need active content to rotate 'yo dawg' taglines over it.
  • GTVic - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    I shall now title all of my comments with my name.
  • melgross - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    I don't have an XBox and aren't interested in getting one, so I'm no XBox fanboy. But, for all those complaining about various problems, just remember that this is a 1st generation product. It's the first device of its type in the consumer market. It's got its problems, but it does a credible job. A year or two from now, either MS, or Sony, or Nintendo, or Apple will come out with a new one that works much better, as always happens. But this seems pretty good for what it is in this timespace.
  • Portablenuke - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    Forget the Kinect, where can I get wafer mask coasters!?
  • trip1ex - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    I think the reviewer was a little too generous.

    First he's too hung up on the fact you can cheat on the Wii. SEems to be his basis for liking Kinect.

    I don't think he called out Kinect enough on its drawbacks or the quality of some of the games.

    See what the reviewer failed to mention is how sloppy many of the games are.

    Take Kinect Adventures.

    YOu have to jump way before you think you have to in one of the games. Pretty darn laggy. And there's jaggedy jumping animation as well.

    Waving your arms to hit balls in another game was just so un precise. You basically swing in the ballpark and you connect. It doesn't leave you with a solid precise feeling. You don't feel connected to what is happening on the screen. There's something missing between your actions and what happens on the screen.

    It's the same with plugging wiki-leaks in Kinect Adventures. You see where the leak is and even though KInect tracks your hand/arm fairly accurately you're still just reaching in the dark to plug the Wiki-leak. There is no preciseness or feedback to the gameplay. OH this leak is down here somewhere I will just move my hand down there in the general vicinity until the screen shows the hole is plugged.

    The only thing I found Kinect did really well in Kinect Adventures was track me as I moved left and right to avoid obstacles in the "moving platform" game. That was the only solid part.

    Overall I found the KA and the integration of Kinect into the dashboard along with the voice commands and hand gestures to be pretty sloppy. I think that after the xmas gold rush wears off this device is going to die out pretty quickly unless someone comes out with a killer app.
  • DanaG - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    Is there any way to put the XBox 360 in a sort of "kiosk" mode, where the only way to exit games would be to push a button somewhere? I see online that there's some "kiosk mode" disk, but I have no idea what other features it would disable, and that kiosk mode is supposedly irreversible.
  • DanaG - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    I'd be interested to see how much of that latency is caused by the receiver and the TV. I've seen some TVs where even a computer mouse is laggy enough to notice even with game mode (that disabled itself every time you turned off the TV); I had to switch back from HDMI to VGA on that device.

    Please try connecting the 360's HDMI to a known low-latency monitor that can do 720 or 1080.
  • clasam - Saturday, December 11, 2010 - link

    Could we get an update about the lag WITHOUT the Onkyo ? Thx!

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