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El33tonline Editorial: A tour of SmartGlass and its exciting new features

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Ever since the announcement at E3 2012, I’ve been super excited about Xbox SmartGlass (XSG). The whole idea behind the application excited me. It’s not just an app to show you your stats and your friends – it is way more than that. Let me take you on a tour and show you what XSG is all about.

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Xbox SmartGlass was launched on the 26th October alongside Windows 8, and was also released on Windows 8 platform and on Windows Mobile 7.5. It was later released that evening on Android – I’ve installed the app onto my Samsung Galaxy Note and while it was downloading and installing I got super excited.

When you launch XSG you are required to sign in with an Xbox LIVE account, which helps you connect XSG with your Xbox 360 for all the features this application has on offer.

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Once logged in, you’ll find yourself on the ‘Home’ screen. On this screen it will display what you are currently playing on your Xbox 360 and some recent game information, as well as the first feature that SmartGlass is known for: The ability to use your phone to navigate and control your Xbox 360.

This really comes in handy when you want to just browse around on the Xbox Marketplace or access some movies etc. The interface is very user friendly. You swipe the screen left or right and up or down to move around the screen and a single tap on the screen is linked to you’re a button. The layout of the control screen is optimised for one hand use, with the B, X and Y buttons on display.

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With Microsoft introducing Internet Explorer on the Xbox 360, many people were happy that they would be able to browse the internet from their couch. Before SmartGlass was revealed, people (including myself) wondered how the controls would work. For example, if you need to enter a website address and you don’t own a chatpad accessory for you controller, it would take you some time to enter that address with the seek ‘n pick keyboard on screen. But with, SmartGlass those worries have been taken away. Entering a website address is as easy as typing a text message.

Once you tap on the URL field, the SmartGlass screen will change to the address field in Internet Explorer and your phone’s keyboard will appear and all you have to do is type the site you want to go to, and then hit ‘Done.’ So as you type on your phone, you will see the URL being entered on your TV.

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Browsing a site on the Xbox with XSG is really easy. If you have browsed a website on your mobile phone, then browsing with XSG is the same, just in a larger scale. You can Scroll up and down, as well as left and right. To zoom in on a page you just pinch and zoom just like you would in your mobile browser. The response between XSG and your Xbox IE is great – it’s like browsing with a keyboard and mouse plugged into your console but without the hassles of wires and sitting by your Xbox 360.

Then there is the social side of SmartGlass. Like the old Xbox Companion app, you can view your Avatar, see your Friends list and who is online. You can even send messages to your friends via XSG, so you can let them know you will be online soon to join them for Gears of War Wednesday, Battlefield 3 Friday or that co-op session in Halo 4 you have been planning the whole day. When they reply to your message via Xbox Live, then you can still read the reply within XSG. You can also setup beacons for your games and it will update to Xbox Live.

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Another fun feature is you can customise your Xbox Avatar. You can change his/her appearance or change the features of your avatar. Once you have done all the changes you hit the save button and then when your Xbox Avatar gets refreshed on your Xbox, it will then have all your changes made. I tried this feature out when I changed my avatar to the Spartan skin that came with Halo 4, and it worked so fast and it made it more effortless than going into the avatar editor on your Xbox.

For those gamers who like comparing Achievements and their games, you will like that you can see your games list and all the achievements you have unlocked for that game. It helps you if you are doing some Achievement hunting and you don’t have to bring up the Xbox guide to see what the achievements are – you can now just view them on your phone!

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Another feature everyone got excited for is the integration of SmartGlass into games. At the time of release, only a few games and some applications support this. Forza Horizon and Dance Central 3 were the first latest releases to take advantage of SmartGlass. For Dance Central 3, you can set up a party list or set goals for the week for fitness reasons. Sadly I haven’t had the opportunity to test out these features as I don’t own the games.

Halo 4 also supports SmartGlass, and you can access Halo Waypoint on your phone/tablet and see your stats, with access to features not really available in the game, too. One can also join a matchmaking game via SmartGlass and it shows extended information about things you come across in the game, including when you access a hidden terminal in Halo 4, which sends that data to Halo Waypoint and you can view it via SmartGlass. You also get schematics of certain structures, such as the UNSC Infinity.

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I really like Xbox SmartGlass and I always have it running when my Xbox 360 is turned on – it’s available now for Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS and Android (version 4.0 and above), and best of all, it’s free and it expands your usage of your Xbox more, making it the ultimate entertainment centre.

Now if someone can just figure out how to change the discs so I don’t have to stand up and swap the games…

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