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purchasing an xbox: notes for newbies.

November 28, 2016

This is a long post, but if you are an absolute Xbox noob like I am, I think you will find the information I’ve provided to be helpful. The more you know before making a purchase, the better.

Damn, I hate learning the hard way.

Ok then..

Most people have been playing an Xbox in one form or another for many years, but not me. The last console I spent a lot of time using was the original Nintendo, back in the ’80’s when I was a kid.

After that, I got into Warcraft II (awesome strategy game!) during the ’90’s, long before World of Warcraft was invented.

After that, I didn’t bother with gaming except for very rare occasions when I would try out my nephew’s Xbox 360, and later Xbox One.

This past year, I finally started to play video games regularly, and have been using my iPad.

I mostly play Plants vs. Zombies II, and Sky Force Reloaded, but sometimes have played a Hidden Mystery/Hidden Object game, a Tetris knock-off which I like better than Tetris, a puzzle game called Monument Valley, and a hideously difficult (actually impossible) game called Race the Sun. That’s pretty much it.

I’ve noticed that on some days, I play games several hours at a time. I figured it was time to finally buy a console. A little bit easier on my hands if I play some of the time on the iPad, and some of the time using a console controller, I’m guessing.

Also, I’ve really really wanted to play classic video games from the ’80’s and ’90’s. I bought two Xbox 360 disks to use on my nephew’s 360: Streetfighter IV and Midway Arcade Collection or whatever it is called (over 30 games on that disk).

Besides those, I want to play the original Plants vs. Zombies (which is not a game from my youth, but since I love the second version I figure I’ll likely love the first), and various titles from the Sega Genesis Collection disk, which has lots of games on it.

I thought I could play these games on an Xbox one. I read in the past that this console is backwards compatible, meaning I could pop an Xbox 360 disk into the One and play it.

Such is NOT the case, not with the newest version of the Xbox, called Xbox One S. (There are many rumors that a highly advanced, new Xbox, possibly called Scorpio, will be released within a few months.. keep this in mind, if you are thinking of getting the most advanced console you can find).

The Xbox One S version is white, a bit more refined than the regular Xbox, a few hardware features that are better, and a size that 40% smaller than the original Xbox One. I think the S stands for “slim.”

I ordered mine from Amazon. The prices were low on Thanksgiving and on Friday. I picked up a 500 GB Xbox One S with download key for Battlefield 1 (the hottest game right now.. a new first person shooter.. called an “fps,” set during WW I).

Well.. I spent many hours setting up the device last night. Frustrating experience, since I’m a newbie. Actually worse than frustrating.

Why was this such a negative experience? Because I learned a few things which you might want to know:

  1. The VAST majority of Xbox 360 games are NOT backwards compatible, in other words NOT playable on this unit. On the site, I read “Xbox One is the best place to play Xbox 360 games.” But, when I did some digging, I found a list of titles. There were over a hundred games on the list, but there are thousands of 360 games out there. Here is the list: Plants vs. Zombies is the only one I want to play that is on the list. I don’t see any Streetfighter titles on there.
  2. While using the Xbox One S, I checked the app store, and could not even find any Streetfighter games available for Xbox One, even though one appeared to be available when I checked for some titles on the Xbox store site while using my computer.
  3. Netflix did not show up in the “featured apps” section. I had to go find it on the app store and download it. That was a bother.
  4. Amazon for streaming video did not appear either. I went searching for that one, and found the message “app currently not available.” I was shocked by that.
  5. The new controller has a “textured grip,” meaning the plastic surface on the under-side of the controller is rough, presumably so that it will not slip out of sweaty hands. I do NOT like the feel of the textured grip. Too much like sand paper. I could buy a regular XBox One controller, I suppose. That one is black, and doesn’t have a textured grip. But, I’d be out some money.
  6.  Downloading a game can take a REALLY long time. I have broadband from Centurylink. I was told that, because I live on a cul-de-sac, my internet is slower than what most people have. I did a speed test just now, and clocked in at only 14.95 Mbps. Hopefully your connection is a lot quicker. I paid $20 for a download of the deluxe edition of Star Wars Battlefront. I don’t know how many hours it took to download. Over three. I let it continue downloading after I went to bed.

Regarding streaming services.. isn’t it an Xbox selling point that Amazon and Netflix can be streamed via Xbox ?!!!

At least, with the Xbox One S, it is now possible to connect my DirecTV, and watch it via the Xbox.. I guess this is called “pass through.” This saves me from using an HDMI hub/switcher, since I only have two HDMI ports on my TV.

Otherwise though, I’m shocked and dismayed by the Xbox One S. It is probably GREAT for people like my 16 year old nephew, who spends up to 8 hours a day (maybe more) playing fps games.. his current obsession being Battlefield 1.

But me.. I only want to dabble in the hottest games. Yeah, I really did want to play the Star Wars game, and yeah, I thought it might be cool to try a WW I fps, but my main desire has been to play the vintage games and stream movies and TV shows  with the two services I use.

But, of the games I want to play most, I can play only one of them, and can only stream Netflix.

The console is going back. I already sent in a return request to Amazon, and will be boxing up the console as soon as I finish this post.

Before packing up the unit though, I have made sure I wiped the hard drive as best I could. I realized that people are constantly selling and re-selling used units, so I figured it would be possible to clear out my account info. It is. Here’s how to do it:

I’ve already ordered a new Xbox 360 E. I don’t know what the “E” stands for. This is just the newest model. Maybe it stands for “end.” I’ve heard that Microsoft, at some point in time, will not be making these anymore. Anyway.. The price was $30 lower on Thanksgiving than it was earlier today. The price even went up $8 when I checked back a bit later today, after I’d placed my order.

Amazon’s prices fluctuate, even when it is not the holiday season. Sometimes, even if the listing for an item says “Amazon Prime,” Amazon is not the vendor. Sometimes, the listing will say “Prime,” and then “sold by (insert vendor name here) instead of “sold by Amazon.” But, if it says “prime,” that means the usual free shipping for prime members, and dependable return policy.

Along with the Xbox One S, I’d also ordered a code for an entire year of Xbox Live Gold.. that’s the Xbox online service, which would cost almost $10 a month if paying month by month. The code for a year of Gold was $59.99.

After doing some research today, I’ve learned that it is highly likely I’ll be able to use my Gold account with a 360. Good. At least that won’t be money wasted. I hope.

It is possible, according to my nephew, to buy Xbox Live Gold codes and other video game codes cheaper, by using I didn’t feel like bothering with that site though, I just wanted to make my purchases. I was still trying to sort this stuff out on Thanksgiving day while everyone else had headed to the kitchen to get their food. I was in a hurry.

Don’t be in a hurry when making decisions if you can avoid being in a hurry, that’s my advice.

Regarding the Xbox 360.. I decided to buy a new one. I spend a lot of time at my brother’s house, where he, his wife, and his video-game obsessed kids live. Almost every time I’ve been over there in the past several years, my oldest nephew has been blasting away for countless hours. I figure a lot of Xboxes sold as used have been used heavily by people like my nephew. Better to buy a new one.

Since Amazon tends to have good prices, and excellent no hassle returns (as long as I’ve bought something through Amazon prime, and sold by Amazon, or at least fulfilled by Amazon), I ordered a 360 from them.

I wish I’d ordered one on Thanksgiving. 4GB 360’s were going for only $129, and included a game. The best I could do today was a 360 without a game download code, for $159. And the 360 I almost bought was white. I like the white ones. They are out of those, at least today, so I bought a usual black one. That’s ok.

In regards to connecting the 360, according to the Amazon listing, only an old-fashioned RCA-type three cord (red and white for audio, and some other color for video) connector is included. But, I’ve read that there is an HDMI port on the unit. I’ll just have to order an HDMI cable, I’m guessing.

I don’t think the pass through option is available (probably only available on the One S, but I’m not sure about this), so I will have to take out my HDMI hub/switcher that I just put away, and re-hook up my various devices.

According to the description, and what I’ve seen on youtube, it is possible to stream both Amazon and Netflix while using the 360. We’ll see.

Memory.. why 4 gigs might not be enough.. If all I want to do is play games on disks, then 4 gigs is probably fine. However, since I already paid for a year of Gold, and therefore have the option of downloading lots of games, some of them free to try out for a certain time, I figured I would want more memory.

There were two 360’s with 500GB hard drives. One was selling for $199, and came with a driving game (something I’m not interested in), but was at the time not sold through Prime. (Later on in the day, that same bundle was sold through Prime).

The other 500GB bundle featured an fps game, I forget the title, and was selling for $249.

At first, I figured 4GB would be enough for me. Then, after I’d already ordered the 4GB version,  I did some research, and, as far as I can tell, determined that I could use my Gold account with the 360 I’d ordered. Therefore, 4GB would not be nearly enough.

So, I ordered a 32GB flash drive for a bit more memory. And then did yet more reading.

It turns out there are two USB flash drive ports on the 360. According to some Amazon reviews, no matter what the capacity of the flash drive, if it is plugged in, only 32GB will be used. I don’t understand this, but most people agreed on this info. Another person said no, he was using a 1TB external drive, and it was working fine. Hmmm…

After confirming that I could likely use my Gold account, I decided one 32GB drive would not be enough. I read more comments and questions and so forth, and learned it is possible to buy a genuine Xbox 360 500GB hard drive that can be easily installed into the 4GB model.

This is different from plugging an external drive into one of the USB ports.  I checked out some youtube videos.. no tools required.. should take only a few seconds. On one youtube video I just found, a guy says that on the 4GB model, the slot for the drive is empty. I’ll just put in the 500GB drive.

On one video, a guy said the slot for the drive will be empty on the 4 GB model, but he was talking about the Xbox 360 S.. the “S” being for “slim.” The E is the newest model. If you already have an Xbox 360 and want to upgrade the drive, make sure, on youtube, to type in the model of Xbox you have.

Just checked on the E model, 4GB. The slot for the hardrive is empty on this one also. 4GB doesn’t take up much room, so whatever info is normally on a replaceable drive is internally built into a flash drive and cannot be removed. But, a new drive can be put in.

The hardrive slot is, if you are holding the console with the front facing you, on the right side of the unit, toward the back. The little slide switch to open the slot is hard to see at first. It is very small, just a little triangle, and right next to one of the little pads placed on the Xbox for those of you who want to stand it up vertically.

Once you slide back the little triangle switch thing (which is not easy!), the door comes completely off, and you can remove a drive if there is one in there, or, in the case of the 4GB model, there is nothing to remove. And then, you can put in your new drive. Push it enough so that it clicks.

I ordered an Xbox 360 500 GB drive, which I will install before I set up the Xbox online. I’ll use the little 32GB flash drive for something else. I am hoping it is ok to install a new drive before turning the unit on for the first time and setting it up. It seems logical to me that this would be fine.

Here’s some directions from the Xbox site for what to do after swapping out the drive:

  1. Press the Guide button on your controller, go to Settings, and select System Settings.
  2. Select Storage or Memory.
  3. Make sure Hard Drive appears in the list of Storage Devices. If it does not, try removing and reattaching the hard drive to the console.


Another couple things I read that are worth mentioning.. people who spent less money for off-brand 500GB drives for their units tended to have problems. It’s best to get a genuine Xbox product.

Some people on youtube contradict this, and seem to be doing just fine with a non-Xbox brand drive. Some gamers are even using 1TB drives, which Xbox does not sell. There are a DIY videos for plugging one into your unit and setting it up.  The process looks complicated. I’m not a techie, and I think the Xbox drive I bought should have more than enough storage for me.

Something else to consider regarding purchasing a hardrive..  Some Amazon vendors are unscrupulous, and sell genuine Xbox drives that are for the wrong region. People in the US need a Region 1 drive, not Region 2 or other region. Apparently, even ordering from Amazon, I’m taking a risk. The picture on the Amazon listing did not show the drive in Xbox packaging. Should I be concerned?

One reviewer even reported that he ordered an Xbox drive, and received one made Seagate, not Xbox. He provided a picture. Most reviews were positive though, which means most people got the right product. I hope I do.

I paid $38.99 for the 500GB drive. Most of the prices on ebay were at least $5.00 higher. Ebay is a good place to check, though. The Sega Genesis Collection disk I was looking for.. Amazon only sold used copies, for around $13, and only from 3rd party vendors. I found a new copy on ebay for less than $15, and free shipping.

Alright then.. this has certainly been a learning experience! Yes, I’m out the cost of the Star Wars game, which, being an Xbox One title, cannot be played on a 360. Hopefully, I will be able to use the Gold account with my 360. According to Microsoft’s Xbox support pages, I should be able to do so.

I’m not out the cost of return shipping to Amazon. I pushed the little button on the Xbox One S that is for opening the disk tray, but it wouldn’t open. So, in my return request, I listed the unit as defective.There is no charge for return shipping if a product is defective. I have returned many items to Amazon in the past, some defective, some not. The return shipping charge was surprisingly cheap for the items that were not defective.

Was the one I had truly defective? I thought about it some after submitting my refund request, and wondered if I had to be signed in on my Xbox.. signed into Xbox Live, before the tray would open? I don’t know. I try very hard to be an honest person, but by this time, I was so fed up, I did not want to go through the bother of signing into my account to see if the tray would open.

I’ve already wiped the unit, hopefully clearing out all my info so I won’t be hacked. I’ll box up the console and peripherals as nicely as I can, and include the cards containing the codes for the free game download and other special offers. I did not use the cards. I figure someone else will, when this item is sold as “open box” or “refurbished.” I’ll even include a little note saying I haven’t used the download codes.

Alright then, even with the 500GB external drive, I’ll still save a bit of money compared to the Xbox One S, which I will be shipping back to Amazon tomorrow.

Hope this information has helped you to make a wise purchase, and avoid the mistakes I have made.

Thanks for reading. I’ll write a bit more once I’ve got the Xbox 360 set up and ready to play.




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