Xbox 360 Metro update cripples third-party video playback

An investigation from Digital Foundry has made some worrying discoveries about the new Xbox Dashboard. Reports dating back to the beta test suggested that video playback had been crippled, with users noticing sub-standard quality in their videos. But further tests have shown that the situation is more complicated than previously thought.

An in-depth analysis reported by Eurogamer has now revealed a definite bias towards certain video sources. Although 1080p videos will play back, the output has been scaled down to 720p. Furthermore, histogram analysis shows that at 720p, the Metro update ignores any full-range RGB settings and reverts to a more limited 16-235 range; other issues include compression artifacts and washed-out images.

The exception to the rule is Zune. Content from the Zune Marketplace runs at 1080p resolution, but video from anywhere else (even Microsoft's video partners) has been crippled. It's an odd limitation, especially considering Microsoft's emphasis on the Xbox as a media playback hub.

"The obvious conclusion is that the SDK Microsoft is believed to have supplied to third-party video partners is limited to 720p only," Digital Foundry writes, "the message we draw from this is that the platform holder wants to expand the take-up of the Xbox 360 as a media-streaming device, but very much on its own terms with its own content getting the best quality."

Microsoft has acknowledged the feedback and said that it will take it into "consideration for future releases". Until then, readers looking to show off their fancy new screens would be best advised to use something else for playback.

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