Xbox Messenger Kit

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Xbox Messenger Kit
  • Xbox Messenger Kit
  • Xbox Messenger Kit
  • Xbox Messenger Kit

Pros

  • Spacious QWERTY keys, easily slots in, good size

Cons

  • Will only connect to Windows Live Messenger

Bottom Line

PC fans will point and laugh at this mini keyboard, but heavy console users and online socialites will love the added functionality it gives your Xbox 360 console.

Would you buy this?

Microsoft's Xbox 360 messenger kit is a simple device, but it greatly adds to the functionality and enhances the social aspect of the Xbox 360 console. The spacious keypad is similar to that of a PDA, but larger, and clips easily to the bottom of the Xbox 360 controller. The included headset can then connect via the 2.5mm jack at the bottom of the pad. Initially we were concerned that it would still be cumbersome to type on and that the bulky unit would undermine the tactility of the controller during game play -- but we were wrong.

Wedged into the Great Australian Bite of the Xbox 360 controller, the Chatpad is not really heavy enough to affect the balance of the controller, it's not fat enough to impede on your grip, and yet a slight adjustment of your hands and you're typing away. In fact, it sits so snugly it almost looks part of the controller. The pad is designed with the standard QWERTY layout with numbers along the top so users of PDAs will pick up the typing quickly. Even a veteran keyboard user may find they are touch-typing with the Chatpad in no time. A series of shift and shortcut keys make up for missing keys and overall we found the Chatpad responsive and spacious.

In April 2007 Microsoft merged Xbox Live and Windows Live Messenger, allowing communication between Live users on Xbox and Messenger users on PC. A Messenger button left of the space key is your shortcut to Messenger heaven. Initially it brings up a half screen Xbox Dashboard where you choose the contact and initiate the chat. However, from that point you can hit the Messenger button and a small overlay chat window appears in-game. This is brilliant. If you're in a single-player game, the game pauses. If you're playing on Live the game continues, so you'll need to practice and get your speed up; don't lose your head. Incoming messages display on the screen for a few seconds then fade.

The chat window will only appear for your current chat window. Although you can keep multiple chat windows active, allocating a new one to the Messenger button requires a quick dip back into the Xbox Dashboard half-screen via another shortcut. If you're wondering about Emoticons, Winks and other Messenger features -- let it go; only nudging works.

Typing a message with the Xbox 360 controller using the virtual, on-screen keyboard is slow and frustrating. Move the cursor up here, down there, enter the sub-menu to add symbols. Did you make a mistake? Arrow the curser back and find the delete key and so on. With this kit, you're sorted.

Voice chat isn't everything. Any gamer will tell you that using voice in-game via an Xbox 360 headset is the one and only way to communicate on the fly. However, voice isn't necessarily the best way to converse outside the game. Anyone who's ever tried to leave a message on an answering machine will know just how hard it can be; fumbling your words, 'umming' and 'erring ' and all the while the time limit ticks to an end. Text messaging is clearly the best way of sending quick messages, which is why this device is invaluable, and chat isn't the only benefit. Networking the Xbox 360 as a media centre will require a password for any secure network. Typing this in every time can be more than irritating, unless you have this.

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