8 things every Xbox 360 owner should know

Don't 'dive in' until you've read this list of crucial Xbox 360 tips.

The Xbox 360 is more popular than the original Xbox, and is giving Sony's PlayStation 3 a serious run for its money. Read on to learn eight insights into the Xbox 360...straight from the experts at GamePro.

- Xbox 360 = Action! The Xbox 360 hold a general edge in the action genre, and is especially popular for first-person shooters such as Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3. One of the Xbox 360's edges is its shooter-friendly controller, which features offset analog stick placement. Another advantage is the simplicity of connecting with online friends for multiplayer matches; a final consideration are the exclusive games (Gears of War 2 and Halo 3 among them) that cater to hardcore shooter fans. If you're a hardcore shooter gamer all the way, the Xbox 360 is a great choice. If you prefer more well-rounded game lineup, you may want to look more closely at the PlayStation 3 and Wii.

- Xbox LIVE! Every Xbox 360 comes with Microsoft's online service Xbox LIVE. Brand new Xbox 360's come with a month-long Gold subscription to the service, allowing you access to exclusive content and play with friends online, not to mention the ability to download demos, paid videos, themes, and user-pics online. Once the month is up, however, you're downgraded to Silver, which still grants you access to hundreds of demos, themes, and video downloads. And you can always pay the US$60 yearly subscription fee to access unlimited online multiplayer.

- Netflix streaming! One of the best aspects of the Xbox 360 is that you can tie it to your Netflix account and watch certain TV shows, movies, and even HD content for "free." The catch is that you must a) be a Netflix subscriber and b) be an Xbox Live Gold subscriber. To connect your Netflix account to your Xbox 360, simply head to your Xbox 360's Dashboard and look for the "Netflix" app. Download it, follow the instructions, and soon enough you'll be streaming your favorite Netflix content from the comfort of your couch.

- Wireless controllers! The 360's wireless controllers are great for kicking tail in Halo 3 from across the room, but keep in mind that they're battery powered. Each controller takes two double-A batteries, and the controllers themselves aren't rechargeable, so be sure to check your battery status via the Xbox Dashboard every once in a while to make sure you're in good shape. You may want to consider buying rechargeable batteries, or the official battery pack, to save a few bucks in the long haul.

- Backwards Compatibility! The Xbox 360 can play many of the most popular Xbox 1 games. But before you pop your old copy of Fable or Halo 2 into your 360, make sure to connect to the internet and update your console. The Xbox 360 didn't initially utilize backwards compatibility, but a number of titles are currently supported. If you want to know if your old Xbox collection will work on your Xbox 360, check Microsoft's official website for the full list of supported games.

- Avatars! Since the Xbox 360's big interface update in November of 2008, Xbox 360 owners can customize an avatar character -- in essence, a cartoon version of yourself. In a select few games, the Avatars are playable characters. But largely, Avatars are a fun window dressing that enable you to express yourself and skim your Buddy List at a glance.

- Downloadable content! One of the biggest benefits of Xbox LIVE is additional downloadable content for your favorite games, including new characters, levels, and gameplay modes. Some of these expansions require a small payment, but a surprising number are free or ad sponsored.

- Let it breathe! So you've bought an Xbox 360 and you've heard the rumors regarding the dreaded Red Ring of Death. The most important thing to take into consideration when setting up your 360 is that your console has plenty of room for air to flow, as ventilation is incredibly important in the Xbox 360's performance. This means keeping it off of the carpet, and preferably on an elevated surface.

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