Xbox 360 Messenger Kit Review
Since the inclusion of the Messenger functionality in the Xbox 360 Dashboard most use of text input on the Xbox 360 was kept to short messages. Whether it was arranging a game, leaving a friend a message to giving some gamer feedback, messages were kept short and sweet. Flicking through the dash keypad was always a chore and you would either resort to a voice message or just simply keep your message short leaving most of your messages resembling a library of mobile text speak memoires. With the inclusion of Messenger we can now log into Messenger through the dashboard and this in turn unleashes the greater need to be able to respond to your much quicker typing buddies. If you can sympathise with any of the above then you will be glad to know that Microsoft has solved this problem by creating an accessory that should be right up there on your “Xbox 360 To buy” list, right next to the Play and Charge Kit or Recharge Pack.
The Microsoft Xbox 360 Messenger Kit is exactly just that, a Kit aimed at getting the most out of the Xbox 360’s integration with MSN Messenger or Windows Live Messenger as it is now called. So what is in the box? Well deep inside the skin-cutting plastic packaging we all love to hate we have two items, the Chatpad itself and a new shiny revised wired headset, but more about that later.
The Chatpad is a stylish piece of kit. The design seamlessly slots into the bottom of your existing Xbox 360 controller with ease. The pad itself weighs in at a mere 76kg, so imagine your mobile phone or a CD album case and it’s more than likely lighter than that! So it goes without saying, after slapping this device onto the bottom of your controller you will hardly notice any increase in weight. A full QWERTY keyboard layout is present with two function buttons (green and orange) giving you access to additional character sets and functions. The buttons on the Chatpad, although clunky, does feel very solid and you get the feeling that this device will take some punishment before it gives up the ghost. For those of us that like to game in the dark you will be happy to hear that the Chatpad features backlit keys. Thankfully the pad only illuminates these keys when the buttons are depressed. These keys stay lit for a short period of time, so there is less worry in excessively draining your Wireless Controller’s battery. The Chatpad itself only comes in the standard Xbox 360 white colour and is not currently available in black or green, so for any Elite or Halo 3 owners reading this you will have to wait until a matching black or green Messenger Kit becomes available.
Plugging in the Chatpad into the bottom of your controller will use up the socket used to plug in your existing premium wired headset. Now this isn’t a problem if you have a wireless headset, but if this isn’t the case then we need to look back in the box and grab the bundled headset. To solve the lack of a headset connection Microsoft has revised their existing headset with a new headset featuring a single 3.5 jack connection, this inserts into a new headset socket in the bottom of the Chatpad. For this reason the microphone controls have now been relocated and are now featured in an in-line remote system which houses the volume control and microphone mute on/off switches. You’ll find no advancement in quality with this headset, Microsoft has clearly focused on the connection side of things with this revised version.
Once the Chatpad has been connected, not only do not feel the weight, but surprisingly, with the Chatpad only a thumbs reach away it isn’t obstructive or uncomfortable either. The fingers that wrap around the underneath of the pad do manage to touch a raised portion of the Chatpad, but it doesn’t make holding the pad uncomfortable, over time you will hardly notice it’s there. When it comes to using the Chatpad, enter text is very intuitive just like texting on a mobile phone, the speed of which you can enter text with your thumbs is very quick and easy, with each key easily reachable with both thumbs.
Positioned on the lower row of the pad is an MSN “buddies” button. Pressing this button will instantly bring up the Chat and IM > Messenger service blade. From here you can instantly view Sent or Received messages, as long as you are already logged in. If you one for manually signing in this pressing this button will take you to the same screen where signing in is just a press of the A button away. Once you are finally in a chat though, using the Chatpad to enter text is as simple as, well, typing itself. If you’re in a game and someone texts you, getting access to this message is now much faster and less obtrusive while being in game as messages are overlaid, so a quick message reply and then you’re back in the game. Either side of the space bar are left and right directional arrows, pressing these will not only navigate the dashboard blades but while in multiple conversations by pressing the green function button along with these arrows you will be switching between conversations with ease.
So is the Messenger Kit for you? Well if you are always logged into Messenger over LIVE and are consistently chatting, then this £25 Messenger Kit is vital. Not only will it speed up conversations and get you back in the game, but it will also make things easier for the reader too, as you can swiftly type away much longer sentences than “yes”, “no” or the usual “I’m playing!” Even if you do not message much over LIVE and you log into Messenger occasionally, with the Chatpad installed you will find yourself messaging your online buddies much more often. The Chatpad also makes entering any text fields in games and on the dashboard a care free task, whether its entering details in Football Manager, inputting LIVE details or entering Redeem codes, the Chatpad makes this a breeze. The Bottom line is that the Messenger Kit is an invaluable accessory that no Xbox 360 owner should be without, and being able to replace your old and discoloured premium headset with the new bundled headset is just the icing on the cake. It is just a shame that no additional colours are available as yet for the Elite and Halo 3 SKUs, but I am sure Microsoft will overcome this very soon.