Xbox 360 QWERTY Keyboard; Dashboard Update; Sound Quality

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A couple of Xbox 360 topics this morning.

Xbox 360 QWERTY Keyboard
AttachmentFirst, from the Gamerscore Blog, we find that this summer they'll be releasing a miniature QWERTY keyboard attachment for your Xbox 360 controller. It was just last night I was complaining about the stupid virtual keyboard and having to run the thumbstick around to send a message. I'll definitely be picking one of these up.

You can see Flickr photos of the keyboard attachment as well as a press release about it and an upcoming dashboard update. (The feature I'm looking forward to in the dashboard update: "A richer Achievement notification pop-up will showcase the name of the unlocked Achievement and the gamerscore value without needing to leave the game to check the Achievements list.")

Second, something I've noticed lately is that in certain games and during certani music tracks, I'll hear a static/crackling sound when I have the sound running through my receiver. I don't hear the static when I listen to a CD or watch a DVD through the Xbox, I don't hear it in most games, and I don't hear it from any other component in my home theater - it's just certain bits of sound from games and digital media. I also don't really hear it when I listen through just the TV speakers via analog stereo connections.

I called Xbox Support about it to ask what the deal is. I explained the situation in detail (it took a while to get the details straight; I don't think they have very many people calling with complex issues) and after maybe half an hour on the phone, we arrived at two conclusions:

1) Certain games and sounds are not well optimized for digital output. Particularly in Xbox Live Arcade games (which is where I'm hearing the most static), QA doesn't always take the time to ensure that the sound is good on a high-resolution audio system. Since I'm not hearing it in all games and/or all media, it has to be a media/game specific problem that can be chalked up to bad sound engineering and QA.

2) I am a nitpicky perfectionist when it comes to audio/visual quality. Jenn doesn't hear the static until I point it out, but it's blaringly obvious to me. It makes me wonder if there is a lower population of Xbox 360 owners also having that Xbox 360 connected to a reasonably high quality home theater system where the problem will evidence itself. Regardless, once I hear the issue, I can't not hear it, so I just put up with it when it rears its ugly head. Again, it's not in all games, just a few. (Bejeweled 2 is a particular offender.)

Consider this a request to game companies and QA everywhere - test out your games not only on a standard user's low-end A/V system but also on a higher-end system to make sure your game holds up.

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