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Ars reviews the OnLive microconsole, service
Written by Daniel   
Thursday, 02 December 2010 19:14

From ARS Technica

The idea of streaming video content is now commonplace, but streaming games? OnLive is doing it. By running the games on powerful computers and then streaming the gameplay to your PC or television via the microconsole, you can play even high-end games on low-end hardware.

I've been using OnLive for over a year now, and I've seen the good times and the bad times. Now that the microconsole is here and we've had some time to play around with both the hardware and the service itself, it's time for our final thoughts.


The Hardware

You've already seen the pictures of the microconsole and included "Owl" controller, so now we're going to take a closer look at the hardware.

The microconsole is a handheld box with two USB ports on the front, and 3.5mm stereo and optical audio, Ethernet, HDMI and AV ports on the back. The box is made especially for HDMI, but OnLive also sells an HDMI-component cable, which uses the port below the HDMI port. Of course, that port will only output 720p video, and sells for $30 separately.

The microconsole is small enough to put anywhere, which can be good or bad for your media center; it's hard to find a place where it "fits," and it's too small to just place on the floor. For now, it sits on top of my media center PC, which was ironically set up six months ago to play OnLive games on the TV.

The Owl gamepad is similar to both the Dualshock and the Xbox 360 controller design. The symmetrical thumbsticks are concave and studded, and they grip better than any other major gamepad I've tested. The Owl is also big. I'm one of those rare people that liked the original "Duke" Xbox controller, and I like the Owl's size as well. It's not quite as large or rounded as the Duke; instead, the Owl is contoured and angular on the sides to fit the hand.

If you don't want to use the included controller, you have options; any wired or Bluetooth gamepad should work with the microconsole. The controller is included with the $100 system, as well as a micro-USB cable, an ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, and a voucher for one game.

Of course, you don't need a microconsole. All you need is a computer running Windows or OS X and the client. The service is free to try, so if you'd like to give it a shot, nothing is stopping you.

With the microconsole, the first installation required 5 minutes to update to the latest firmware, after which I went through the setup process. A setup window offers two options: sign in to an account or set up new account. Installation works with either a keyboard and mouse or the gamepad. Synchronizing the gamepad to the microconsole is automatic. The only button on the microconsole acts as a power button. This is as close to an idiot-proof setup as you can ask for.

After that, booting the microconsole takes about two seconds, which opens a simple menu to log in, switch users, change the video settings for resolution, and power down. Getting to the main OnLive menu takes another 5-15 seconds, depending on your Internet connection and the time of day.

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