By MATTHEW FORDAHL AP Technology Writer
With enough hardware horsepower to deliver movie-like graphics and high-quality sound, Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 is setting a new standard for video games. But the console isn't just about shoot-'em-ups and virtual sports.
Like its predecessor, the 360 can serve as an "extender" to a PC running Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system. Nearly every type of media that plays on the PC can be piped _ wired or wirelessly _ over a home network and through the Xbox to a TV.
This time, the feature is built into the console (both the $300 and $400 versions) and doesn't require the purchase of additional software. It also can handle the demands of high-definition television without a hiccup.
All this is in addition to the Xbox's primary purpose _ gaming. Taken as a whole, it's Microsoft's strongest case yet for its future in the living room. It shows that the PC, even if hidden elsewhere in the house, can serve up media and more for the entertainment center.
To try it, I borrowed an Xbox 360 and a Hewlett-Packard Co. PC decked out with the Media Center software. The PC itself could have easily been a Gateway, Dell or any other brand _ the operating system is offered by almost all PC makers, with prices starting at less than $1,000.
Though setup isn't as easy as it could be and the Media Center software still has some rough patches, it performed remarkably well.