When microsoft went to update the dash they only had to accomplish three things to make me happy.
1. Make the new dash snappy with little slow down or hiccuping. -Check
2. Find a new way to make recovering my gamer tag faster. -Check
3. Make the kinect interface disappear. -Check... kinda
Yes the new interface is faster with less senseless slow down and fewer instances of hiccuping. Whether or not it's going to be faster to navigate in the long term is something only time can tell. One thing I can say for certain is that having "Play Game" be the first thing that your cursor is on when you boot up the box is fantastic (credit goes to Jeff in the quick look for pointing that out). Cloud Gamer tags are brillant sollution to the old time consuming task of tag recovery. That one feature alone is going to inspire much more xbox party play in my future.
As for getting rid of the kinect interface... well it's still there. The good news is now it's integrated into the current ui and much improved. The voice commands are very snappy and work well. So well in fact it's about as good as an actual controller for getting around the UI. Now don't get me wrong if you need to fiddle with something the controller is still the way to go but if you're looking to just access netflix saying xbox video netflix is as fast as right trigger x2 A. The gestures still kinda feel like a gimmick here but work well enough if you're not holding a controller and your voice command isn't imputing (which only happened once in my time testing the interface). Speaking of gestures can we all agree that the button push from "Your Shape 2012" is way the heck better than holding your hand out there for 2 seconds. Get on that Microsoft. Stat!
As for the apps:
Netflix worked reasonably well with both controller and voice although it does look a whole heck of a lot more cluttered. Gestures here as they are with the new metro ui are still kind hit and miss. The fact that you can't swipe up and down like you can left and right is silly. Why anybody would use the gestures method over the voice or controller interface is beyond me. It should be noted once again that voice has been improved now so that you can do almost everything with voice inside of netflix up to and including selecting a movie and navigating the interface (which as with the regular xbox dash has been consolidated into one UI instead of the broken to part system we had before.)
Bing was one of the features microsoft touted heavily before releasing metro to the general public and as with most people I heard chatting about it I had my doubts as to how good the speech dection was going to be. After all early experiences with the old kinect dash didn't leave a lot of hope on the table. To my surprise Bing search was very responsive picking up non gaming phrases like "Giant Bomb" or "Peanut Butter Sandwich." After a good half hour of trying to break it the only real issues I found were when I tried saying silly things at bing like Punxsutawney or Arthanareeswarar. That said the search results were a bit disappointing. Searches for thing like "Bastion" got me two or three junk results before the actual game. It would have been nice if they would have included a feature to give the search a bias towards a particular type of media and have those results show up first in the interface. Also not having Netflix/Hulu integration at launch is a real bummer and is probably going to make me forget about this feature months before they hotfix it in there.
Talk about a bummer ESPN has received another overhaul and this time it's more cluttered then ever. If you've ever walked into somebodies house and instantly wanted to start cleaning it that's the feeling I got from booting up the ESPN app. The main ribbon you start on doesn't take you right to games instead it's a list of highlights and video clips. The bottom ribbon has games that are upcoming but not anything that's been prerecorded. It should be noted that I checked this out at 3 AM and it's likely that games that are on will be upfront and center when booted up at a reasonable time. All is not negative in ESPN land they have made some improvements. You can now select sports and teams to favorite and presumably they show up first on your list. Although in last night's testing I didn't find that to be the case. Also you can watch two games at once which is neat. If only they had more pro content on there.
The rest: Probably the most disappointing thing about the new UI update is that it didn't launch with a new updates for the metro dash. Facebook still takes too long to load into and doesn't have enough integration with xbl to actually make it worth going into. Last FM is nice but is a pointless as you can't run it in the back ground while your doing other stuff on your console and twitter really should be something you can access from quicklaunch menu.
As negative as the bottom half of this review came off as I still like the Metro Dash. It does what I want a dash to do make it easy for me to interface with my xbox quickly and easily. Also it gives me some more options and fixes the old horrible game recovery system and really that's enough.
(PS my comma button is broken so please keep that in mind when responding)