Buying guide: Kinect vs. Kinect SDK?

I’ve been trying to find an answer to this question on the forum, but perhaps I am using the wrong search terms.

What is the difference between the “regular” Kinect that’s ~$100 and the Kinect SDK that is ~$250? From what I understand, the SDK contains all the drivers etc. to write your own code for the X360 but if I am reading the forum posts here correctly, they can be downloaded from Microsoft. According to the comments on Amazon, it appears the SDK may come with different cables than the cheaper version which would only connect to an Xbox?

I am attending Node13 and have signed up for the Kinect workshops but I do not currently own one. While I have no problem with buying one, I want to be sure to get the right version for usage with a PC and VVVV.


i don’t know about folks on amazon but that’s bollocks! kinect SDK is a software development kit as its name indicates and it’s free to download here:
on the hardware side as far as i know there are 2 kind of kinects: the original xbox version and the “kinect for windows”. as far as i know both of them has the same feature set and depth/image quality. the only difference between the two is that kinect for windows has a near mode (which allows upper body and hand detection on closer range than the original kinect) and a shorter direct USB cabel. i don’t know what you found but the only standalone kinect i’ve seen on amazon was the kinect for windows for $250
also both of them works on PC even the xbox version. – just the Kinect sensor and it comes with a game (which is pretty useless, considering I don’t own an Xbox)

There appears to be 3 ways to purchase it, as part of a bundle with an Xbox, just the sensor in the link above and the SDK version. The shop I tried today only had the Xbox bundle, not the sensor on its own and the sales guy was no help about the different versions. I’ll try another shop tomorrow, maybe they’ll be more helpful.

yes you can buy the xbox version, but be aware that you will need an adapter kit for it:

@tonfilm: Are you sure about that adapter kit? I bought the xbox Kinect one year ago and that kit was already included (in my case the european power plug). Did they change the usb connector of the xbox-kinect?

@Pixelsmith: As far as I know the only difference is the near mode, like microdee said.

I made sure that I got one for the first version of the Xbox, then the adapter is included

ah, thanks for clearing this up… we got two in the office, one has the adapter kit but not the other (or it got lost).

They had one left like the one on Amazon and that adapter is in the box, so I guess unless I need a nearer mode in the future, this should do the trick!

As far as I know you’ve got to buy the Kinect for Windows if you plan on using it for commercial projects.
Within vvvv you can use vux’ Kinect nodes.

For the Xbox version you will have to use the OpenNI nodes or some older version of vux’ nodes which were still using the beta of the SDK - the beta SDK was still compatible with Xbox Kinect, newer versions require the Windows one.

@readme: no they don’t. i happily use the xbox kinect with ms SDK 1.6. even facetracking works too in the SDK examples. or you meant there’s a legal “limitation” that says you cannot use xbox kinect for commercial purposes with the newer SDK’s?

I RTFM and under “Warranty Exclusions” it says something about damage by use with products not sold or licenced by Microsoft and commercial purposes, but those appear to be rentals/pay per play. There’s a bit about “normal use conditions”/ordinary consumer use under home conditions. There’s also something about attempting to defeat/circumvent technical limitations, security or anti-piracy systems, which I don’t think would apply.

There’s a lot of “if you use this with unauthorised accessories/software and break it, you void your warranty” type stuff, but nothing in there that strictly prohibits using it for commercial purposes… but I’m nowhere near a position of being able to do anything like that. If push comes to shove, I manage to learn how to use this thing, and it’s required to pony up for the more expensive one, I’ll look into buying the SDK version at that time. As I’m just going to learn about how to use it now, if it breaks and I can’t use the warranty, I’m not going to wail and gnash my teeth over $100.

Hm ok, thanks for clearing this up.
Got something wrong then, still this page states:


Guess it’s about the limitations of the beta SDK then.

Having brought this Xbox360 version to Node13, I can report that it somewhat worked in Elliott Woods’ session. Although I was not able to successfully use the chessboard to create any calibration data, I was able to bring up the 4 video windows. In this case, the drivers were third party ones, not the SDK , I had to uninstall those to use the ones we were provided in the workshop.

The Kinect Basics workshop was a different story. I uninstalled all the drivers that had worked and reinstalled the SDK ones, couldn’t even get a video image. The Kinect Studio program did not register that a Kinect was even connected to my computer, although the light on it was green. Apparently, there is something within the Xbox360 version that doesn’t allow it to be used with any official M$ programs or drivers.

One of the things I remember being told in one of the workshops (I believe lecloneur said it) was that once you get something working, there isn’t a huge amount of difference in the features between the various types of Kinect software and that he just keeps to the one (SDK).

So the moral of the story from my perspective is: if you want to use a Kinect, better to buy the expensive version as it is made to be hacked and you may have an easier time getting it to work.