Microsoft Xbox 360
- Sexy Design, Incredible power, Music streaming and integration, Great controller
- Some unsupported file formats, No HD-DVD drive, no non-MSC support, average launch line up.
The Xbox 360 is an incredible piece of hardware with very little great software to choose from. In the end, the potential for future brilliance far outweighs its immediate appeal.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
Under the Hood - CPU
The specifications of the Xbox 360 are mind blowing and it has the potential to be an impressive gaming platform. This is the part of the review where we stumble about in jargon and tech speak. The Xbox 360 has an IBM PowerPC-based CPU with three symmetrical cores running at 3.2 GHz each with two hardware threads per core making a total of six hardware threads. Each thread can work on a separate set of instructions and running six of them means that the 360 can work on six things at the same time. It also runs 1MB of L2 cache. That means it is roughly the equivalent of three high end Pentium CPUs. The system has 512MB of system RAM (GDDR3) which is an enormous leap from the 64MB of the original Xbox. Considering the first Xbox also had only one CPU running at 733 MHz, the jump in power in the 360 is also incredible, almost to the point of overkill. All of this equates to one teraflop of processing power, which is roughly one trillion calculations per second. As of only a few years ago there were only five computers in existence that ran at 1 Teraflop. This machine is a beast and seems ludicrously over powered for a gaming console. It remains to be seen if developers can harness this power and make truly revolutionary gaming experiences.
Under the Hood - GPU
The GPU has been designed by ATI specifically for the Xbox 360. It has a 500 MHz processor and 10MB of embedded DRAM and is capable of drawing 500 million triangles per second. It can push roughly 48 billion shader operations per second under a unified shader architecture. The GPU is superior to the nVidia chip announced for the PlayStation 3 in that the shader pipelines are dynamic, meaning they have greater flow control and are not prone to bottlenecking. This is advantageous because the more free the flow of the data is, the better the performance. The power of this graphics chip is staggering and capable of much more than the launch titles would have you believe. If developers use the GPU correctly, the graphical qualities of the second or third generations of game could be quite exquisite and like nothing ever seen in the gaming industry.
It is very difficult to talk about the graphics capabilities of a console. It generally depends on the way that a developer has utilised the graphics core and how well their code interacts with the CPU of the unit. Spectral lighting, normal mapping and the many other buzz words of the graphics world don't mean anything if the developers haven't done their job. From the launch titles we have played, it seems that the developers haven't tapped into the graphics capabilities of the unit and as such the games aren't mind-blowingly impressive. All games run in high definition as the console supports 480p, 720p and 1080i but only users who have a HD capable display device will reap the benefits. We have been lucky enough to get a sneak peak at Ubisoft's upcoming title, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. The supporting documentation informed us that the texture resolution was only one third of what it would be in the final build and the graphics were already quite stunning with high detail and flawless particle and human figure animations. The final build may well be the first game on the system to show off what it can do.
The Xbox sound processor supports multi-channel surround sound and is capable of 48 KHz 16-bit audio. It has 320 independent decompression channels, 32-bit audio processing, over 256 audio channels and is compatible with Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS and Pro Logic II and regular stereo output. The sound design one the games we played were of the highest quality. Whether it be the whistle of passing bullets on Call of Duty 2, the screeching tires of Full Auto and Ridge Racer 6 or the atmospheric creepiness of Condemned, the audio was crystal clear and a true credit to the system. With optical audio available out of the box, the sound is one element of the 360 that cannot be faulted.
In keeping with the ultra modern clean lines of the console itself, the operating system has undergone many changes from the days of the eerie whispering green menu of the original Xbox. The on-screen menus are divided into four colour coded "blades" labeled Xbox Live, Games, Media and System. The "Xbox Live" blade has all the options pertaining to your Xbox Live identity including your achievements and links to the Xbox Live Marketplace and Arcade. The "Games" blade is where you can choose which downloaded games or demos you wish to play or instruct the console to launch a game from the DVD-ROM drive. The "Media" blade controls all forms of media on the system including video, music and images. You can play media from this blade or stream media from your PC or USB device. The "System" blade controls all of the system settings including the resolution and Parental Control options. The operating system works flawlessly but most of all it is simple to understand.
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