Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite

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Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite

Pros

  • HDMI support, 1080p resolution on HD-DVD, 120GB hard drive, Black finish

Cons

  • Expensive, No dedicated optical out port, No remote control, restrictive hard drive transfer procedures

Bottom Line

The Xbox 360 Elite is an attractive new shell for an already impressive gaming console. We would have liked to see the new features handled a little better but overall, it's still the same as the original Xbox 360.

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When it was first released, Microsoft's Xbox 360 was the ultimate gaming machine. It had no equal and there was nothing standing in its way as the leading, and the only, high-definition gaming device. Things change, and for Microsoft this change came with the release of Sony's PlayStation 3. Sony's opposition to the Xbox 360 had its good and bad points. In some ways it was superior to the Xbox and in others it had a lot to learn. The most notable advantages to owning a PlayStation 3 was its 60GB hard drive, HDMI interface, 1080p output and integrated Blu-ray player. Not to be outdone, Microsoft released a dashboard update that increased the resolution support to 1080p. However, with component as its only connection option, it was analogue 1080p and as such wasn't supported by all high-definition televisions.

Next they released the add-on Xbox 360 HD DVD Player in opposition to the Blu-ray drive. Unlike the PlayStation 3, Xbox owners were now given the choice of having an HD movie player as part of their gaming console. Therefore, offering customers the option of having HD movies should they want it. This review is neither the time nor place for a HD-DVD vs Blu-ray debate but suffice to say, Microsoft's decision to offer HD-DVD instead of Blu-ray has not yet proved to be either an advantage or disadvantage to its customer base. However, the PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player still had an advantage over the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive as the latter was limited to a maximum 1080i resolution - not a true full HD (1080p) device.

The Xbox 360 Elite is Microsoft's answer to the last few points where the PlayStation 3 is considered superior. The hard drive has been increased from 20GB to 120GB and an HDMI port is now standard. The HD-DVD player now supports true 1080p via HDMI and the console has been given a facelift with a new all black finish. It is, in every way, the same console as the original Xbox 360, but these few changes have levelled the playing field, at least when it comes to a side-by-side feature list comparison.

The release of the Elite isn't without its problems though. The first and most insanely frustrating point is the price of the machine. Assuming that you wanted the full Xbox experience and you bought the HD-DVD add-on, the original Xbox 360 turned out to be cheaper than the PS3 at its highest price bracket. However with a price point of $729 the $250 HD-DVD player makes it the same price as the PS3. Considering Microsoft recently reduced the price of the original Xbox 360, overcharging on the Elite is a questionable move.

The second point is the included extras. The original Xbox 360 didn't come with a headset, but instead came with a multimedia remote control. Considering they were pushing the Xbox Live online experience with the first console, this was a puzzling move. This time around, with a 120GB hard drive, it seems they are pushing the multimedia experience. However, this package comes with a headset but no remote control. For the price point, we would have expected both the headset and remote control.

The new HDMI connection is a great addition and one that many people will thoroughly enjoy. However, the positioning of the HDMI connector is a matter of poor design. It is not possible to connect both the component and HDMI connector at the same time. This may not be a problem as very few people would need to output the image to both at the same time. However, the optical audio connector is integrated into the component cable so if you want to have optical audio you have to either have a television that has an optical-out connection or go without.

The last point that needs to be addressed is the hard drive transfer procedure. If you owned an original Xbox and you want to use your account on the new 120GB drive, you will need to transfer all your data over to the new drive. Copying it over, while a lengthy process (1hour 18min) is not all that hard to do, the way it does it is both restrictive and downright unfair. During the copying process, ALL data on the original Xbox 360 is erased. Microsoft has set it up so you can only ever have one copy of your data. This means that all profiles and save games, as well as downloaded content, can only be stored on one machine. That would be fine if you only had one profile, but what if more than one person uses the console? You cannot transfer only one profile over to the new console and leave the others in tact. A little more flexibility is required in this regard. We would have liked to see an option where you could flag items on your hard drive to be moved to the new drive. That way you can choose only content and profiles that you want to move while keeping the old content intact.

While there are a few issues, the Xbox 360 Elite is an attractive new shell for an already impressive gaming console. The new features are a welcome addition and one that makes the choice between buying a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360 all the more difficult.

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