Come this fall, two years will have passed since the original Xbox 360 was first introduced as the first of the “next-generation” game consoles. Nearly a year after the Xbox 360 launch, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii game systems hit the scene, but by that time the Xbox 360 already had a decent user base and formidable game library. Since then, the Xbox 360 has enjoyed impressive growth, now boasting a game catalog over 500 titles strong. The Xbox Live Marketplace has also evolved to add a stronger purpose to the system, allowing users to download games, videos, and interact with each other.
This year we get a small update to the Xbox 360 in the new Xbox 360 Elite. While it is arguably a minor evolution to the game console, the Xbox Elite does add some appealing features including an HDMI port and larger hard drive. Priced at $479 USD ($80 more than the Xbox 360 Premium), read on to see if this new system is worth the higher price of admission.
So What’s New?
There are three major factors that separate the Xbox 360 Elite from the Xbox 360 system. First of all, the system is black as opposed to white, the Elite features HDMI output as opposed to just the Component output on the other models, and a larger hard drive measuring in at 120GB compared to the previous 20GB. That’s what an extra $80 USD gets you. The graphics, user front-end and software library (note that Xbox 360 Elite plays the same games which run on prior Xbox 360 editions) and other features are all nearly identical.
We were told that Microsoft started using a different brand DVD drive (reportedly BenQ) in their Xbox systems last fall (November ’06) that are supposed to be quieter than the drives featured in the launch systems. And while the new drive is quieter, the system still runs louder than the PlayStation 3 both while playing games and watching movies.
The big advantage that HDMI gives you is increased 1080p compatibility with HDTV capable TVs. Most TVs will only support 1080p resolutions using the HDMI connection. With HDMI you also get audio through the same cable, so you can bypass that spiderweb of cables running from your Xbox 360 system to your TV. The downside to this system, however, is that Microsoft chose to go with an older HDMI version than the recently released 1.3 spec. This means that you will only be able to get Dolby Digital sound from the Elite instead of the new Dolby True HD or Dolby Digital Plus audio codecs. So really, the Xbox 360 struggles when it comes to movies; you have a loud drive in the system and poor sound. In comparison, the Sony PlayStation 3 pummels the Xbox 360 Elite in this department.
The larger hard drive was a smart move by Microsoft. With the Xbox Live Marketplace growing in game and media content, the 20GB drive included with the other model fills up fast. The 120GB drive will give your system some longevity, but for how long?
Probably the most disappointing caveat for us would be the lack of integrated WiFi out-of-the-box. The PlayStation 3 and Wii both have this feature built-in, so there should be no excuse on Microsoft’s part.
The Xbox 360 Elite is a solid system worth owning, but only if you can take advantage of its features – and if you do not currently own an Xbox 360 system. If you currently have an Xbox 360, then you will want to pass on the upgrade as there are only a few minimal gains. The addition of the HDMI port and larger hard drive are nice, but in order to be a true next-gen system, we would have liked to have seen integrated Wi-Fi and HD DVD player. You can buy both of these for an added expense, but Microsoft should have integrated them and charged the same price. This would make the system a true “elite” and cater to the dedicated gaming enthusiast. You can read our more in-depth review of the original Xbox 360 here.
• Larger, 120GB hard drive
• HDMI output
• Semi-quieter DVD drive
• Includes HDMI and component cables
• No integrated Wi-Fi
• DVD drive is still loud during movie playback
• Integrated HD DVD player would have been nice