Microsoft Xbox 360
Type Console Developer Microsoft
Release Date 2005-Nov-16 Region(s) Worldwide
Initial Price $299 / $399 USD Games Released 900+ (still active)
DW FACTS
     by Dark Watcher
In November of 2001, Microsoft made its first entry into the videogame console market.  It was a slow battle uphill, but their Xbox console gained ground.  It eventually became a fitting rival for veteran console maker Nintendo and the console market leader Sony.  Microsoft believed they would have gained a larger stake in the videogame market if they had released the Xbox sooner.  They planned on proving this belief by being the first to unveil their next generation successor called Xbox 360.

With the 360, Microsoft aimed to correct design complaints with their massive original Xbox.  The Xbox 360 design is much smaller, slightly concave, and can be placed horizontal or vertical similar to the PlayStation 2.  Other design features include customized removable faceplates, a ring of light surrounding the power button that gives gaming status, up to 4 wireless frequency hopping controllers, and a removable 20 GB hard drive.  The 360 also features slots for 64-512 MB memory cards and an IR port for an optional remote control.

The controllers themselves have a range of 30 feet, ports for head sets built in and have an extra button for direct "Xbox Live" access.  There are also 3-5 USB 2.0 ports for expandability with a built in Ethernet port.  Xbox 360 can also be Wi-Fi ready with an optional adaptor capable of 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g standards.  The Xbox 360 has an improved "Xbox Live" service and is capable of backward compatibility for the majority of the original Xbox games.


 
Under the hood, the Xbox 360 went the multiprocessor route by using a custom Power PC based CPU containing three symmetrical cores running at 3.2 GHz each.  Microsoft also partnered up with graphics chipmaker ATI to create a custom GPU and added 512MB of RAM to be shared between the processors.  For more detail about what is under the hood check out the Specs & Manuals section.
 
Xbox 360 is designed for gaming, but is also meant to be a multimedia beast.  The console contains a built-in Media Center Extender for Windows Media Center.  It can also stream media from portable music devices, digital cameras and Windows based PCs, and can rip music onto the hard drive (similar to Xbox).  It also allows custom play lists that can be used in any game, and is optimized for High Definition displays.  Xbox 360 supports DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, WMA CD, MP3 CD, and JPEG Photo CD formats.
 
The Xbox 360 was launched in the US on November 16 (the same month of its predecessor), in Europe on December 2nd and in Japan on December 10th.  It was the fastest worldwide release in console history and gave Microsoft a lead over the competition.  The system shipped with two different SKUs.  The full unit retailed for $399 USD, but there was also a slightly cheaper system ($299 USD) that lacked key accessories such as the hard drive and wireless controllers.
The launch was not without problems.  The Xbox 360 had it share of defective units, shortages, outrageous eBay auctions, and a few initial game releases that failed to demonstrate what the system can truly do.  These same problems occurred when the PlayStation 2 was first released.  Microsoft also continued to have problems capturing the Japanese console market (as they did with Xbox).

Similar to the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 has seen many revisions since its debut.  Each new SKU model made improvements to the hardware (resolved issues with overheating and RROD), added functionality (built in WiFi, SPIDF, increased HDD space and on board storage), removed functionality (memory cards and expansion slots), and a slimmer redesign and alternate color schemes.

All in all the Xbox 360 is an impressive console that will only get better as software developers learn to use its muscle.  Welcome to the 7th Generation of videogame consoles!
HANDS ON REVIEW
     by Marriott_Guy
Back in 2005, I fully admit that I was ready to plunge directly into the deep end of the console pool.  The Xbox and PlayStation 2 had satiated my appetite admirably for current gen gaming, but I was definitely ready for the next best greatest and latest.  I purchased the Microsoft Xbox 360 at launch and have been thoroughly impressed since day one.  For the purpose of this review, I will focus on my newer Elite model though most of this information can be broadly applied to each SKU release of this system.

As of this writing, Microsoft has released two main console shells for its gaming machine - the original concave design and the newly released S (slim) version.  Both are relatively understated in design to the point of almost being minimalistic.  Outside of Special and Limited Edition models, the system came in one of three base finishes: Matte White, Matte Black or Glossy Black (new S models).  I am not a huge fan of the Matte White scheme that was used in many of the initial production runs.  Yes, they are much easier to clean and maintain compared to the dust and fingerprint magnet known as the Sony PlayStation 3, but overall the system itself does not have that 'wow' factor when displayed in your AV rack.  I currently have the Matte Black Elite model and it is far more attractive.
The standard Xbox 360 controller is well constructed with an intuitive button/trigger layout.  I prefer the added girth and solid feel of it compared to the PS3 Dual Shock 3 \ Sixaxis design, which almost feels like I could snap in half given the right amount of gamer frustration.  The controllers are either wired (USB) or wireless (requires two AA batteries) and feature a built-in ports to connect a mini-keyboard, headset and the like.

Technically the Xbox 360 is a magnificent gaming and multimedia machine.  In addition to being capable of playing nearly every modern digital and media format (exception being Blu-ray discs), the system fully integrates with your Windows Media Center to provide streaming content.  I won't dive too far into the hardware specifics since that is covered in the Specs section. I will say that the 360 is the closest system to completely fulfilling the definition of the ultimate multimedia device.  That being said, the 360 has endured its fair share of growing pains.

As has been well documented, the failure rate of early production models was substantial.  Though I never experienced the dreaded RROD (Red Ring of Death), the problem persisted to the point that Microsoft extended the warranty of its system to three (3) years.  These problems have seemed to be addressed with the various model/chip redesigns of later models.  Another curiosity is the omission of the industry standard Hi Def HDMI A/V port and lack of built-in Wi-Fi in the original release.  It took Microsoft five full years from launch to integrate these features into its base systems, whereas the Sony PlayStation 3 provided these right from the get-go in their systems.  Another significant difference from the PlayStation 3 is the GUI and handling of online gaming.
The Dashboard has evolved significantly during the course of its life.  Beginning with the initial 'Blades' design, Microsoft has continued to refine and add functionality through frequent software updates.  Unlike the PS3, these updates are typically very fast to download and installation is a snap.  The Dashboard is easy to navigate, can be accessed through the controller and is well organized.  Overall I prefer the Xbox 360 interface greatly compared to the rather industrial feel of the PS3 XMB.

Another plus for the Dashboard is that non-gaming applications do not feel shoe-horned into the interface.  NetFlix, LastFM, Zune, ESPN3 (amongst others) blend seamlessly without feeling 'squeezed' in.  Social networking is also supported (though limited compared to its browser counterpart) through the integration of Facebook and Twitter.  The Xbox Live Marketplace service offers abundant downloadable content and also features the same, consistent intuitive design.  Unfortunately, to access these most of services, along with online gaming, you must purchase a Xbox Live Gold account which is running around $60 per year.  This is definitely a sore spot with many gamers out there.  Personally, the enhancements and additional content offered through Xbox 360 compared to the Sony PlayStation 3 is worth the $5 per month access fee.  My initial guess would be that I am in the minority in this thinking, but as of this writing the Xbox Live Gold membership base has exceeded 30 million users.

Regarding the games themselves, the offerings are what you would expect: amazing.  Some of the best games that truly show off the technical prowess of the Xbox 360 are Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Forza 3, Bioshock 2 and of course the Halo series.  Another nice addition is the backwards compatibility of great deal of the original Microsoft Xbox library (around 480 titles as of today).  Microsoft was also the first to introduce the Gamerscore through Achievements, which Sony quickly duplicated in the form of Trophies for its PS3.

I have purposefully not mentioned the Nintendo Wii during this review due to the fact that I consider the Sony PlayStation 3 its primary competitor.  The Nintendo Wii is not an HD device (nor pretends to be) and the Wii Motion targets a slightly different audience.  This premise changed drastically this past November with the release of its own motion sensing controller.  With the introduction of Kinect, Microsoft set Nintendo firmly within its crosshairs to overthrow the current king of motion enhanced interactive gaming.  The Kinect is truly an advanced peripheral, but only time will tell if game developers will be able to take advantage of this new technology.
Overall I have been very impressed with the Microsoft Xbox 360.  The game library is solid and has a number of high quality exclusive IP offerings.  From my experience, the Xbox 360 provides slightly better performance, decreased loading times and less painful system/software updates compared to the Sony PlayStation 3.  With the significant price reduction of Blu-ray players, Sony's advantage, though still present in this regard, does not provide the value that it once did.

Though I love my PS3 and Nintendo Wii, I would definitely recommend getting the Microsoft 360 S if having to choose between the systems.  All offer an excellent gaming and multimedia experience, but overall the Xbox 360 provides better technical performance, ease of use and the best value for your hard earned cash.
 
Xbox 360 Kinect
MODELS
     Officially licensed releases
With all of the various models that have been released for the Microsoft Xbox 360, we thought it would be helpful to include the following table to assist in guiding you through differences of the respective SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit).  All Xbox 360 system are BWC (requires HDD) and have a High Speed Ethernet Port (RJ-45).
Model Core Pro Elite Arcade Premium Slim (S)
Part # B4K-00001 B4J-00001 B4J-00122 XGX-00001 B4J-00174 RKH-00001
First Available Nov-2005 Nov-2005 Apr-2007 Oct-2007 Aug-2008 Jun-2010
Discontinued Oct-2007 Jul-2007 Jun-2010 Jun-2010 Aug-2009 ----
Initial Price $299 $399 $479 $279 $349 $299
Console Finish Matte White Matte White Matte Black Matte White Matte White Glossy Black
Disc Drive Finish Matte White Chrome Chrome Matte White Chrome Glossy Black
Hardware Specs
Motherboard Xeon Xeon \ Falcon Zephyr \ Jasper Falcon \ Jasper Zephyr \ Falcon Vejle
Size Cell (CPU) 90 nm 90 nm \ 65 nm 90 nm \ 65 nm 65 nm 90 nm \ 65 nm 45 nm
(combined chip)
Size Cell (GPU) 90 nm 90 nm 90 nm \ 65 nm 90 nm \ 65 nm 90 nm
Storage 256 MB 20 GB 120 GB \ 250 GB 256 MB \ 512 MB 60 GB 4 GB \ 250 GB
HDMI No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wi-Fi No No No No No Yes (802.11N)
USB Ports 3 3 3 3 3 5
Expansion Slots 2 2 2 2 2 0
Kinect Port No No No No No Yes
SPDIF output No No No No No Yes (1)
Power Consumption 203 W 203 W \ 175 W 203 W \ 150 W 175 W \ 150 W 203 W \ 175 W 135 W
Bundled Items
Ethernet cable No Yes Yes No Yes No
Video cables Composite Component Composite Composite Composite Composite
Headset No Wireless Wired No Wired Wired
Controller Wired Wireless Wireless No Wireless Wireless

Various Models and Limited Editions of the Microsoft Xbox 360

Unpacking the Launch Microsoft Xbox 360 Pro Model
 
CLONES
     Non-licensed hardware releases
No clones have been released for this system.
 
CONSOLE RATINGS
     by Marriott_Guy
Consoles are rated based upon the available technology at the time of its release.  A 10 point scale is utilized, with 10 being excellent.  Ratings are based upon my experience with the Xbox 360 Pro and Elite models.

CRITERIA RATING NOTES & COMMENTS
Console Design 07 In all honesty, I am not a big fan of the original design of the 360.  The front USB ports are hidden behind a rather flimsy plastic front door which is completely unnecessary IMHO.  Though slightly cramped, the rear ports are accessible enough.  The lack of HDMI and Wi-Fi connectivity in the early models is truly puzzling.
Console Durability 07 Though I have not experienced any issues with any of my 360 systems, the RROD failure of early production runs has been well documented.  These early issues have been corrected with the later models.
Controllers 09 The 360 controller may be one of my favorite controllers of all time.  Easily accessible buttons, well placed analog sticks with the girth that inspires confidence.  The Guide button provides quick access to the Xbox Dashboard and other standard functions.
Graphics 10 The Xbox 360 delivers photo realistic graphics with minimal loading times.  Original Xbox titles receive a slight graphical upgrade due to the emulation software that is used to achieve BWC.
Audio 10 Just like the Sony PS3, the 360 rocks the house!  I definitely recommend utilizing the Windows Media Extender to stream content from your PC for a truly diverse and excellent AV experience.
Media 08 Hard to fault Microsoft for opting for the standard DVD format since the Blu-ray and HD-DVD optical disc war was just heating up at the time of its release. 
Game Library 09 Featuring over 200 exclusive titles within its 900+ library of games, the 360 has plenty to satisfy even the most discriminate of gamers.  The Xbox Live service further subsidizes the retail offerings with classics and unique indie releases.
Gamer Value 10 The Xbox 360 is an excellent value for any gamer.  In addition to its vast library, all Xbox 360 consoles are backwards compatible with nearly 500 original Xbox titles (HDD required).
Collector Value N\A Though pricey, the LE \ SE editions will retain, if not grow, their value over time.  I will revisit this section in the future once the production runs have finished for the various models.

FORMAT, PACKAGING & GENERAL INFO
     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the Microsoft Xbox is distributed in the DVD format.  The lime-green casing, as with the original Xbox, is utilized once again.  Two banners have been used thus far:
applemctom's Games that Defined Compiliation
Xbox 360 Banners
The greatest hits versions are know as Platinum Hits (Xbox Classics in Europe and Platinum Collection in Japan).   A number of titles were released which featured compilations of popular titles for the system.  These bundles provided excellent value.

Xbox 360 Game Boxes
Microsoft Xbox 360 game collection
 
SCREENSHOTS
     Captured in-game images
Alan Wake
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Beatles Rock Band
Bioshock
Borderlands
Child of Eden
Condemned 2: Bloodshot
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Fable III
Fight Night Round 3
Forza 3
Gears of War 2
Halo Reach
Left For Dead
Lost Odyssey
Lost Planet: Colonies
Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Mass Effect 2
NBA 2K9
Portal 2
Red Dead Redemption
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Two Worlds
Virtua Tennis 2009

 
EMULATION
     First and third party system emulators
No emulators have been released for this system.
 
SPECS & MANUALS
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
Triple-core 64-bit PowerPC-base Core 3.2 GHz ATI Xenos GPU @ 500 MHz 512 MB GDDR3 (shared)
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
16:9 at either 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p (HD) 32-bit Unknown 256+ channels, 48 kHz 16-bit, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Dual Layer DVD-ROM (12X) 7.95 GB (DVD-9) 900+ CD (all formats), DVD (all formats), MP3-CD, WMA-CD, JPEG Photo CD
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
2.5" SATA hard drive (4 GB to 250 GB) USB Flash Drive (up to 16 GB), Memory Card (64 / 256 / 512 MB) 12 buttons, 2 analog sticks, 2 analog triggers, digital D-pad Keyboard, camera, webcam, Kinect, headset, memory cards, etc.
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
2-5 (USB style), 1-8 (wireless) Gigabit Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T), Wi-Fi 802.11N (some) USB 2.0 (2-5), Kinect port (some) Composite, Component, HDMI
Power Supply - External Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
Input: AC 110V, 50/60 Hz
Output: Varied (see Models section)
SPDIF (some models) See the Models section for other variations of the Xbox 360 system.
Manuals
Microsoft Xbox 360 Arcade Owners Manual (PDF) - 13.9 MB
Microsoft Xbox 360 Pro Owners Manual (PDF) - 25.1 MB
Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite Owners Manual (PDF) - 18.4 MB
Microsoft Xbox 360S Owners Manual (PDF) - 1.22 MB

OTHER MEDIA
     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
Microsoft Xbox 360, Xbox Live & Kinect Television Commercials

Unpacking the optional Microsoft Xbox 360 External HD-DVD Drive

 
DISCUSS
     Visitor insights and feedback
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