What an interesting start to E3 today; Microsoft kicked off E3 by announcing a load of products including the highly anticipated Project Natal which is now called the Kinect. Along with the all new Kinect, Microsoft also announced a completely redesigned XBOX 360 but is it just a gimmick or is there something really awesome we should take note of?
(The front of the brand new XBOX 360 design. Courtesy of: Larry Hyrb a.k.a Major Nelson)
Microsoft went all out and did a complete overhaul of the XBOX 360 as noted in the photo above forgoing the matted black and curvy designed for an angular and stealth fighter look. It's approximately 60-70% the size of the current XBOX 360. Originally people reported that the hard drive is NOT removable but this is incorrect. The hard drive is indeed removable. It's just hidden on the left/top side of the XBOX 360 depending on if you're laying your box flat or vertically. From a Engadget unboxing video, it is revealed that the hard drive now resides inside the XBOX 360 and is encased in a small 2.5″ shell which I believe is removable (not confirmed). However, what is confirmed is the fact that the new XBOX 360 hard drive does come with 250 GB of storage and uses the standard SATA data and power ports found on any consumer devices and computers. This means that the new XBOX 360s are not, I repeat NOT compatible with the existing hard drive accessories. Furthermore, it should be noted that the new XBOX 360 doesn't support the memory units that Microsoft has sold before. However, I don't think this is an issue for most people because most people simply never took interest in memory cards when there is this huge hard drive and the fact that USB drives are now supported for saving games (for certain games). In addition to the changes to the hard drive and the basic feel for the system, Microsoft has converted all the buttons to be touch buttons and not mechanical buttons to further the “futuristic” feel.
(The back of the brand new XBOX 360 design. Courtesy of: Larry Hyrb a.k.a Major Nelson)
In the photo above you can see that not only did Microsoft made the new XBOX 360 incompatible with the current generation hard drive accessories, you can't plug in your current power supply to the new XBOX 360. However, one good thing is that you can still plug in your current component AV cables through the component AV plug for those people like me who don't have TVs with HDMI support. In addition, audiophiles are definitely going to love this, but next to the video-out column, you'll see a S/PDIF optical audio output, so now you can plug your awesome 7.1 setup and enjoy your XBOX. This is something that the Playstation 3 doesn't have. In addition, you might notice that there's now even more USB ports. There are now 3 rear facing USB ports in contrast to the 1 USB port on the current generation of the XBOX 360. In addition to the 3 USB ports at the back, there's also two in the front which is in the bottom right slot of the first photo. So now there are 5 functional USB 2.0 plugs for you to use! Then you got your basic connectivity to a wired Ethernet. Guess what? There's also an extra port up to. It's labelled AUX on the XBOX 360 and it's used for you to connect the all new XBOX 360 Kinect into that slot. It is indeed a proprietary plug. At first I thought it was a Mini DisplayPort output, but after closer inspection of the photos, it doesn't appear so.
In addition to the all new design and extra plugs, there have been changes to the innards of the XBOX 360. Has anyone notice that there's no longer a retention area for the XBOX 360 Wireless USB adapter? That's because the brand new XBOX 360 comes with a built-in XBOX 360 Wireless N adapter. That's right, the new built-in adapter is Wireless-N capable. However, I'm unsure if it's a dual-band adapter or a 2.4 GHz Wireless N adapter. However, it's still a great thing considering the current adapter is expensive as is. Having it included adds extra value to the current product line-up. It is also reported that the new XBOX 360 has both the CPU and GPU sharing the same die made with the 45nm process. Hence, eliminating the requirements of two fans inside the XBOX 360 for cooling which is good news as that means that the box should be a lot quieter which it is.
Don't believe me about its quietness? Check out the unboxing video from Engadget!
Excited about the all new XBOX 360 like I am? Well, you don't have to wait long as the XBOX 360 250 GB goes on sale later on this week! That's right, it's not going to be a long wait for us in North America. To my European friends, unfortunately you have to wait until July 16th. In other regions, you will have to wait between July 1 – 8. Oh and another thing, the new XBOX 360 will be priced exactly the same as the Elite model at US$299.99. In addition, the current generation XBOX 360 gets $50 off to clear of its inventory. Microsoft also announces that the current generation are discontinued and will also apply to the XBOX 360 Arcade. Before the arcade crowd cry foul, Microsoft pledges that in the coming weeks or months ahead, Microsoft will release a redesigned XBOX 360 at the US$200 price point.
So enjoy the rest of E3 and the new XBOX 360. I'll see you all on XBOX Live!