Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite

Although the price tag is about $80 more than the Pro version of the Xbox 360, it is still slightly less expensive than the lower-end model of Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3). Both are substantially more than Nintendo's popular Wii.

The Elite includes a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI), component video cables and the Xbox Live headset, as well as a wireless game controller. The HDMI connection is a single cable which combines both high-definition video and digital audio output. Both the headset and the controller come in Elite black.

'Insatiable Appetite'

The Elite's detachable 120GB hard drive, six times larger than previous 360 drives and twice the size of the PS3's, is available for sale separately to owners of existing Xbox systems.

The larger hard drive on the Xbox 360 Elite and some of its other "premium accessories" are designed for gamers who seem to have an "insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content," according to the Microsoft announcement.

To date, the Xbox has sold more than 10 million units worldwide. It was the first of the "next generation" videogame consoles to hit the shelves, in the fall of 2005. As with other videogame consoles, though, it is not only a game machine. A digital camera, music player or flash card reader can be plugged into a USB port. And, with free software downloads such as Microsoft's Windows Media Player 11, Zune software or Windows Media Connect installed on a Windows XP or Vista PC, the Xbox can stream music or video, or display photos, from the computer.

Some initial reviews of the Elite have expressed disappointment over whether the machine delivers more than current models. They note that the WiFi adapter and HD DVD must still be purchased separately.

Always a Balance

But Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research, said features are "always a balance" against costs. "Wireless can easily be added on," he noted, "and HD DVD is still available if consumers want it."

In general, he said he found the Elite to be "a nice evolution for the console. It adds HDMI and a larger hard drive," which supports the console's growing profile as a hub for entertainment beyond games. "If you look at the whole Xbox line," he said, "it's laid out pretty well, from low to high."

Gartenberg said he didn't think that users who already owned an Xbox would upgrade to this model, but that it might be chosen by someone looking to buy their first Xbox.

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