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It’s been a while since the new Xbox 360 Slim was released.  I’ve been keenly reading reviews and watching screencasts on Microsoft’s new games console.  In particular I’ve been watching out for RROD issues and comparisons to the Xbox 360 Classic

I came across Paul Thurrott’s review last month, it’s one of the best on the web I’ve read and I’d like to share it with mintywhite readers.

New Form Factor:

While the basic Xbox 360 S form factor is unchanged from its predecessors, you’ll immediately notice the differences. Yes, it’s black, but then so was the Xbox 360 Elite. What makes this one difference is the size–its about 17 per cent smaller than all previous 360 consoles–and the look and feel. Where previous Xbox 360s featured a matte finish, the new S model is all sleek and glossy, and as a result it picks up fingerprints as fast as any Apple product. Even the power brick is smaller–much smaller–than that of its predecessor.

Port Changes:

There are some important port changes with the Xbox 360 S. On the front of the previous consoles, there was an optical drive, an IR port, two Memory Unit (MU) card slots, a connect button (for tying a controller to the console), and a small door, behind which were two USB ports. On the back was a third USB port (which could be used up if you added an external wireless adapter, sold separately), an Ethernet port, an AV port (and, on newer models, an HDMI port), and the power cable port.

The S console drops support for MU. But Microsoft is overcompensating for this by bumping up the number of USB ports to five (two on the front, three on the back), and since Wi-Fi N is built in, you’ll never need to waste one. And thanks to a software update from last year, Xbox 360 users can now use standard USB memory keys as portable storage.

Hard Drive:

Over the years, Microsoft has steadily increased the size of the hard drive it bundles with its mid-level and high-end consoles. (The low-end consoles shipped sans hard drive.) This started with the very first Xbox 360, which came originally with a 20 GB hard drive, and was replaced, in subsequent generations by 60 GB and then 120 GB hard drives.

The new Xbox 360 S comes with a 250 GB hard drive, just like the previous generation Elite console. However, unlike all previous Xbox 360s, the S utilizes a (proprietary?) SATA-style hard drive, one that isn’t placed in a weird, custom shell. This has good and bad implications. On the good front, you should be able to more easily and cheaply upgrade to a larger hard drive in the future, and because the Xbox 360 S hard drive is connected internally, via a neat pop-off lid in its base, it’s not protruding from the top of the unit as before.

Optical Drive:

Previous generation Xbox 360 consoles shipped with a 12X DVD drive, and aside from the capacitive touch eject button on the new console, I can’t tell if there’s any difference here. It’s still tray loaded, and appears to look and work just like its predecessors.

Wi-Fi:

I was as much a doubter of Wi-Fi for intensive online gaming as I was, originally, of wireless controllers, and the Xbox 360 has made me a believer in both cases. Even the previous generation Wi-Fi G (802.11g) add-on adapter worked just fine, and by bundling in an even faster and more reliable Wi-Fi N adapter, Microsoft has pretty much erased any concerns one could have about this type of connection. And of course the internal adapter means you won’t have to waste a USB port if you want to go wireless. It’s a win-win.

Accessories In The Box:

The Xbox 360 S comes with a (new) black controller, a black headset, and a rudimentary AV cable with composite connections. There is some very basic documentation as well, nothing like the nice packet of documentation that came with previous versions.

Noise, Heat and Power Consumption:

Microsoft claims that the Xbox 360 S is “whisper quiet.” This is a bit of an exaggeration. The Xbox 360 lets off a steady humming sound, reminiscent of the PlayStation 3. But this sound isn’t horrible. In fact, depending on the conditions, it’s either acceptably quiet (such as when you are browsing around in the Dashboard UI) or not quite as loud as its predecessors (when you’re playing a graphically-rich game). And that is actually a huge improvement: One of the big knocks against the Xbox 360 is that it has historically been too loud to use in a home theatre set up, because the noise of the fans and optical drive would get in the way of enjoy movies, music, or other media. This is no longer a problem: The Xbox 360 S is, I think, acceptably quiet for the living room.

The Big Question: Reliability:

Reliability is, of course, the big question going forward. Will the Xbox 360 S reverse the reliability issues that made previous versions of the console an accident waiting to happen? I hope so, but of course have no evidence one way or the other. What we need, simply, is time, time to use the console as we have previous versions, and see how it fares. I’m crossing my fingers. But I’ve been burned too many times to get too optimistic.

Final Thoughts

I’ll provide an update if and when anything does go wrong with the Xbox 360 S and of course I’m looking forward to future software updates, including the new dashboard, the updated Zune software, and the Kinect stuff. Overall, it’s turning into a great year for the Xbox 360, and if this console proves anything, it’s that Microsoft’s five-year-old product still has plenty of life left in it. (To put this life cycle in perspective…..

Read the unabridged review here.



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