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Monday, January 09, 2006

Xbox 360 hardware review

Xbox 360 hardware review

"We go hands-on with our brand spanking new Xbox 360.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usWhile Europe already has gotten their hands on the Xbox 360, the date of the Australian release - Thursday, March 2nd 2006 – draws closer. To make the wait slightly less painful we’ve gone to the trouble of exploring the 360 hardware inside out to give you the low down on what Microsoft’s latest console is made of.

The Hardware

The original Xbox was big, black and boxy – not exactly a thing of beauty, that’s for sure. Thankfully, Microsoft have pulled the stops out to make the Xbox 360 as visually appealing as possible. Forget all of the pictures you’ve seen on the internet and in magazines, few could argue how much better the Xbox 360 looks in person.

The console itself is curvier, it’s sleeker and it’s even a little smaller at around the same size of the original PS2. Like Sony’s PlayStation 2, it can be positioned either horizontally or vertically with no problems at all thanks to the groove on the lower part of the disc tray. The console itself comes in 2 packs. The Core pack is your bare bones deal of an Xbox 360, one wired pad and a standard AV cable. As that is aimed towards the more casual gamer it will be the Premium pack that will be the focus of this feature. Containing an all important 20GB hard drive for downloads and in-game data streaming (for certain games) as well as a wireless pad, HD component cables, Xbox Live headset, media remote control and a chrome finished DVD tray, the Premium certainly offers more for your money in terms of value.

On the front of the system you’ll what Microsoft refers to as the ‘Ring of Light’. This is used to not only turn the machine on, but to show the status of any wireless pads that are connected to the system through the highlighting of different corner sections of the ring. Hidden below that behind a hinged cover are two USB ports, meaning there are 3 in total when including the one in the rear of the machine. These are used to connect plug & play charging kits or any future peripherals such as steering wheels, arcade sticks, and the wired 360 controller.

Speaking of pads, the 360 controller is as equally impressive as the console itself. Comparisons to the original Controller S are strong. It features the same kind of analog stick, the same triggers and the same button layout. The shape of the pad just melts into the hands while the sticks and buttons feel slightly softer than they did on the Xbox controllers and are better as a result. But in a welcome change, those awkwardly placed black/white buttons are now shoulder buttons situated above the triggers. The face buttons are now digital too, a welcome decision given the added softness the buttons now have. However, it’s the new ‘Home’ button in the centre of the pad that really makes it special. Using this you can access, at ANY time, a pop up menu that contains all your Xbox Live features like friends lists and messaging as well as access to turn on and control music and to set up voice chat rooms.

You can also turn on and off the machine using this ‘Home’ button by holding it for a few seconds. This ‘Home’ button can also be found on the Media Remote. Handy, since the Xbox 360 can play DVD’s out of the box this time around, and can also work as a CD player. The remote, while simple, features all the buttons you need to browse the dashboard and control any DVD or CD you put in the machine.

Overall, it’s hard to find fault with the hardware design. The pad is superb while the machine is well built and has all the usual AV and Ethernet inputs hidden around the back. If there was one complaint to be had it would be of the noise the thing makes at times. The fans can be quite loud and although you don’t notice them while you’re concentrating on playing something, it’s still probably the loudest console ever created. Thankfully the machine quietens down when in the dashboard or running DVDs and CDs." [more]

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