We've just got our greasy hands on and all over the new Xbox 360 250GB, poking its buttons and pressing our ears to its shiny outer shell to see if it really is as whisper quiet as MS is making out.
As we rip the new console out of the box shiny case is striking - it's more compact than the original of course and noticeably lighter but its the sheen of that plastic that really stands out. We feared that the lighter weight and shiny finish risked giving it a slightly cheaper feel but that's not the case. This is one sexy console.
The prominent grills on the side of the case give you a clear look at the fan system and cooling heatsink metal that sits under the shiny plastic, which is an odd design choice for a games console, which are usually very closed-in boxes that offer you little to no view of their inner machinery. It gives the machine a look comparable to high-end gaming PCs with those big clear side-panels that show off their powerful guts rather than then hide them away.
As with the old Xbox and all current-gen consoles, the slimmer Xbox can be placed in either vertical or horizontal configurations. There are vents on both ends of the console, the underside of which will be restricted when placed vertically, but with grills covering a large proportion of the machine we can't imagine there being any issues with heat in either configuration.
It's a pretty console - very pretty. A subtly futuristic aggressive appearance without being cheesy like an AlienWare PC. Our only complain would be the fingerprints - the glossy finish, like the Black Wii and first PS3, will be covered in your gamer grease within minutes.
Flip it around and on the back you see the usual selection of ports - USB, HDMI, power and the Xbox's proprietary component video out (you can see the full specs of the console here so we won't waste time going through them again). Optical support is now built in, and there's the extra addition of a special port for the Kinect which will supply the device with its power, while old Xbox owners will need to plug Kinect into a wall outlet.
The power supply is much nicer than the bricks we've all had to hide behind our TVs for the past four years, its size sliced down to a fraction of the previous model's, lighter and smoothly clipping into the back of the console with none of forced clunkiness of the original.
It's ironic that, just as Sony chooses to rid PS3 of its (slick, we thought) touch-sensitive buttons for regular push-in ones, Microsoft has taken the new Xbox in the opposite direction.
Turning on the machine requires only the slightest of swipes over the circular power button on the front of the machine, with it firing up silently - no microwave bleep like the PS3. Instead, Microsoft saved the hardware bleep for the disc tray open and close button (which is also touch sensitive), although this console's bleep is more of a smoother, nicer tone, not quite as high-pitch and ear-piercing. We're not quite sure why it's necessary though.
With no disc in the tray this console is absolutely silent - the single larger fan that replaces the multiple fans of the old noisy console clearly doing the trick in the decibel-trimming department.
Where the old Xbox disc tray was slow to respond on opening and had that unnerving 'ker-chunk' sound as it came to a close, the new disc tray does its job quietly and smoothly, which adds to the more polished, finished feel of the new console.