250GB Xbox 360 Slim
15th Jul 2010 | 16:40
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.
Slip a game disc in and close the tray and the device makes its first mechanical sound as the disc drive spins up. The sheer spin speed of that drive remains clearly audible as it was in the first console so it's not an entirely silent experience, although we think that's unavoidable.
After the Xbox start-up screen we're greeted with the setup menus, which take us through the usual selection of language and region options. No differences here at all - not that we expected any. So identical is it to the original Xbox dashboard that it even recognises the now built-in Wi-Fi card as an Xbox 360 Wireless Adaptor, asking if we'd like to search for networks as we skim through the setup screens.
There's a zippy 802.11n Wi-Fi card in this box (the fastest Wi-Fi standard so far), and although we haven't yet had the chance to try out its wireless connection capabilities we expect the internal card to perform far faster and more reliably than the shockingly shonky wireless adaptor of old.
Once we hit the dashboard we got into a game of Alan Wake and all was familiar from there, minus the intrusive whir of the box.
Fingerprinting aside, the only other downfall of upgrading to the new box would be the hassle of transferring your data (the old hard drives won't clip into the new machine), which requires the purchase of a $19.99 data transfer adaptor or a large USB stick if you have one.
Where PS3 has lost features over the years (PS2 support, USB ports, card reader ports), the new Xbox 360 250GB enhances the experience with built in Wi-Fi and optical ports, more USB ports (five instead of three) and all-round better build quality. And it'll be the same price as the current Xbox ($299 confirmed in US).
Speaking to Microsoft reps at the unboxing event, we were told repeatedly that the firm believes this is the best console it's ever made. We make them right. This is the solid, polished machine it should have been to begin with. If PS3 had one undeniable advantage over 360 in the past it was in the hardware stakes, but MS has truly stepped up its game.
We want one. You should too.