6:40 pm // Saturday 10 July 2010
New Xbox 360 S: [REVIEW]

So, after over five years the market leader (in serious gaming at least) gets it’s first major overhaul. New look and new good stuff under the hood.

I got my Xbox 360 S this week and immediately sat it next to my PS3 (original model). They go quite well together, and thank the Lord. The previous Xboxes have frankly been so ugly I’ve always tucked them away with other atrocities such as my Epson printer. But now, Microsoft have had the good sense to realise that people want to show this stuff off and that’s kind of hard if the device looks like something you bought off QVC to fritter pineapple rings or something.

Anyway, Lord Vader’s gaming station is now complete:

The new Xbox goes well with the old PS3 don't you think?

Tech Specs

OK, so it’s had a facelift but is it any better as a gaming machine? How does it compare to the Playstation 3 now?

Built In hard drive, Wi-Fi, full USB disc support… Check!

Well, there were a few things that really annoyed me about the Xbox 360 and with the arrival of a built-in, and swappable 250GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and support for USB game save storage my main bugbears have evaporated (as you ask, the unwelcome survivors of the revamp in my opinion are: the massive power pack, a disc tray (disc trays? in 2010?) and the lack of Blu-Ray support).
The most important upgrade is by far the inclusion of 802.11n Wi-Fi (currently the fastest breed of Wi-Fi). I doubt many people previously went out and paid $60 for an additional wifi card, or happened to have their Xbox close to their wireless internet router at home so this addition will boost Xbox Live subscription and usage massively, which can only be good for the community. It’s five years late but at least it’s here. At last you can unbox your Xbox and start doing stuff with it right away (Xboxes have never come with demo discs as far as I know, which has no doubt led to many a frustrating Christmas Day).

Touch Sensitive Buttons

There are some other nice (PS3-esque) touches to this new piece of sleek black plastic. Like touch-sensitive power and disc tray buttons. Yes, the Xbox has arrived in the 21st Century and it’s loving it. Check out the videos below. I particularly like the sound the disc tray makes when it opens:

Whisper Quiet

They say it’s whisper quiet. You know how some people can’t whisper and just talk in a husky voice, still disturbing the people you’re desperately trying not to? Xbox 360 S is one of those. When you’re playing a game off a disc this thing churns loudly. Otherwise, it is pretty quiet. There’s less fan noise than previous models which could well be helped by the added ventilation grills in the casing.

USB Ports

As you can see in the photo below, there are three USB ports in the back. Along with the two out front that’s five places to stick your stick!

New Xbox 360 Rear View

Compatibility

So there’s now no support for old Xbox 360 hard drives or memory cards, but we’re assured that it is in every other way backwards compatible. It’s also forwards compatible as it sports a Kinect port at the rear (see above next to the LAN port).

Conclusion

It feels like the Xbox 360 S is to Microsoft’s console line what the iPhone 3GS was to Apple’s mobile telephones. It’s the one that really works properly and is easy to set up and use. It’s the one that lives up to the hype. It’s the one you should get if you were in doubt. This major upgrade has made it very hard to choose between the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 which had a major redesign in August 2009, the main benefit of which was a reduction in size and weight.

I’m just glad I have both, whilst it still feels like Playstation do the online services better and the PS3 is a more open platform with less hidden extra costs attached to it, the new Xbox 360 S makes for a very accessible and satisfying gaming, music and film experience. At $299 in the US and £199 in the UK it’s definitely worth owning.