Price (as reviewed): £299.95 (inc. VAT)
Foreword, by Tim Smalley:
Microsoft announced the Xbox 360 Elite almost five months ago
and today it is finally available for UK punters to buy today. Riyad Emeran (Editor-in-Chief of bit-tech
's sister site, TrustedReviews
) and I spent this last week with the new console. For what it's worth, I spent most of my time getting my ass kicked by Riyad in Virtua Tennis 3
and Dead or Alive 4
, while trying to work out which cable was used to connect the console to the TV.
Even though that was the case, we both came to roughly the same conclusion on the Xbox 360 Elite and therefore felt the one review would sum up our collective thoughts. This would also allow me to continue working on the second part of our BioShock
coverage, which should be with you early next week.
Without further ado, I'll let Riyad take you through the first Xbox update since the console's launch...
It seems like a very long time since we reviewed Microsoft’s Xbox 360. In fact Microsoft's second console has been with us for nearly two years - it launched in the UK on 2nd December 2005. The company did very well to bring its console to market so long before both Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii, and since Sony chose to delay the PS3 launch in Europe, the X360 stole a 16 month march on its archrival.
But despite the long wait for the PlayStation 3, it did bring with it some significant advances for high definition gaming. Now Microsoft is hitting back with an update to its already impressive console, in the shape of the Xbox 360 Elite.
I should probably point out that the original Xbox 360 options are still available, although the prices have dropped to reflect the arrival of the Elite. The previous top end Premium Xbox 360 now carries a price tag of £249.99, while the entry level Core machine is available at a Wii rivalling £179.99.
This allows the Elite to slide in at the top with a price of £299.99, which is actually cheaper than I expected, and a significant £125 less than the PS3. Of course you are getting a Blu-ray player with the PS3, but if you're just looking for a games console, the additional Blu-ray functionality is just a costly extra.
Click to enlarge
So, what differentiates the Elite from the X360 that's been on sale for almost two years? Well, it's black. I know that the colour may not be the most important or compelling update for many, but the Elite really does look better than its off-white siblings. The funny thing is that when the X360 launched I thought it looked great, but the subsequent releases of the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii have taken much of the shine of Microsoft's machine, at least from an aesthetic point of view.
The Elite on the other hand, has a certain understated, even stealthy design characteristic. Yes, the gloss black PS3 maintains the more striking of the two, but it's also a dust and fingerprint magnet, especially since my 19 month old daughter seems to like wiping her grubby little paws on it. But the matte finish of the Elite suffers no such woes, while the silver detailing of the DVD tray and the hard drive has far more visual impact when surrounded by black rather than white.
Click to enlarge
Of more importance is the improved connectivity offered by the Elite. Whereas the original X360 relied on a component video connection to pump its high definition images to a TV, the Elite has the added advantage of an HDMI port. This means that there is no digital to analogue or analogue to digital conversion going on, and ultimately should result in a cleaner and sharper image.
The inclusion of HDMI connectivity is important since the PS3 supports HDMI, and many a PlayStation fan boy has used that fact as ammunition against the Xbox crowd. To be fair to Microsoft, even Sony didn't realise how important HDMI was at first, since the cheaper version of the PS3 was originally set to ship without it.