The fall of 2005 marked the launch of the first “next generation” console – The Xbox 360, a year ahead of the nearest rivals – the Sony Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. Microsoft’s second venture in gaming managed to capitalize on a strong demand that translated into good sales growth. It realized that right price is the key to winning half the battle. Keeping that in mind, Microsoft has launched 2 versions of the Xbox- the Xbox 360 Core and the Xbox Pro. Both these versions are improved versions of the original Xbox – a bigger storage capacity, improving multimedia and offering several other formats. The Xbox 360 Pro features a three CPU that runs at 3.2 GHz ATi 500 MHz graphics processor and an in built DVD Drive. The 20GB console has an in built Ethernet port and is HDMI ready and with an HDMI output that promises to make gaming a great experience.
The following is a review on the Xbox 360 Pro; there are several different versions of the Xbox basing on the storage capacity and the A/V capabilities. Does this console promise to set newer heights or is it better to wait another couple of months for the Playstation or the Wii, read the review to find out.
At 12.1 x 3.27 x 10.1 inches, the Xbox Pro Gaming Console is smaller than the original and can be laid vertically too thanks to interchangeable face plates. Microsoft has managed to keep the weight down to just 8.8 pounds because they built a laptop style hard drive which is detachable from the main unit instead of building a desktop style drive. For Data entry, there is a small keyboard accessory provided that snaps on the controller. The IR Port on the front panel allows using compatible remote controls without any external dongle. The Xbox 360 has in built Wi-Fi capabilities and can support up to 4 wireless controllers. Did we mention that the Xbox is now available in a host of colours including pink and black?
The worrying power supply and drive:
However, the design has 2 major shortfalls – its over sized power supply and extremely noisy disk drive. The power brick is very big. At 6 pounds, it is bigger than anything its rivals will have. The Cable to it is equally huge and the DVD Drive is very noisy. The fans run loudest when the GPU and the CPU go into the game mode. The system tends to get heated up soon, to avoid it, it is recommended to put it in a well ventilated area.
The stylishly designed Microsoft Xbox 360 Pro 20GB console contains 2 memory slots on the front and the power button. One can connect any wired controllers or any USB accessories as well as cables to connect to a digital camera, Mp3 player or even an iPod. The HD Cables do not come with an optical cable so one should buy them separately. The Hard Drive is hardly noticeable when plugged in. Two more USB ports are hidden behind a spring loaded door and one more is in the rear of the system below the adaptor. There is an HDMI port, am Ethernet port and an infrared port provided as well.
There are 2 controller options – the wireless and the wired. The wireless controllers can be synced to the system by holding the connect button down on both the system and the control. 2 AA batteries are required for using the wireless controller.
The Controller for the Xbox Pro is not a new design however, it is much better than the original Xbox controller. They are nice and small, and the white and black buttons have been moved to the top of the controller like the double button design of the dual shock. There are the left/right joystick, a directional pad and X, Y, A and B Buttons as well. The buttons have a quick response time and the green light around the “X” symbol is a nice touch. The Type S Controller has triggers which are not as quite as deep as they were, but still very responsive. That makes playing racing games a pure joy. One feature, we have liked is the ability to switch off/on the 360 using the controller, which means you do not have to get up from your couch to switch off the console.
Setup and Installation of 360 Pro:
It is relatively easy to setup the Xbox 360 however the documentation is skimpy. To install the 360, one needs to control the AV Cable to a television or the AV receiver. Connect the Ethernet cable and the power supply to the Xbox 360 and switch on the power. If you use HDTV you would need to flip a switch on the AV Cable that switches the display ratio format from 4:3 to 16:9 otherwise you will see only 4:3 ratios on the display. One point to note is the fact that the Xbox 360 supports only optical digital cables and there are no ports for co axial digital cables.
The Core package does not come with component A/V Cables, one of the several reasons why it is better to prefer the Pro package.
The Dashboard interface of the Xbox has been redesigned. There is a vertical tab interface that you can flip through using controller’s joystick knob. The tabs are intuitive and easy to browse through. There are four major vertical tabs – the Xbox live, Games, Media and System. The Xbox Live tab allows you to log in and see your Xbox live profile information, check email and browse the Marketplace. The Games tab is where you will be able to see your achievements and play the game in an optical drive and view game demos and trailers. The Media tab is where it becomes evident that the 360 is more than just a gaming console. One can view photos and listen to audio files from XP machines on the LAN. The Settings tab is where you can modify the system settings, memory settings and network settings.
The Ring of Light and Xbox Guide Button:
The ring of light present on the front of your console is the power button and it is divided into four quadrants that can display a variety of colours depending on what’s going on. There is another button on the controller – the Xbox X., which is also divided into four quadrants. On activating the wireless controllers, the colours on the quadrants of controller as well as the console light up. If they match, it means that a wireless connection has been made.
Another prominent button present on the controller and the remote control is the Xbox guide button. This button gives access about the information on a person who has challenged you on the Xbox Live and find downloadable content for the game currently being played. This button also functions as a power button allowing you to switch on/off your console using the controller.
Xbox Live and Xbox Marketplace:
Microsoft has launched the Xbox Live feature that allows you to access special features of the game and your favourite game online. There are 2 versions of the Xbox available – The Silver version and the Gold Version. The Silver version allows you to access the Xbox Live Marketplace and communicate with other users. The Gold Version gives access to all the available features and more importantly play online. Microsoft has promised Gold service for the first month to all new Xbox 360 owners. The market place is an area where one can download game trailers, demos and new content. They do have some pretty neat games and lots of exciting content. Thumbs up to Microsoft for doing such a great job in this segment.
The Xbox 360 Pro System allows you to watch DVD movies, pictures and other content on CD/DVDs. It allows you to rip music to the hard drive even if you plug a MP3 player in to a USB 2.0 part. The Remote provided allows you to control the Xbox while it behaves as a DVD/CD player. The console is compatible with iTunes and Zune as well as other audio formats.
When it comes to Internet connectivity, the Xbox 360 uses the very popular 0802.11 wireless model in favour of the original 100MBit Ethernet connection that the original Xbox ran on. The Xbox 360 allows you to access internet and download stuff. The appreciable feature is the fact that its performance is comparable to desktops at least in terms of cached memory and computational power. There are browser functions that allow you to watch Live TV and this gives it a strong foundation taking it beyond game play and establishing itself as a central entertainment staple.
Video and audio specs:
The Xbox 360 Pro boasts of a customized IBM Power PC CPU with 3 processing cores running at 3.2Ghz. But perhaps its most notable feature is its availability to output graphics. All the Xbox 360 games are designed to output a minimum of 720p and they can be upscaled to 1080p. The HD Component is available via the component video cable or you can use your own HDMI Cable. The other alternative is using VGA Adapters provided by Microsoft and JoyTech which allows you to connect HDTVs and PCs. There is even a fallback composite output and the system provides an output of standard 480i resolution for 4:3 sets. The Xbox 360 offers an amazing video experience with unbelievable speed and consistency.
The Xbox Pro offers top class Dolby digital audio. The in game sound tracks are rendered in full real time surround creating an immersive effect. All the AV Cables include an optical audio output and standard analogue stereo connections for connecting to a TV or stereo. But by doing the latter, you lose the surround effect. You can use HDMI and have digital video and audio handled by a single cable. The Xbox supports the following formats – Support for DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, WMA CD, MP3 CD, JPEG Photo CD
At the first look, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. The Xbox 360 does not look futuristic enough to entice interest. But once you start playing some games you would realize the huge potential that the Xbox has.
High Definition is a pre requisite for Advanced Gaming. For High Definition, games have to be either in 720p or 1080p. Put in a game and experience the incredible HD clarity. We played the Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox and wow! The graphics were incredulous. They were sharp and the game play was very fluid. The high resolution details enable one to enjoy gaming and takes things to the next level.
The online networks:
Apart from Gaming, the Xbox 360 opens doors to the online network of Xbox live. With Xbox live, the possibilities are endless. The 360 is intended to make the console a centre piece of digital entertainment. The 360 is capable of playing DVDs and CDs like before. The Dashboard interface transforms into a media centre interface when you pop in an audio CD. The Xbox has inbuilt Windows Media Centre Extender software, which is a remote desktop to your MCE Box and displays everything the MCE is capable of performing. One can stream high definition content from an MCE making it the best implementation of a media centre extender today.
Red Rings of Death:
There have been reports of hard ware failures in the case of the Xbox 360. The most infamous of them being the three flashing red lights around the 360’s power button, nicknamed as the “Red Rings of Death”. It represented an internal problem that required service, such as freeze – ups, graphical problems etc. When an error occurs, the user’s attempt to turn the console on results in the lighting up of only 3 out of 4 quadrants of the X and the console does not function. Though usually it occurs due to some internal hardware failure, it sometimes is due to the lack of sufficient power supply or power surges . The General Hardware failure results in a similar looking error warning when 4 red lights appear. When the console is overheated, the users are warned so by the indication of flashing of 2 red lights.
Clearly, the focus has been on using wireless technology for everything from controllers to headsets. By doing so, they have eliminated the mess of cables and lines. There are host of accessories provided along with the Xbox 360. Apart from the console system, there is a headset, a wireless controller, an Ethernet cable, a Component HD AV Cable and an AC power adapter. Regarding the headset, the microphone can be adjusted for quality and noise cancelling microphone improves game response to voice commands and provides good voice communication.
The Xbox 360 is a power hog considering the fact that it draws about 160 watts of power twice as much as its rivals do. It consumes more power than most home entertainment devices. The Bulky power adapter is another dampener.
There is a warranty of one year on the console from the date of the purchase. There is a 90 day warranty provided for the accessories provided along with it. Microsoft however, charges for any sort of problems after that for a fee. One can access help and support using the telephone, online chat and email assistance.
Note: As of 2010, Users who face the problem of the “red rings of death “ can claim for replacing the console under the extended new warranty as it falls under “General Hardware Failure”. The Warranty for Xbox 360 models has been extended to 3 years now and it covers errors under the E74 code as well.
Microsoft has done it again! They have managed to launch a next generation console reaching all the expectations. The 360 has set newer targets for its future rivals – the Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. It truly is the best Media Centre Extender available today. Apart from Gaming, it’s ability to read DVDs/ CDs and view pictures are a marvellous addition. The Internet connectivity is another bonus. But the Xbox Live and the marketplace have added a whole new dimension to gaming. Their amazing features will give it an edge amongst all its other rivals. However, there are a few downsides to this marvellous device. The Power adapter is too big and so is the power consumption. The ROM Drive was extremely noisy and the console got heated in a very little time. However, these are minor irritants when compared to the joy the console offers especially while gaming. Definitely a must buy!
Note: out of the two models, Xbox Core and the Xbox Pro; we suggest you to choose the Pro because it offers component A/V Cables, hard drive memory and HD output. Something that the core lacks and hence will deprive you of the pure pleasure the console offers.
Microsoft Xbox 360 Pro Console – Technical Specification Details
|Model Name||Xbox 360 Pro|
|Dimensions||12.1 x 3.27 x 10.1 inches|
|Max Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Product Specifics||20GB External hard drive
One HDMI port
Processor Type is IBM PowerPC with 3 cores at 3.2 GHz
MS Windows XP Media Centre compatible
|AV input and output||ATI Xbox 360 – 256-bit – 2D/3D graphics acceleration
and a Video adapter memory of 10 MB – integrated
16-bit / Surround Sound at Rate 48 kHz
|Accessories||1 x HDMI cable
1 HD AV cable, 1 Ethernet network cable, wireless controller,
a Xbox Live headset, a20GB external hard drive
|Power||Internal power device|