New Xbox 360

Microsoft’s surprise E3 reveal–a slimmed up Xbox 360–looks smaller, sleeker, and comes packing serious feature punch, but what don’t we know about it that might surprise us?

Earlier today there were leaked photos of what was being called the new XBOX 360 Slim. The leaked images apparently originated from an Italian website called ConsuleTribe, and the rumor kept spreading from there.

Is the DVD drive tray- or slot-loading? Based on the screenshots, the answer’s probably tray-loading. Does it matter? Probably not, and I’m not privy to the general cost differential between slot and tray mechanisms, but a slot loader would arguably have been cooler, even if it forced Microsoft to slap its familiar tray-front ‘Xbox 360’ text somewhere else.

Attendees at the Electronic Entertainment Expo here expected Microsoft (MSFT) to show off its new Kinect device (no price yet), which enables players to play video games using their bodies and voices in lieu of standard video game controllers.

According to Engadget, the XBOX 360 Slim will officially launch today – and that came directly from Microsoft. Microsoft is also promoting the new XBOX 360 gaming console as being “whisper quiet” with only one large fan instead of the two – fan system that previous XBOX 360 ’s have.  The new 45nm chipset undoubtedly generates less heat to begin with. On the features front, it’s got integrated 2.4GHz 802.11n WiFi, five USB ports, and 250GB of storage on a removable hard drive, although it’s not a standard drive or same drive as the old console, and older Memory Units won’t work, either.

The redesigned device, expected to be available at retailers later this week, is smaller and “whisper quiet,” says Don Mattrick, the company’s senior vice president of interactive entertainment. The new Xbox is “completely designed for the future of entertainment.

The revamped Xbox 360 — combined with launch of Kinect, formerly named Project Natal — might help Microsoft in the competitive $20 billion video game industry. “They are taking their console, which has primarily been a core gaming outlet, and transforming it into an entertainment hub the whole family can enjoy,” says Jesse Divnich of Electronic Entertainment Design and Research.

Smaller usually, though not always, means hotter, since your thermal ventilation space shrinks. It won’t be clear how this applies (or doesn’t) to the ‘slim’ until we’ve tested our review unit, but it’ll be interesting to see how it dissipates heat from the current iteration Xenon CPU and Xenos GPU, or whether those two were subject to a die shrink. The Xenon CPU was last updated from 90 nm to 65 nm in February 2007, and last I checked, the Xenos GPU’s was sitting at 65 nm. Also: See those stylish “vents” on the side? That look like the original Xbox’s? They may move air more efficiently than the Xbox 360’s “holes.” In fact I’d stake my reputation on it.

Are we talking a muffler on the DVD drive? A larger, quieter fan? Both? The pre-slim Xbox 360’s fan gets pretty darned loud in warm environments, but it’s the DVD drive that can really sound like a muted buzz-saw. Hopefully Microsoft fixed the drive issues here, so we can go back to playing games off discs instead of chewing up hard drive space with full game installs.

The current model weighs just shy of 8 lbs. Presumably the Xbox 360 slim weighs less, but how much less? (Not that we’re toting the thing around to LAN parties.)

Rest easy, alarmists: Microsoft more or less solved the red ring of death problem in subsequent Xbox 360 hardware iterations, and it’s unlikely they’ll allow the problem to resurface here. You can bet we’ll punish ours thoroughly to be sure, but you can probably assume they’ve cooked these things in oven-like environments as insurance against another wave of panicked–and in hindsight, it seems, completely justified in their scorn–Xbox 360 owners. As for whether you can stick it inside a cabinet, turn it on, close the door, then throw away the key.

ou know how Microsoft bundles a one-time transfer cable to move all your savegames and personal data from one hard drive to another when you buy a hard drive upgrade? I’m guessing it’ll work something like that. Whether such a cable’s sold separately or included with every new Xbox 360 remains to be seen.

robably. Eventually. Once Microsoft release larger hard drives, that is. But I’m assuming it still won’t work like Sony’s PS3, where you can plug any old 2.5-inch SATA drive in. Microsoft makes most of its hardware money off peripherals, and while the ‘slim’ represents a commendable change of heart with regard to some of them, I doubt anything external’s getting a price reprieve.

Since the November 2006 release of the Wii, Nintendo has dominated the casual and family video game market selling 28 million Wiis, according to market tracking firm The NPD Group. Microsoft has sold about 20 million Xbox 360s; Sony, 12.3 million PlayStation 3 systems.

There has also been some discussion around Microsoft’s new XBOX 360 regarding the name that Microsoft is giving it.

Again, as you’ll notice in the update from Microsoft’s official Twitter profile for the XBOX 360, they have actually called it the New Slim XBOX 360.

So I would say that should settle any disputes left regarding the name that Microsoft is giving the new XBOX 360.


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