Microsoft Xbox 360

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Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Microsoft Xbox 360

Pros

  • Sexy Design, Incredible power, Music streaming and integration, Great controller

Cons

  • Some unsupported file formats, No HD-DVD drive, no non-MSC support, average launch line up.

Bottom Line

The Xbox 360 is an incredible piece of hardware with very little great software to choose from. In the end, the potential for future brilliance far outweighs its immediate appeal.

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Editors Note: The Xbox 360 is a much awaited product that people are keen to read about. To that end, we've split up the review for you, first providing an overview followed by a detailed analysis of the console for the gaming fanatics amongst us.

Overview

In every generation one video game console stands out as a leap forward in gaming. In the last generation it was the Playstation 2 which came to market, obliterating the Sega Dreamcast and revolutionizing the home entertainment market by making DVD the fastest growing medium in history. While Microsoft's Xbox console tried its best to put a dent into the mighty Sony empire, it came off second best. With the release of their next console, the Xbox 360 , Microsoft hope to change their fortunes.

Xbox 360 is a leap forward in gaming technology with incredible grunt under the hood. It has the potential to be the harbinger of a new High Definition gaming generation, if harnessed correctly. The system is extremely user friendly and connects with many of the leading multimedia devices including those of Microsoft competitors. Media streaming, DVD playback and 20GB of hard drive space also round out the console making it more than just a games machine. Microsoft hopes it will become the single focus of your living room - one box to rule them all.

The online capabilities are another huge selling point for the console with exciting new services improving the Xbox Live experience. In addition to multiplayer gaming, the chat capabilities have been improved and stats tracking have become extensive. The Xbox Live Marketplace and Live Arcade have also become immensely popular in America and look to follow that trend when released in Australia on March 23.

The only huge let down for this system is the current crop of games. While this isn't necessarily Microsoft's direct responsibility, they are partially to blame. In the rush to get games out for launch, the developers haven't truly tapped the excessive power of the console and the launch titles are fairly mediocre. While, they all look good, and even better than the original Xbox, they are not the giant leap in graphics, physics, AI and game play that they could be.

In this Australian first review, we go in-depth looking at all the major components of the new console and the impact it will have on the gaming industry. For those not interested in some of the more hardcore aspects you can follow the links above to the sections you are interested in or sit back, relax and enjoy the mammoth review in its entirety.

Introduction

Hold on to your controllers and strap yourself in - the Xbox 360 is about to hit Australian shores. Released "simultaneously" worldwide in November and December 2005, Microsoft's new gaming console is due to be released in Australia on March 23. To the dismay of gamers around the country, this is the second release date announced, following the prior March 2 date being changed due to manufacture shortages.

The questions that everyone is asking usually go along the lines of: "Is it any good?" and "How much more advanced is it than PC gaming?" The problem with these questions is that they don't account for subjective usage. If you are purely in gaming for advanced graphics capabilities then the current crop of 360 games only look slightly better, if not on par with a PC game played on a high end machine. This isn't to say the machine is only capable of these graphics - in fact, according to the product specs, it is capable of processing and graphics power unparalleled by any PC on the market. Unfortunately, in the race to get a 360 into homes and beat Sony's PlayStation 3 to the market, Microsoft has given games developers very little time to get their launch titles ready. As a result, the power of the console hasn't been tapped, with a few exceptions such as Call of Duty 2, which looks phenomenal, yet only slightly better than the PC version.

Graphics aside, the Xbox 360 is innovative in many ways, most of which are prevalent in the Xbox Live features and connectivity options. We did extensive testing on a retail version of the console as well as a debug unit and found it quite enjoyable with an extremely intuitive and attractive operating system. The features all worked as advertised and despite internet reports, we had no freezing or overheating problems with our test unit. Naturally, we also didnt test the reports of severe disc scratching as this only occurs if you turn the console upside down while a disc is spinning. Why anyone would do this in a real world situation is beyond us and we werent about to destroy a game to make sure it was a real concern.

Design

The Xbox 360 has moved away from the giant black box of the original Xbox. Now more sleek and sexy, the console is white with clean lines and a double concave chassis. The front of the console has the DVD drive and RF ports as well as connections for the memory cards and USB connectors, hidden behind a spring hinged compartment. The rear sports the power connection, the AV connector, an ethernet port and an additions USB port. The aesthetic is quite pleasing and far more appealing than the design of the Sony PlayStation 3 which seems to have gone in the opposite direction, making the console larger and bulkier.

To allow for a slender design, the Xbox power supply has now been externalised and is absolutely huge. The 360 requires 110 Watts of power to run and the power brick does tend to heat up quite a bit. It is significantly larger than most console power supplies but once its tucked away, it shouldn't pose any significant problem.

Controller

We are big fans of the new controller as we said in our review as it is the pinnacle of gaming design, incorporating the best elements of the original S-Type controller while also moving forward by making it more streamlined and completely wireless. Being wireless, the controller requires batteries but these are rated at about 40 hours of game play and don't tend to make the controller too heavy. The batteries come as standard and there is an accessory available which will charge the batteries via USB trickle charge while the controller is in use. There is also a wired version of the controller which also connects via USB and sports the same breakaway safety cable as the original Xbox. The memory card slots are a thing of the past as these are now handled on the console itself and the Xbox Live headset now connects via a simple jack to the front side of the controller.

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