Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Xbox 360 Elite

A few weeks ago I preordered Halo 3: ODST, however, I didn't ACTUALLY have an Xbox 360 when I pre-ordered so a few days later I ran to GameStop and bought an Xbox 360 Elite for $299 (they dropped the price from $399 not long ago and right now there is even a $50 rebate for - $249 ain't bad at all). While there I did a little more pre-ordering ;) COD:MW2! Launches 11/10/2009 FYI

Ok. To start off with, the Xbox 360 Elite is great. Having spent time in college with my sister's 360, I know the ins and outs of the unit but she has an older regular 360. There are a few KEY differences between the 360 models and when they were made. Her system is a version of the original hardware design which came with a white console without an HDMI port, a removable 40GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD), a wireless controller, 2 AA batteries, power supply, headset for Xbox Live and an AV cable with both component (Red Green Blue for HD video) and composite (Yellow) video out plus an optical audio out port. However, she had the older hardware design which was prone to overheating resulting in the failure dubbed the "Ring of Fire" or "Ring of Death" (usually do to overheating the older consoles would cause the ring of LED's on the front to turn from green to red indicating an error but other problems with video were the result). Usually, the Ring of Death required the owner to send the console to Microsoft for repairs.

However, Microsoft has made changes to the hardware since then and now the current motherboard is what is known as "Jasper." The new Jasper has several advantages over the older chip sets. The other chip sets had hardware based on older chip architecture. The Zypher had the older 90nm hardware, Opus has a 65nm CPU and 80nm GPU and RAM; the new Jasper units run on a 65nm CPU and GPU with the RAM being 80nm. This doesn't sound like much to some people but this equates to less heat, which was the main failure point for the old Xbox 360's. As well, Jasper offers a few new bits such as 512MB RAM over the older 256MB and a very handy High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port.

So,yeah. The Xbox 360 Elite is exactly what the name implies; the top of the line. The system comes with a black console with an HDMI port, a black wireless controller, a 120GB HDD, power supply, 2 AA batteries, a headset for Xbox Live and a composite video cable. While, I had to find an HDMI cable for the HD experience the over all package is nice. The black console mixes in with all my other hardware very nicely.

Now, I should point out a very important part of the gamer experience; cables. I love and hate cables. I love them because they connect all my goodies together but I hate the clutter they VERY quickly create. Cables are a thing that if you can consolidate into one, DO IT! My DVR uses component cables for HD and when you go to hook them up to a TV where the ports face downward, plugging in cables can become an unwanted task... Component has 5 cables; red, blue and green for video and red and white for audio. HDMI has 1; it carries both the HD video AND audio. 1 cable to run, 1 to plug in. HDMI is WONDERFUL! The new standard version of HDMI, version 1.4, even has Ethernet support, which means Internet or networking of hardware (TV with a twitter account and a connection to the Internet? anyone?) This makes life MUCH easier.

I also hate hunting for good cables. I shop online for most of my hardware because that's where you'll typically find the best deals. However, shopping online can be a daunting task. Places like Newegg.com or Walmart.com offer great prices but they have a MASSIVE selection and figuring out which one has good quality and good price, which one to buy can become annoying.

I've learned that cabling is a tough thing. If you have poor cable all sorts of issues can crop up. For example, coaxial video; poor quality will result in loss of signal which means that expensive new HDTV will look like crap when it gets plugged in. Cable is important. Fact is at my work, I tell people to replace cable ALL the time because they think they can skip out and buy RG-6 copper clad steel and when they can't get online, they call me. We check the cables and BOOM there it is; we tell them RG-6 SOLID copper core and quad-shield with 360ยบ compression fittings is the REQUIREMENT! They replace the junk and they don't have anymore issues.

Sorry, for the rant.

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Anyway, I like this place, HDMI cable and they have literally just about any kind of cable I could ever want; HDMI to HDMI, DVI to DVI, DVI to HDMI. Heck they even have this cool little USB extension that is wireless; USB to wireless! Wall plates, Ethernet, video coaxial, and even optical audio. If I can simplify it, I do and they can help you.

Ok. Back to the Xbox.

I received a 3 foot HDMI cable from OCC which makes all the difference. The cable's ends felt tight and strong; this is typically what I look for when I plug and unplug a cable a bunch to see how tough it is. The metal part fits in the port perfectly so I don't have to worry about the cat jumping back there and disconnecting it or it wiggling lose after a while. After running the composite video for a little while, switching to the HDMI cable is wonderful. I can actually read what is on the screen. I love HD... :)

Now that I have the full HD setup, I needed a few games to play. I picked up Need for Speed: Shift and eventually got my copy of Halo 3: ODST. The 360 plays NFS: Shift really well and is a lot of fun. The graphics are completely stunning as well as are the physics. The controller feels great and the vibration is spot on. Same thing goes for Halo 3: ODST. wicked fun game. It's the best game in the series next to the first Halo as it adds an awesome and fresh perspective to the Halo universe.

While I don't spend as much time playing video games as I did in high school. I still like playing some of the classics. *Cough* Halo: Combat Evolved... *cough*

The Elite's 120GB HDD is a very welcome addition as the smaller HDD's get filled up quickly when you have lots of games with downloadable content or even download games from the Xbox Live Market place. While I have around 4 copies of Halo: Combat Evolved I have the downloadable version from XBLM which means, NO DISK!

My initial feelings are simple. Having the Xbox 360 Elite is a no brainer for me. While I'm not some super absorbed gamer geek, I like having it for the DVD play back, Netflix tie in and whatever awesome games come out next.

Also, if your looking to buy a console and don't mind putting down a little more cash, go for the Xbox 360 Modern Warfare 2 Edition. It's basically an Elite package with a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 theme, a copy of COD:MW2 and an upgraded 250GB HDD. If you like media you'll wish you had the HDD space.

Happy hunting!

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