The video game industry's worst kept secret is finally out. Microsoft has today announced that it's adding the Xbox 360 Elite to its current console lineup. The $479 Xbox 360 Elite will join the $299 Xbox 360 Core and the $399 Xbox 360 Premium as Microsoft's high-end console offering. The Elite will be a permanent addition to the Xbox 360 lineup, not a limited-edition offering as rumors have speculated.
UPDATE: The Xbox 360 Elite's pricing has now been confirmed for the UK. You can find details here.
Microsoft has equipped the new Xbox with a 120GB hard drive and an HDMI port to make the 360 comparable to the PlayStation 3. The Xbox 360 Elite won't be replacing either of the current models, mostly because its advanced feature set is designed to appeal to enthusiasts and early adopters--the two consumer groups willing to spend more than $399 on a game console.
System ComparisonWe've put together a comparison table to show you the differences between all three Xbox 360 console packages.
|Xbox 360 Elite||Xbox 360 Premium||Xbox 360 Core|
|Finish||Black w/ chrome trim||White w/ chrome trim||White w/ plain trim|
|Controller||Wireless, black||Wireless, white||Wired, white|
|Xbox Live Headset||Yes||Yes||No|
|Composite AV cable||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Component HD AV cable||Yes||Yes||No|
The entry-level Core system offers just enough to play games. It comes with the base console and a wired controller, but it only has composite AV cables and doesn't have a hard drive or headset. The Xbox 360 Premium system comes with a 20GB hard drive, a wireless controller, HD component AV cables, and a headset. The Core and Premium systems can only output 1080p movies through a special VGA cable, but some 1080p displays have HDMI inputs instead of VGA. Component video is capped at 1080i for motion picture content.
The Xbox 360 Elite has a 120GB hard drive and a new HDMI port that supports 1080p movie playback. The larger hard drive lets console owners store more games and HD video content downloaded from Xbox Live Marketplace. Note that the Elite system does not have a built-in HD-DVD player, which is somewhat puzzling since even the basic $499 PlayStation 3 comes with a Blu-ray drive.
Aside from the hard drive and HDMI differences, Microsoft has told GameSpot that the underlying hardware in all three models remains the same. We're all going to have to wait a little while longer for that smaller, cooler CPU design.
AccessoriesThe Xbox 360 Elite has a new black and chrome color scheme, and the package includes a matching black wireless controller and headset. Additional black, wireless controllers will retail for $49. Microsoft will also sell black Xbox 360 Play & Charge kits and Xbox 360 rechargeable accessories separately for $19 and $11, but it doesn't have any plans to offer black versions of other popular accessories such as the Xbox Live Vision camera or the Xbox 360 HD-DVD player.
Upgrade OptionsMicrosoft will also offer the 120GB detachable hard drive as a stand-alone upgrade for existing Xbox 360 owners. The $179 drive will come with a data transfer cable to make it easy for console owners to move data from their old 20GB drive to the new 120GB drive. Expect 20GB hard drive prices to fall as people put their old drives up for sale.
Transferring hard drive information will be a little more complicated for people planning to move from the Xbox 360 Premium to an Xbox 360 Elite since a lot of Xbox Marketplace content is tied to your Xbox Live profile and the console you're using at the time of purchase. That means console owners will have trouble using a data-transfer cable to copy all the downloaded content from an existing 20GB system to a completely new Elite system. Once you switch systems, the only way to get at that content will be to log into Xbox Live with the account that you used to make the original purchase. Other accounts on the new system won't be able to access the downloaded content. Microsoft is working on a solution to the Premium-to-Elite data transfer issue and told GameSpot that it will release more information as we get closer to launch.
The Xbox 360 Elite system, black accessories, and stand-alone 120GB hard drive upgrade will all be available in retail on April 29, 2007.
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