HDMI 360s with larger hard drives on the way?

A one-two punch of old rumors returns just days before Microsoft's Consumer Electronics Show keynote address.

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Source: A story with a dimly lit photo on tech blog Engadget.

The official story: "We have seen all types of claimed leaked photos like this show up online, and as a standard policy we don't comment on speculative items."--A Microsoft representative.

What we heard: Almost six months ago, Xbox-mod site Xbox Scene ran a blurry photo it had received from an anonymous source. The photo was supposedly of a revamped Xbox 360 motherboard with an HDMI port.

At the time, Rumor Control suggested that an HDMI port-equipped Xbox 360 wasn't imminent but that Microsoft would have to be looking into it in order to ensure the viability of its HD-DVD add-on. Movie studios releasing HD-DVDs have the option of using Image Constraint Token (ICT) flags on their discs, a technology that artificially limits the playback resolution of a film unless the signal is traveling over a secure connection like an HDMI cable (the component cables included with the Xbox 360 don't cut it).

Now half a year down the road, the rumor has returned, this time in the form of a photo on tech blog Engadget that shows an HDMI port sticking out of the back of an Xbox 360 system--something the current crop of Xbox 360s don't have. Aside from being watermarked and having identifying characteristics like a serial number blacked out, the photo doesn't appear to have been tampered with. And while there's no photo evidence of this tidbit, the Engadget report also says the redesigned 360 (code-named "Zephyr"), will be released alongside the also oft-rumored larger Xbox 360 hard drive. Engadget says the hard drive will rack up as much space as 120GB. Finally, Engadget's source is reported as saying that the new hardware will be available "soon."

Depending on what constitutes "soon," it might be no coincidence that the Consumer Electronics Show is just around the corner, since Microsoft has a habit of making game-related announcements at the event. In 2001, Microsoft used CES to unveil the Xbox, its debut entry into the console market. Last year, it announced the Xbox 360's external HD-DVD player. While CES is one of Microsoft's big announcement platforms (along with the Electronic Entertainment Expo and the X0 line of fall events), announcing a significant hardware revision right after a holiday shopping season might not go over well with the (likely) millions of new Xbox 360 owners.

On top of that, Microsoft already has a hardware update planned for this year in the form of a new CPU using 65nm semiconductor technology that will operate at a lower temperature. And while those chips had originally been planned for inclusion into the hardware for the first quarter of the year, Digitimes recently reported that those CPUs won't be produced until mid-2007. It might be in Microsoft's best interest to wait on introducing an HDMI-equipped Xbox 360 until those chips are ready to reduce both the number of times it has to rework the system's innards and the number of different hardware configurations it has on shelves.

While there's no word out of the Microsoft camp on an HDMI Xbox 360 or a larger hard drive, we still think they're both coming, but we're not sure now is the right time for them. Check back with GameSpot this Sunday night for news from the Microsoft CES keynote address; if an announcement is coming soon, that's probably where it would be made.

Bogus or not bogus?: Sticking by not bogus.

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