Microsoft prepping Xbox 360 Slim?

Leaked photos purportedly show a significantly downsized motherboard for next hardware revision, as well as a CPU/GPU combo chip.

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Source: Pictures posted on a Chinese message board A9VG, as pointed out by Kotaku.

What we heard: Last August, Sony announced the PS3 Slim, a smaller, cheaper redesign of the PlayStation 3 system it launched less than three years earlier. The impact was immediate, as the Slim, which also received a $100 price cut, sold more than a million systems in less than three weeks.

Stop the presses: The motherboard will be green.
Stop the presses: The motherboard will be green.

Now it appears that Microsoft could be following Sony's lead with a redesign of the Xbox 360. Users on A9VG posted two images of what appears to be a redesigned Xbox 360 motherboard. One image shows the entire motherboard, which is more compact and closer to a square than the system's current configuration. A second image on the thread shows what's underneath the giant fan in the original picture: a single chip that is supposed to combine the functions of the Xbox 360's CPU and GPU.

While the Xbox 360 hardware has undergone several revisions since its November 2005 launch, those changes have been mostly internal and invisible to the average consumer (added HDMI port aside). Given the significantly different shape, size, and screw locations of this 360 motherboard, the system casing would need to be revised and almost certainly would undergo a change in outward appearance.

It's also worth noting that this motherboard appears to lack the current Xbox 360's specialized hard-drive port, but includes an extra SATA interface port. That has led to speculation that Microsoft will be making the system's hard drive an internal component, and possibly inaccessible to users.

Here's a close-up of the chip under the fan in the previous pic.
Here's a close-up of the chip under the fan in the previous pic.

This wouldn't be the first time a hardware redesign was leaked out from overseas. Last May, a Chinese hardware blog leaked pictures of the PS3 Slim, which were all-but-confirmed when media outlets started receiving notices from a Taiwanese law firm demanding the photos be taken down.

The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."--A Microsoft representative.

Bogus or not bogus?: Leaning not bogus. It's about time for a shake-up to the Xbox 360. Sony reinvigorated the PS3 with the introduction of a Slim model less than three years after the original hardware launched. The Xbox 360 is well over four years old, having already passed the age where Microsoft ceased production on the original Xbox. A revamped look for the system might help ease concerns of consumers who remember the Red Ring of Death issues. While Microsoft's internal revisions to the hardware have made the systems more reliable, the company hasn't heavily advertised those changes.

If this console generation is going to last, Microsoft would be well served by trying to freshen up the Xbox 360. Part of that will come from the upcoming launch of Project Natal, but a sleek new look for the system could help to keep consumers thinking of the Xbox 360 as cutting-edge technology, even as the platform passes its fifth birthday.

Even if the photos are legit, that board could undergo numerous changes before being finalized. However, a redesigned Xbox 360 makes plenty of sense, and leaks of this sort have become fairly common.

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