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The Xbox 360 recently celebrated its first birthday Down Under, and then put another notch on its belt, getting a nice anniversary present with its one millionth piece of software sold. While we're still waiting with bated breath for an announcement from Microsoft Australia on the availability and pricing of the Xbox 360 Elite model (the black version with HDMI and the hard disk we're reviewing here), MS has thrown Aussie Xbox users a bone in the form of the matching black accessories for the Elite, and a new hard disk drive for the storage challenged.
The new drive is primarily targeted at those who purchased a core system pack -- the one without a HDD or wireless controllers. It's also designed as a replacement for the 20GB model found pre-installed on the premium pack 360s and gives users more room for their media.
The 20GB disk drive found on the more expensive model of the Xbox 360 slots into a groove on the top of the console and provides storage space for save games, user-ripped CD audio and the plethora of content available on Xbox LIVE, including: game demos, Xbox LIVE Arcade games, and more.
At a recommended retail price of AU$229.95, the 120GB HDD for the Xbox 360 certainly isn't cheap, and as a point of reference, the retail price of a 5400rpm SATA drive on its own will run you somewhere between AU$85 and AU$120 if you shop around -- about half the cost of this product. Interestingly, even with our strong US dollar exchange rate, we normally pay around twice the US RRP for games. This isn't the case for this hard drive, with US gamers getting stung for US$180 (AU$212).
So what do you get for about half the cost of a new Xbox 360 core console pack? Our kit came with the 120GB hard drive, a transfer cable to connect up and sync your console data, and a DVD with the software to do it. There are only two methods of working it, so you'd have to be a real monkey to bugger it up. Install the hard drive in to the top of your core system, turn on the console and begin using it. Or if you already have a drive installed, plug one end of the cable into the port on the bottom of the new drive and the other into the USB sockets on the front of the console and put in the DVD to begin the transfer.
The software will run automatically from the Xbox dashboard taking you into a transfer menu. The 120GB drive comes preinstalled with Xbox LIVE Arcade game demos and some video content, which is nice if you're installing it as your first HDD. Unfortunately if you're upgrading from the standard 20GB drive, the first thing it wants to do is a quick format, junking all the freebies so you can copy across your profiles and save games. The software did warn us that once transferred you won't be able to copy the data from the 120GB back to the 20GB. Although we can't see any reason you'd want to anyway.
While the 120GB hard drive may seem like a great upgrade -- and at six times the existing capacity it is -- normal users are unlikely to even fill the smaller drive by discriminately downloading content from Xbox LIVE and not storing their entire CD collection on their console. US users have a more legitimate use for the larger drive, as they're able to access movies and television shows through the Xbox LIVE IP TV services. Unless this service rolls out soon in Australia, it's hard to justify the steep retail price of the drive when the 20GB will do the job.
If your sole reason for wanting one is so you can store more multimedia content on the drive, you may also want to consider that the Xbox 360 is able to stream wirelessly and via Ethernet when paired with a PC running either Windows Media Center or Windows Media Player 11. The cost of this unit will buy you the best part of a terabyte of PC hard drive storage you can use to store your content on, and watch remotely using your console as a set top client.
This is by no means a technically flawed product in that it does exactly what it says it will on the box. It's a 120GB hard drive, it comes with software and a cable to sync data between two drives, and it stores multimedia content. Its cost however is slightly prohibitive, making it a little hard to swallow even for hardcore gamers, given the streaming options are already included in the box regardless of your choice of console pack. If you're a gamer who has purchased the core package and now feels the need for space, then you've got two options in the 20GB and 120GB hard drives. If you're a premium console owner with an existing drive, you may want to put those 230 clams towards a couple of new release games, or an armful of stuff hitting the bargain bins.