The rear of the new Xbox 360 also looks a bit different compared with the original. Now onboard is a devoted digital optical audio-out port that can be used in conjunction with an HDMI, component, or composite video connection.
The console hides its 250GB hard drive under a door flap at the base of system. It comes in a black plastic enclosure that allows it to slide snugly into a receiving slot. Unfortunately this means it cannot be replaced with a third-party drive, so those wishing to do so will be stuck having to buy Xbox 360-branded internal storage.
We also noted a Kensington lock slot just below the power port on the rear of the console. Though minor, it's certainly a welcome addition to anyone who wants a little extra security.
We weren't really expecting it, but this new Xbox 360 Slim does not have any sort of Blu-ray capabilities, just the standard DVD playback it has always had.
In the box you'll find the Xbox 360 console, a black wireless controller, a black wired headset, two AA batteries, a power supply and cord, and a composite AV cable. Unfortunately, Microsoft has eliminated component cables as a standard add-in, so you won't be able to have an HD connection out of the box. Instead, you'll need to use either a separate HDMI cable or older Xbox 360 component wire for HD gaming.
It seems that the included headset has the updated in-line mute and volume toggle design found in some Xbox 360 Messenger Kits. We also noticed some minor updates to the wireless controller. The silver guide button is now mirrored chrome, and the Xbox 360 logo is embossed on the controller next to the sync button. Unfortunately, the wonky D-pad remains unchanged, our only gripe we wish Microsoft would have addressed on the otherwise near-perfect controller.
We should note that the included composite AV cable has a deliberate plastic protrusion that covers up the HDMI port when plugged in. Clearly Microsoft wants to prevent users from access to the port when using an AV slot connection.
One of the highlighted bullet points of the Xbox 360 unveiling at E3 2010 was "whisper-quiet" operation. Though "whisper" might be an exaggeration, the difference between the Xbox 360 Slim and older units is like night and day. When idle, the 360 is almost absolutely silent, and when running its disc drive, the console is barely noticeable with minimal volume. Obviously this is a huge improvement over older Xbox 360s and hopefully leads to fewer instances of system failures.
That said, we did notice the console heating up just after 10 minutes of game play. Thankfully, a perforated vent lays right above an exhaust fan, which appears attached to the system's GPU. We felt hot air coming from the vent and right side of the console when it was lying down horizontally.
Other than the noticeably quieter operation, we didn't see any other changes in how the Xbox 360 behaves.
Should I buy one?
As we mentioned at the start of this review, we don't think this new Xbox 360 Slim warrants a purchase if you have a working Xbox 360 with an HDMI-out port and hard drive. Sure, the possibility of an overheating "red ring of death" is always possible, but current Xbox 360 owners should not voluntarily upgrade, especially if their console is still under the three-year warranty specifically covering the red-ring issue.
Also, there are few details to keep in mind that may deter some from needlessly upgrading. First, you'll need to conduct a one-time data transfer, which requires a $15 cable. If only a small amount of data needs to be transferred, a USB stick might do the trick instead. Also, any downloadable content (DLC) that is stored on a pre-existing hard drive may require a license migration to a new console.
Of course we imagine retailers will offer enticing promotions on trade-ins of existing hardware for the new Slim console, so the choice to do so will ultimately be up to the individual. If you're desperate for Wi-Fi (and don't already have the USB adapter), are low on hard-drive space, or just want a quieter and more reliable Xbox 360 experience, the new Slim console from Microsoft is definitely the way to go.