Microsoft kick-started the "next-generation" of gaming on November 22, 2005, when the company released the Xbox 360, beating both Nintendo and Sony to market. Since then, the console has sold roughly 40 million units worldwide and has brought some innovative ideas to the gaming industry in the form of Xbox Live, the online marketplace, and gamer achievements.
The console is not without its shortcomings, though. Most notably, the infamous "red ring of death" controversy has plagued the system since its launch. The defect can be traced to the system's inability to properly dissipate heat, which in turn renders some of the vital innards unusable. Though Microsoft has remained quiet about an exact fail rate percentage, some analysts have that number as high as 40 percent, with recent reports hovering around a one in four odds of failing within the first two years of ownership. Other complaints vary from lack of built-in Wi-Fi to denying users the ability to replace the hard drive like the PlayStation 3 offers.
At E3 2010, Microsoft unveiled an Xbox 360 redesigned from the ground up. Officially referred to as the "S" console--or Slim, as we've come to call it--the latest iteration packs a 250GB hard drive, built-in Wi-Fi, and a new design that's about 17 percent smaller than the previous models.
The new Xbox 360 certainly addresses most of the concerns we've had with the versions before it, but we don't think it warrants a purchase if you already own an Xbox 360 in working order with an HDMI-out port and a hard drive.
In this review we'll look at what's new in the Xbox 360 Slim, so for those who are interested in a look at the complete Xbox 360 experience, we recommend reading our reviews of the consoles prior.
The new Xbox 360 ditches the matte-plastic encasing seen on the white and Elite versions and instead opts for the now-infamous fingerprint magnet glossy black finish that covers so many gadgets of today. The console measures in at 2.9 inches tall by 10.6 inches wide by 10.4 inches deep and weighs a bit over 6 pounds, making it noticeably smaller than its big brother.
There are far fewer buttons on the new Xbox 360; most notably absent are the disc tray and power buttons from the previous consoles. Instead, both are now touch-sensitive; a small notch above the disc tray opens it, and the unit can be turned on simply by touching the circular silver power area. Also, a tone is played from inside the console whenever either of the two touch areas is engaged.
The silver power circle also represents the number of controllers connected and will rotate depending on how the console is oriented (either horizontally or vertically). Past 360 owners will associate this area with the "red ring of death" error message, but Microsoft has removed red LEDs from the console, so now any malfunction will be represented with a series of green lights.
To the right of the power circle is a spring-loaded door hiding two USB ports. Next to it is the controller sync button, which also doubles as the system's infrared (IR) port. Though there seemed to be some discussion as to whether this made it difficult for commands to be given to the Xbox 360, our tests with a Harmony remote show no sign of such issues.
For those hoping to ditch the enormous "power brick" that tethered the console to a power source, you're half in luck. The proprietary connection is definitely smaller, but there is still a power box you must deal with. Though it's about half the size of the original, we're much more comfortable downgrading the "brick" to a "block."
One drawback of the newly designed console is incompatibility with older Xbox 360 faceplates. We can't say that this customizable feature was one of the console's strong points, but nevertheless, no faceplates will work with the new Xbox 360.
As mentioned above, the Xbox 360 Slim aims to correct some of the annoyances and complaints current Xbox 360 owners have voiced. The new console comes packed with a 250GB hard drive, built-in Wi-Fi that supports up to 802.11n, five USB ports, and one additional slot devoted to Microsoft Kinect.
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.