Xbox 360 Buying Guide


After a messy 2005 launch and a noted history of product shortages and hardware malfunctions, Microsoft's Xbox 360  appears to have finally come into its own. Now sold in three different SKUs at distinct price points, and with a monumental dashboard update in the works (made available over Xbox Live ), the 360 should fulfill just about any gamer, from the casual to the hardcore. Sporting a sleek white or black matte finish, the sturdy console comes equipped with network and hi-definition capability right out of the box, as well as a wireless controller for a complete and immersive gaming experience. Combined with the Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote  and a Windows Media Center  enabled PC, users can stream pictures, music and video from their computer to their television across any home network at the press of a button. Customizable Xbox 360 Faceplates , available in many colours and styles, let gamers add a personal touch to their console.

Xbox 360 Hardware Configurations

  • Matte white finish on console and included wireless controller.
  • Included 256 MB memory unit and composite cables (SD).
  • HDMI port for hi-definition gaming (cable not included).
  • Xbox Live  Gold trial membership (1 month).
  • Bundled with Xbox Live Arcade Compilation disc: Boom Boom Rocket, Feeding Frenzy, Luxor 2, Pac-Man Championship Edition and Uno.
  • Marketed towards casual gamers who take advantage of the many "pick up and play" titles available on Xbox Live Arcade.
  • Lack of hard drive means there is little space available to take advantage of other Live features; downloadable movies, game demos and trailers, themes and gamer pictures.
  • Suggested retail price: £159.99
  • Matte white finish on console and included wireless controller.
  • Included 60 GB hard drive, wired headset, hybrid component/composite cables (HD/SD) and Ethernet cable.
  • Hi-definition HDMI port (cable not included).
  • Xbox Live  Gold trial membership (1 month).
  • Bundled with Hexic HD.
  • Middle of the road feature-set for buyers not up to the high price tag of the Elite.
  • Included headset and Ethernet cable means gamers can message, chat with and challenge their friends over Xbox Live.
  • HD ready right out of the box.
  • Large storage space means plenty of room for HD and downloadable content from the Xbox Live Marketplace.
  • Lack of bundled HDMI cable and increased hard disk space may disappoint some videophiles.
  • Suggested retail price: £199.99
  • Matte black finish on console and included wireless controller.
  • Included 120 GB hard drive, wired headset (also black), hybrid component/composite cables (HD/SD), digital/analogue audio dongle and Ethernet cable.
  • Hi-definition HDM port with bundled HDMI cable.
  • Xbox Live  Gold trial membership (1 month).
  • Bundled with Hexic HD.
  • The crème de la crème of 360 bundles. Included HDMI and digital audio cables ensure the best sound and picture quality possible.
  • 120 GB hard drive provides ample space for high-definition video, stored music and even original Xbox  games provided over XBL.
  • Suggested retail price: £259.99

Buyer Beware

Since the Xbox 360's  launch, the console has suffered from an unusually high failure rate. The "General Hardware Failure" error code, also known as the "Red Ring of Death" (named for the three red lights that flash on the console in such a scenario) has proven to be the proverbial thorn in the sides of console owners. High temperatures inside the console cause the solder on the mainboard to corrode and break down; the results of this are hardware freezes, disc-reader errors, static-y sound and, eventually, the Red Ring of Death. Due to the number of consumer complaints, Microsoft increased their warranty from one to three years for all 360s suffering from this error. Additionally, many owners reported cases of the console scratching the underside of game discs, rendering them unplayable. Changes in the hardware and construction of the Xbox 360 have reduced the failure rate significantly but have my no means eliminated it.

Technical Specifications

  • Custom IBM  PowerPC-based CPU
    • Three symmetrical cores running at 3.2 GHz each.
    • Two hardware threads per core; six hardware threads total
    • VMX-128 vector unit per core; three total.
    • 128 VMX-128 registers per hardware thread.
    • 1 MB L2 cache.
  • CPU Game Math Performance
    • 9.6 billion dot product operations per second.
  • Custom ATI  Graphics Processor
    • 10 MB of embedded DRAM.
    • 48-way parallel floating-point dynamically scheduled shader pipelines.
    • Unified shader architecture.
  • Polygon performance
    • 500 million triangles per second.
  • Pixel Fill Rate
    • 16 gigasamples per second fill rate using 4x MSAA.
  • Shader Performance
    • 48 billion shader operations per second.
  • Memory
    • 512 MB of 700 MHz GDDR3 RAM.
    • Unified memory architecture.
  • Memory Bandwidth
    • 22.4 GB/s memory interface bus bandwidth.
    • 256 GB/s memory bandwidth to EDRAM.
    • 21.6 GB/s front-side bus.
  • Overall System Floating-Point Performance
    • 1 teraflop.
  • Storage
    • Detachable and upgradeable 20-GB hard drive.
    • 12x dual-layer DVD-ROM.
    • Memory Unit support starting at 64 MB.
  • I/O
    • Support four up to four wireless game controllers
    • Three USB 2.0 ports.
    • Two memory slot units.
  • Optimized for Online
    • Instant, out-of-the-box access to Xbox Live features with broadband service, including Xbox Live Marketplace for downloadable content, gamer profile for digital identity, and voice chat tot talk to friends while playing games, watching movies, or listening to music.
    • Built-in Ethernet port.
    • Wi-Fi ready: 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g.
    • Video camera-ready.
  • Digital Media Support
    • Support for DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, WMA CD, MP3 CD, JPEG Photo CD.
    • Ability to stream media from portable music devices, digital cameras and Windows XP-based PCs.
    • Ability to rip music to the Xbox 36 Hard Drive.
    • Custom playlists in every game.
    • Built-in Media Center Extender for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.
    • Interactive, full-screen 3-D visualizers.
  • High-Definition Game Support
    • All games supported at 16:9, 720p 1080i and 1080, with anti-aliasing.
    • Standard-definition and high-definition output supported.
  • Audio
    • Multi-channel surround sound output.
    • Supports 48KHz 16-bit audio.
    • 320 independent decompression channels.
    • 32-bit audio processing.
    • Over 256 audio channels.
  • Physical Specs
    • Height: 83 mm
    • Width: 309 mm
    • Depth: 258 mm
    • Weight: 7.7lbs
  • System Orientation
    • Stands vertically or horizontally.
  • Customizable Faceplates
    • Interchangeable to personalize the console.

Related Guides

Xbox 360 Game Buying Guide

Xbox 360 Accessory Buying Guide

Original Xbox Buying Guide

Nintendo Wii Buying Guide

Sony Playstation 3 Buying Guide