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The New Xbox
Microsoft had plenty of information about Kinect at E3, which was expected. What wasn’t expected was the release of a brand new Xbox 360 version, called the Xbox 360 Slim. This new Xbox 360 is already shipping in a $299 bundle, and it is rumored that a bundle with a smaller hard drive will become available for $199 in fall 2010. The Xbox 360 Slim comes only in black so far, and it represents a significant leap over the older Xbox 360 design. Let’s explore what is new with the Xbox 360 Slim.
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Xbox 360 Slim - or Xbox 360 Short?
The most surprising trait of the Xbox 360 Slim is the fact that it isn’t really slim at all. It is almost exactly as big around the waist as the older model. The real reduction in the Xbox 360 comes in height, although the Xbox 360 Short isn’t very good for marketing - hence the name.
The Xbox 360 Slim is actually a few inches shorter than the original Xbox 360 design. In all other measurements it is only slightly smaller. The Xbox 360 also features a dramatically changed exterior with more aggressive styling. The Xbox 360 Slim is only shipping in black so far (perhaps because black is slimming).
The power button is about the same size and style, but it is no longer a “real" mechanical button but rather touch sensitive. The same goes for the eject button. Both therefor are a bit more finicky to use than the original 360’s button, but this is a very minor complaint. A more hilarious change is the fact that there is no longer a “red ring of death." The lights around the power button will now flash green instead of red if there is a problem.
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Actually, we probably won’t have to worry about that. Although the Xbox 360 has looked the same for awhile now, it received a major update in 2008 called Jasper. The update was due to a die-shrink of the manufacturing process for Xbox 360 hardware, and as is usually the case with die-shrinks there was a reduction in power consumption and heat generation.
The new Xbox 360 Slim shrinks the manufacturing process even further, to 45nm. That is half of the original, which was built on a 90nm process. As a result, the Xbox 360 Slim uses about half the power of the original, and also generates much less heat. In fact, the reduction in manufacturing process has made it possible for Microsoft to combine the CPU and GPU hardware into a single die. In the old Xbox 360 you could identify separate hardware for each if you opened your Xbox 360 up. Now both are kept secure under a single heat spreader. Less heat generation also means less work has to be done to keep the unit cool, and the new Xbox 360 slim is several decibels quieter than the original.
The last hardware change is the hard drive. It is still the same 2.5" format as the original, but the case holding the drive is much smaller. It also fits inside the Xbox 360 Slim, rather than straping to the outside. However, you can still pull the hard drive out without taking apart the entire unit.
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Worth The Money?
The Xbox 360 Slim is a nice upgrade over the orignal Xbox. But should you buy one?
If you already have an Xbox 360, probably not. The only really tangible benefit to the Slim is noise. The Slim is noticeably quieter than the original Xbox 360. However, if you already have a Xbox 360 - why not just buy a PS3? It is equally quiet and will give you access to new games.
If you don’t have a 360 yet, however, the Xbox 360 Slim is the one to get. Yes, it costs a little bit more. But it simply has more modern hardware, and the lower noise generation is worthwhile in a device you’ll (hopefully) obtain five years of use from.