updated 06:28 am EDT, Sun July 14, 2013
Xbox 360 E gives the 360 franchise a new lease of live
E3 2013 was most notable for the launch of the all-new Microsoft Xbox One, which is due in November this year. Microsoft then surprised gamers when it revealed an unexpected second redesign of the original Xbox console, the Xbox 360 E. It's obvious that the revamped Xbox 360 follows the design cues of the Xbox One, but has anything else changed with its arrival?
The original Xbox was released in November 2005 and has since gone on to sell over 76 million units world-wide. Unlike the upcoming Xbox One, which uses the x86 architecture, the Xbox 360 incorporates IBM Power PC architecture utilizing a tri-core Xenon processor clocked at 3.2GHz, matched with 512MB of RAM clocked at 700MHz. Graphics is provided by an ATI Xenos processor clocked at 500MHz. The original consoles were prone to overheating, causing the infamous 'red ring of death' problem -- it cost Microsoft over $1 billion in the estimated cost of extended warranties it issued to help appease concerned users.
Microsoft eventually moved the original Xbox 360 CPU to 65nm process from 90nm, which helped to reduce heat, while then further addressing the issue by switching to a 45nn process for the first redesign, the Xbox 360 S, or 'Slim.' The Xbox 360 S was introduced in late 2010 and featured a design that echoed an 'X' and was expected to continue until the introduction of the Xbox One. However, the redesigned Xbox 360 E has been designed to look similar to the Xbox One, suggesting that Microsoft plans to continue the 360 franchise for at least the next couple of years along side the all-new console.
A recent teardown by iFixt shows that the new Xbox 360 E continues with the same heat sink and chip from the outgoing Xbox 360 S model, so internally, there isn't a whole lot to talk about from the point of view of architectural changes. One of the biggest complaints with the original Xbox 360 was that in addition to overheating, it was also extremely noisy when running. This was also addressed with the Xbox 360 S redesign, and Microsoft says that the 360 E runs quieter still. How that has been achieved has not been made public, as the fan used in the 360 S has also been carried over to the 360 E.
Despite its obvious age, the Xbox remains a gaming and entertainment powerhouse. From a hardware perspective, the only shortcoming is the lack of Blu-ray player. This, however, has been addressed with the forthcoming Xbox One, which is, ironically, Sony technology (for every Xbox One Microsoft sells, it will now be paying Sony royalties for its use of Blu-ray technology). If you can remember back seven years, you will recall that Microsoft backed Toshiba's HD-DVD tech, but this required the purchase of a separate drive. With Sony building the Blu-ray tech directly into the PS3, it quickly killed off the HD-DVD format.
Of course, the 360s graphics capabilities will be surpassed when the Xbox One is released, but its graphics capabilities remain very solid nonetheless. Its Windows 8-like tile based interface is also very easy to navigate and use, having been continually developed since its introduction. There is a range of entertainment services built into the platform as well, including Xbox Music, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Netflix. It's pricing is also more attractive than it has ever been. A 4GB Xbox 360 E is retailing for $200, while a 250GB version retails for $300. A Kinect sensor adds another $100 to each, although all the various bundles can be found for less on the street.
The Xbox 360 redesign helps to keep it fresh and sets it up for a final cycle alongside the Xbox One for the next couple of years. It is an ideal entertainment option for users on a budget or for younger families looking for a relatively inexpensive all-in-one system. The Xbox 360 franchise still has plenty of life left in it. It also helps that the new system coming out later this year is incompatible with the previous generation. It has a massive existing backlog of games that are still popular with gamers and will help to service the console for some time to come.
By Sanjiv Sathiah