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Xbox Slim review - Does the new Xbox Xceed Xpectations?

Ketaki Bhojnagarwala | Updated on August 03, 2011 Published on January 26, 2011

xbox 360 slim   -  BUSINESS LINE

Xbox 360 controller   -  BUSINESS LINE

The first Xbox 360 console was released way back in 2005, giving it a head start over competitors like Sony and Nintendo. However, with the launch of the Sony Playstation 3, the Xbox, it seemed, was left a few steps behind. In retaliation, Microsoft decided to revamp the existing console and recently launched the Xbox 360 Slim, a new and improved version of the gaming console. We spent a few weeks with this console to see what improvements Microsoft has made to the original, and whether you should be picking up this latest, slimmer avatar or if you already have the original, should you replace your old Xbox.

Overview

Although the new Xbox is supposed to be a slimmer version, overall, it didn’t seem to be too different in size. Microsoft says it is 17 per cent smaller. What has changed, however, is the shape. It is concave towards the centre on either side, and looks quite attractive compared to the boring old black box we’re used to. Also, the exterior has taken on a glossy black sheen, and we’re sure all the gamers out there are going to like the new look.

The new Xbox can stand either horizontally or vertically. The old buttons have been replaced by new, touch sensitive ones, including the power switch and the eject button.

The power switch has a ring of green lights surrounding it, and it rotates depending on which way the Xbox is oriented. Earlier, the Xbox used to have red LED lights surrounding the power switch that users associated with the ‘Red Ring of Death’, which signalled a system malfunction, but Xbox has done away with the red lights leaving only green LED ones.

The lights on the power switch also rotate depending on the orientation of the Xbox.

Connectivity

The inclusion of Wi-Fi that supports up to 802.11n has been a welcome addiction to the new Xbox Slim. When you start the console, the Xbox gives you the option of scanning for wireless networks. Once you select the one you want and enter the network key, it connects instantly. You can log into your Xbox live account after that, if you already have one, and continue playing with your customisable avatar.

On the front of the console is a small flap which conceals two USB ports. There are three additional USB ports at the back, along with an HDMI, Ethernet port and a digital optical audio-out port. The Xbox is Kinect ready and comes with a slot for that at the back. There is also a Kensington lock slot located at the rear, for added security.

The new Xbox’s cord still has a massive power brick, although we should mention that it is significantly smaller than the one seen in the previous version of the console.

Drives

One major improvement we’ve seen in the new Xbox is the inclusion of a 250GB hard drive. The earlier version used to ship with just about 256MB of internal memory, and you had to buy a hard drive separately, which often costs half as much as the console alone. In India, the Xbox Slim along with the 250GB hard drive ships for the same price as the Xbox 360 without a hard drive, so it’s really a good deal.

And in terms of space, it’s more than enough to let you store all your game saves and media on.

The drive is enclosed in a door flap under the console, allowing it to slide into place. However, you cannot swap your old drives for this one; instead you’ll have to use an Xbox 360 Hard Drive Transfer Kit to migrate your data. You also won’t be able to use a third party drive as the proprietary hard drive, unlike in the PS3. You can however connect up an external hard drive via USB to access any media files that you have stored on it.

The main attraction of the Sony Playstation 3 was the inclusion of a Blu-Ray drive, which resulted in crisper, clearer images for all your games and videos. However, the Xbox Slim is still available only with a regular DVD drive, which doesn’t really give it an edge over the competition.

Hardware

The Xbox includes a pair of headphones and a single controller as accessories. There has been no change to the controller – even though Xbox did release a new controller with an improved D pad, we didn’t find this one bundled in the box that the review unit was shipped in.

The Xbox Slim ships with the Valhalla motherboard, which gives you about 30 per cent more space than other motherboards.

Gaming experience

While there have been some changes to the exterior of the new Xbox, as a gaming console it remains the same. There is still the same user interface, and no changes have been made to the Xbox Live experience.

Although there is a provision for HDMI, the Xbox Slim does not ship with an HDMI cable. Picture quality using the bundled composite cable was comparatively low, even on an HD TV. With the HDMI cable, the image and graphics quality should be better.

The new console is also extremely quiet when there’s a game in the DVD drive, a definite improvement over the previous version. It uses a single large fan rather than the two smaller ones found in the previous Xbox’s, which probably also contributes for its quieter operation.

There are a couple of games that the console ships with, including Hexic HD, Pinball FX, Peggle and a Kingdom for Keflings. We also tried out Crackdown 2 to try and put the Xbox through its paces. The game is a third person shooter, where you can choose to be one of four agents. After the initial training, your mission is to hunt down the ‘Freaks’ unleashed on Pacific City by ex-medical student Catalina Thorne. You can kill the ‘Freaks’ by using either firearms, explosives, running them over or attacking them with your bare hands. The game also requires you to collect ‘Orbs’ which increase your skills such as agility, an addictive part of the game. Unlike Halo, which reworked each of its sequels entirely, Crackdown 2 has been criticised for not bringing a new storyline to the game.

Our verdict

The new Xbox 360 certainly looks and feels better, and we’re hoping that Microsoft has finally gotten rid of the ‘Red Ring of Death’ problem, not just by eliminating the red lights but by making changes in its hardware. Apart from that, internally, there have been no major changes so we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for an upgrade. However, it’s still a great console and a must-have for any gamer out there.

Love: Smaller chassis, sleek and improved exterior, more value

Hate: No Blu-Ray drive, no major improvements to gaming experience

Rs 21,990

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Published on January 26, 2011
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