Is the Xbox 360 for you?
Microsoft's Xbox 360 is a family of consoles that provides next-gen gaming and various multimedia functions as well as digital media content delivery.
The Xbox 360 has arguably the most impressive library of software titles, as it launched before all other consoles this generation. It also currently has the most vibrant online gaming community. However, it does cost $50 (USD) to maintain a Gold-level membership (slated to increase to $60 in 2011), which gives you access to online gaming, Netflix video streaming, Last.fm internet radio, game demos, video trailer access, as well as the Xbox LIVE community at large and more.
Several iterations of the console, which originally launched in November of 2005, have come to market. Unfortunately, the Xbox 360 released with a faulty, extremely heat-sensitive chipset. This gave the console unprecedented failure rates in its first few years – the Red Ring of Death (RROD – the three red lights used to signify general hardware failure) has become an infamous element of popular culture in gaming circles.
Thankfully, Microsoft issued a full warranty on all defective consoles. Moreover, the Xbox 360 of today (technically known as the Xbox 360 S) is very different internally and externally than the one that launched in 2005. In fact, the console has seen several chipset iterations over the years, and it now runs much cooler and more efficiently, leading to nearly perfect reliability.
Currently, two versions of the platform are available for purchase: a 250 GB HDD Slim model and a 4 GB (onboard) Slim model. The major distinctions between the two SKUs include memory space, gloss or matte finish and, of course, price. Both models feature integrated 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, TOSLINK S/PDIF optical audio output, 5 USB 2.0 ports, HDMI output and a special AUX port for Kinect compatibility.
Retailing for $199.99 (USD), the Xbox 360 with 4 GB of internal flash memory is a great entry level console. The system plays all Xbox 360 software titles, has access to Xbox LIVE, and sports a matte finish. The 250 GB model sells for $299.99 (USD). Other than the hefty memory space for movies, music, games, game saves, photos, and more, this model comes with no internal memory and has a gloss finish.
Any Xbox 360 model you get will allow you to stream content from your Windows-based PC and get access to the industry-leading Xbox LIVE Marketplace (where you can purchase/rent movies, music and games). Also, retail DVDs and CDs, as well as home-burned media of varying file extensions (.mp3, .avi, .wmv, and many more) can be played via the disc drive.
Also, Microsoft has released Kinect (formerly-known as Project Natal) a motion-detecting device / camera. This hardware accessory, sold separately or in a console bundle, adds motion controls to games as well as a new, intuitive way to navigate the Kinect menu, Zune Video, Zune Music, etc. – Microsoft has even hinted at future functionality that will include home shopping, and interacting with artificial intelligences and virtual spaces.
• Great online community
• Massive software library
• Excellent dashboard interface
• Quality multimedia device
• Very limited firmware updating
• Fast delivery of purchased / rented digital content
• Annual fee for online gameplay and specific premium content
• History of hardware instability
• Accessories are sold piecemeal, which artificially raises the price of the console for full functionality
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