Xbox 360 Elite console

Two years on from its first outing in the UK, Microsoft brings us the Elite, a new take on the Xbox 360 console aimed at satisfying the gaming fraternity, but has the new additions to an old friend been worthwhile? We get gaming to find out.

In a nutshell the console stays the same, the processor hasn't had an overhaul and the graphics card is still the same. Basically the Elite is more of an update rather than a complete change.

So what do you get? Well a new black lick of paint for starters, a bigger 120GB hard drive, up from just 20GB on the Pro, designed for storing more content like games demos, images, TV shows and Movies and most importantly of all, a HMDI socket to get you full 1080p support for your HD-ready television.

The new Elite console now becomes the flagship of Microsoft gaming range with the Core and Pro models both taking a price cut in reflection.

Priced at £299.99, the model will come with more cables than you could possibly ever want and it's nice that Microsoft has even included a HDMI in the box to get you started on your road to high-def gaming straight away.

However, amongst all the varying cables that allow you to connect the Elite to your TV or monitor, the most important one for those who already own an Xbox 360 is missing; it's the cable that allows you to transfer your data from your own console's hard drive (we are talking hardcore gamers here) to your new unit's storage space.

It's a strange omission as you actually get the cable if you buy the 120GB hard drive on its own. But to be fair if you are new to the console then you don't need it anyway.

The other strange omission with the Elite is the lack of Wi-Fi access in the box (you can get a Wi-Fi attachment). With 7.1 million users of the Xbox Live Service all playing online you would have thought that getting them online as easily as possible would be a priority. Sadly not.

Plug it in and power it up and it's business as usual. The software dashboard interface sports the update from the Spring, and is easy to navigate around. Features include accessing games demos, instant messaging your MSN IM mates as well as spending Microsoft Points on themes and other paraphernalia.

So why the 120GB hard drive that's six times bigger than before? Well it's all about getting ready for content on demand. With the American Movie and TV store promised in the UK before the end of the year, you'll need that storage if you are to start downloading HD movies like 300 or the latest episodes of CSI: Miami.

Of course this is supposed to be a games console and the gaming fraternity will be pleased with the results. Microsoft has addressed some of the problems here with a new heatsink inside to attempt to stop overheating issues and a quieter fan, although don't get excited, it's not that much quieter.

All this though hasn't unfortunately stopped Microsoft from shipping a power pack in the box that is still the size of a small child. It was gigantic before and it's still gigantic now.

Get past the noise and the size of the power pack and the HDMI connection will really show off your gaming on a big screen TV. It's nice that Microsoft is finally up to speed and matching the PS3 from an output point of view.

Verdict

So what do we think? Well this isn’t a new console we've been presented with, merely an update of an old friend, however we are pleased to report the update is all good.

The inclusion of a HDMI socket brings the console into the Home Cinema arena "proper", while the bigger hard drive will certainly help multimedia fans when Microsoft launches its movies on demand service later this year.

Is it worth the premium? We think so. While Microsoft has said that both the Core and the Pro models will be getting HDMI sockets, there is no guarantee when this will be, and even then Microsoft has said that it will only be phased in as current stock runs out.

And what about it up against the PS3? Well the verdict is still out on this one. Adding the HD DVD drive for an addition £99 and a further wireless console means that it's virtually the same £435 price point.

But where the Xbox 360 wins out at the moment is the plethora of games like Gears of War already available. There's no built-in TV tuner feature like that announced this week from Sony, however with Paramount and Dreamworks backing HD DVD it is something to bear in mind.

If you're a gamer and you want to get into the Xbox 360, this is the way to do it. Skip the Core and Pro and stump up the extra £50. It will be worth it in the long run.