Two Major Flaws in the XBox 360 Elite

XBox 360 Elite and RegularBesides adopting a Vader-esque personae, Microsoft’s upgraded XBox 360 Elite video game console features two substantial improvements over its little brother:

  1. 120 GB hard drive
  2. HD cables in the box

This isn’t enough. Microsoft is clearly responding to Sony’s Playstation 3 with this upgrade. If the Redmond-based monster truly wanted to bury their competition, they needed to make at least two other improvements to the XBox 360.

First and foremost, they should have built in a HD-DVD drive. Sony’s Playstation 3 features a Blu-ray drive. Microsoft does offer an external HD-DVD drive for those who want to view hi-def movies, but that’s a lame solution. There’s a high factor of ugliness that goes along with external components and their associated mess of cabling; plus the drive comes in white only.

Arguably, omitting the HD-DVD drive may have been an issue of cost. That doesn’t jive for me. This is the primo XBox 360, designed to battle the Playstation 3’s dark looks and advanced capabilities head on. Even if you buy the external unit in addition to an XBox 360 Elite, the total bill still rings up no higher than that of a Playstation 3. With the HD-DVD optical drive internalized, Microsoft still would have beat Sony on cost.

I’d hazard a guess that Microsoft is omitting the HD-DVD drive from the 360 Elite out of self-interest. The Blu-ray drive in the Playstation 3 is a trojan horse for Sony, a company that stands to profit directly from media sold to play in that format. Microsoft doesn’t maintain any major financial interests in HD-DVD formatted media, so they wouldn’t directly benefit from supporting those discs.

Instead, Microsoft wants to herd its customers towards online movie and television sales in their homebrew 360 Marketplace where they take a direct cut of media sales, hence the upgraded hard drive. This is premature in terms of the market and not in consumers’ interests. Microsoft would have done better to include the HD-DVD drive in order to more directly compete with the Playstation 3.

After all, it’ll be a tough slog for the XBox 360 Elite to compete against the AppleTV in the downloadable media content market, considering Apple’s dominance there. To date, the XBox 360 has clearly marketed itself as a gaming system. Re-educating consumers to the unit’s developing capabilities will be difficult and costly.

All this brings me to my second essential upgrade that Microsoft missed the boat on: silence.

I sold my XBox 360 because the thing constantly sounded like a jet idling on a runway. The combined noise of the fan and optical drive was unbearable and forced me to crank my stereo up to unacceptable levels just to hear games and movies. This is a well-recognized problem with the XBox 360 and a significant selection of after-market products has sprung up to respond to it.

Considering that Apple trumpeted the fact that the AppleTV is “whisper quiet” at only 7 dB to 10 dB, noise is clearly an issue to consumers. The XBox 360 has been independently measured as reaching up to 61 dB during use. Considering that decibels are a logarithmic measurement (i.e. 60 dB is ten times the noise level of 50dB), that’s really friggin’ noisy. In fact, 60 dB is the rough equivalent noise level of normal conversation. So it’s as though the XBox 360 is constantly talking to you while you’re trying to play games or watch movies; and we all know how annoying that can be.

Microsoft should’ve worked hard to silence their video game console. And then they should have made a big deal out of the fact they’d managed to make it quieter than the Playstation 3.

The XBox 360 Elite could have been something really great, which would have caused the Playstation 3 irreparable harm. Instead, despite gaining some much-needed aesthetic improvements, the new model XBox is merely a ho-hum improvement on its predecessor and leaves consumers plenty of reasons to pick a Playstation 3 instead.

5 thoughts on “Two Major Flaws in the XBox 360 Elite

  1. If MS had included a HDDVD drive it would send a very bad message to it’s existing customers. After saying that “next-gen doesn’t need more than DVD 9” and “Were all about choise” (as in “we want to make money on periferals”) they can’t doa 180 on the 360 by popping a discsystem that people might not want in there.Not only that but; the target audience for the “Elite” is the techno geeks who most likely already bought an external drive. By including it in this stat raiser[1] MS would have missed out on some crucial sales. (or not, they play the shipped to stores game after all).Your second point is bang on target though. I too sold my 360 because I got tired of playing with headphones. The rumoured failure rate of 28% has probably got a lot to do with the fact that MS hasn’t got rid of the fans yet…[1]http://www.informationarbitrage.com/2007/04/microsoft_phili.html

  2. Hah, I never actually heard about these complains about the Xbox 360 Elite. But it’s cool that it’s now going on the market for only $299. That’s gonna raise it’s sales definitely.

  3. Out of all the things you could rant about relating to the 360 elite (there’s a lot of options), you picked some of the pettiest, most nonsensical items of choice. I am shocked at the fact that you took the time to do research on the noise level of the fan, I never noticed let alone cared about the ambient sound of the 360. Blu Ray is is a “neat” innovation, but it’s like putting a speedometer marked for 50,000 km/ph on a car that can only travel at 140 km/ph. The PS3 and The Xbox 360 with their vast aray of feeble hardware can’t even support today’s dictionary-definition of high resolution textures and high poly models, there’s no need for an extra 40 gb of “potential” on your disk when the console’s hardware can’t even display the potential. If you want to watch massive movie files on your 5 grand home theater that supports eye cutting-ly sharp 1920×1080, just put in the goddamn $90 for a 1 TB portable harddrive to just PLUG IN to your xbox, you freak.

  4. Very true i only just bought a xbox had a ps3 over a year and a bit now mine has 500 gig (upgraded by me) i watch blueray dvd’s on it the first thing i wanted to do when i got my xbox was rip that friggen drive out and smash it for being so noisy! i do love microsofts game selection tho hate the fact that wireless was not shoved into the 360 elite only the elite s the ps3 BASE model had wifi . . . how hard is it?

  5. Microsoft is the worst f&$@!?$ company ever, how is it that you have a product out for almost 5 years now and every single one of them still has the same damn problem, I bought a xbox 360 elite 3 months ago and it is already giving me the 3 red rings, and this is my 4th f$&@?!& xbox that I have owned now, Microsoft you really are a piece of s@$&!!!!

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