Microsoft Xbox 360 S 250GB review
The original model may have been beset with hardware failures, but Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is still our favourite games console of the current generation – thanks to smooth HD graphics, an amazing range of software, a great joypad and a well-conceived online service. It’s been gracing our homes for almost five years now, which makes this new, smaller iteration a tad overdue, but still very welcome.
There have been minor updates to the original design, including cooler tweaks to try and improve reliability, the addition of an HDMI port (absent from the original 2005 model), and onboard storage for the budget Arcade model. Still, this is the first major redesign, akin to Sony’s launch of the PlayStation 3 Slim last year. There seems to be some disagreement over the new console’s name, with Microsoft and many retailers calling it the Xbox 360 250GB, while the hardware itself and some other retailers refer to it as the Xbox 360 S.
Whatever you call it, the new Xbox 360 is far shinier than the old one, with a glossy black finish, and a little smaller. Its dimensions of 75x270x264mm make it a little smaller than the original (83x309x258mm), but it’s not a huge change. The design remains similar too, with the huge offset power button dominating the front. Both this and the eject button are now touch-sensitive controls, with accompanying bleepy noise when you push them. Two USB ports sit under a flap on the right-hand side, as before.
On the rear there are more significant changes. For starters there’s an additional two USB ports, three in total, for adding peripherals or storage devices. There’s also a dedicated port which will provide data and power to Microsoft’s upcoming Kinect Peripheral. Outputs include HDMI, an optical S/PDIF and the proprietary 360 AV output (for composite, SCART and component leads).
One change you can’t see at first glance is the new integrated WiFi. It supports 802.11n, so you’ll get higher transfer speeds if you have a compatible router. It’s a great addition to the console either way, reducing cable clutter or the need for the previous models’ external adaptors.
Inside, the CPU and graphics processor (along with its memory cache) have been integrated onto a single 45nm die. This reduces the console’s power consumption, resulting in a new, smaller 135W power supply. We’re a little disappointed that this hasn’t been integrated neatly into the console itself, as it always has been on the PlayStation 3. Power savings depend on which Xbox model you currently have. Original 90nm 360s had power supplies rated at 203W, while later 65nm models used both 175W and 150W supplies. In testing it drew an impressively low 82W while we played Street Fighter IV.
Less power means less heat and so less noise. The redesign places a single large vent on the top of the console, below which is a big fan sitting over the main heat sink. We’re happy to report that the new 360 itself is practically silent when idling or playing video. In games there’s more fan noise, but it’s negligible compared to older models. The DVD drive is also improved, by how much depends on which 360 model you compare it to, though owners of older machines will be happily rid of their tornado-esque drive. One annoyance is that the new power supply has a small fan to keep it quiet and, when the 360 is idling, this actually makes more noise than the console itself.
The hard disk no longer hangs off the end, having been moved into an easily accessible internal bay. Frustratingly, though, Microsoft has continued its policy of using laptop hard disks in proprietary caddies. The new caddy is small, black and angular. We expect Microsoft to continue to fleece users with overpriced hard disk upgrades, and to rub salt into the wounds, the new design means you can see the bog-standard SATA connectors on the drive. Thankfully, the 250GB drive supplied should be sufficient for most needs.
The redesign means you can’t fit an old drive into the new Xbox, so you’ll need to buy the Hard Disk Transfer Kit for £15 to copy your files across, or use a large flash drive to do the job. The slots for the old Xbox 360 Memory Unit have been removed, so again you’ll need a flash drive to transfer these files from an old console.
The new Xbox 360 is undoubtedly an improvement on previous models, and those new to the console will be very happy with it. Of course it’s too early to comment on the new model’s reliability, but we’re pretty confident that Microsoft would have been far more cautious with its design this time around.
If you’re a current 360 owner though, then we wouldn’t recommend rushing out to upgrade. Yes, it’s a little slinkier, and the built-in WiFi may appeal to those who have persisted with lengthy network cables. However, for most, you’d need to really be bothered by your current 360’s noise to spend £200 on making it quieter.