We look at the new Xbox ‘slim’ via a private unboxing session

The biggest announcement, that was sadly spoilt some minutes prior to the briefing taking place, was the announcement of a new slimmer Xbox 360 console. Unknown to onlookers, the new console was sitting inside the shell of the now older model on the stage. And like a waiter revealing a signature dish at a restaurant, the old case was lifted to reveal the new shiny and black looking Xbox 360. Visually you can tell the console is smaller in size, in all dimensions. Buttons are now replaced with touch sensitive areas, which when pressed make a reassuring beep sound.

This new rebooted console addresses most of the key issues gamers have encountered with the older console. Microsoft has listened and addressed key problematic areas, the most noticeable ones being the noise, its hard drive and the lack of ports.

I was lucky enough to be part of a hands-on unboxing event for the new console later in the afternoon. The new console was wrapped up in black paper and a green bow, sitting there ready to be ripped open and powered up.Like the console, the packaging has been reduced with all the items carefully placed in their little compartments with the Xbox filling up the entire top area of the box.

The font of the console, showing the chrome accents & the side cooling fan vent

Weight wise, the console didn’t feel much different, maybe a little lighter but it wasn’t instantly noticeable when being held. Around the top and bottom of the unit are cooling vents with a much bigger vent on one side of the console. Under this vent is a much larger 120mm looking fan that quietly pushes the heat away from the console. The fan wasn’t spinning strong enough to feel any air coming out, but looking at the angle of the vents on the casing I assume the fan is blowing out rather than sucking cooler air in. The room we were in was noisy so I couldn’t get a quiet room to test the console’s idle noise. Putting my ear to the side I couldn’t hear much noise other than air being forced out, so they have done a good job there. Whether that fan gets much louder under stress we’ll have to see. Also it is worth pointing out that with a DVD disc in the drive tray it was also spinning a fair bit quieter. So the console is quieter – Check.

Underneath the new Xbox 360, panel removed and 250GB HDD out

The first thing I looked for after seeing the earlier briefing was the Hard Disk Drive (HDD). The HDD area is located on the bottom side of the unit (when its standing up). There is a small groove that you put your finger into to detach a plate covering the HDD caddy. Once removed the caddy can be ejected by pulling on the tab to slide it out of the case. The caddy itself is covered in a plastic with traditional laptop-style 2.5” SATA connections. The 250GB HDD is still a propriety unit, but as the connectors are standard SATA this might open the doors to 3rd party offerings, should Microsoft allow that. Better and cheaper HDD upgrades in the future – maybe, check.

The rear. New power connector, optical, Kinect AUX port, and 2 more USB ports

Ports have also been increased with 2 USB ports remaining on the front, behind a similar door flap panel, and there are now 3 USB ports on the back. The console now has Wireless N but for anyone wanting a cable connection the option remains here too at the back. Optical audio is no a new feature to the back of the console alongside the standard AV port and HDMI socket. Finally there is a port for the Kinect unit on the back. Called the Kinect Auxiliary Port, I can only assume this is to power the motorised base as power for this through USB might not be enough. How this works for old consoles without this power I do not know, maybe there will be an adapter to be used with another USB.

The power for the new console has changed a little, both on the console and in the brick itself. Yes we still have to live with a power-brick, however the brick is a bit smaller in size and a lot lighter in weight.

A photo to show the size of the new power brick against the controller

Once connected up you will instantly notice another new feature to the console. There are no tactile buttons on the unit, and now all are touch sensitive buttons, from the eject button to the power button. Once pressed on you hear a reassuring beep sound to let you know it has been pressed. The eject and power button beeps do sound different to each other, and the eject button beeps when pressed open and when pressed to close.

That pretty much sums up the console itself. Accessory wise the console comes with a revised controller with blacker analogue sticks, a slightly more shiny casing, and the guide button is now made of chrome to match the chrome accents on the top and bottom of the console as well as the power button. A black messenger pad will also be available to buy, to match the black controller and console – finally. For any one upgrading from a 20GB or newer console, there is no data transfer cable in the box. I asked and was told that its an added extra and would need to be purchased, however, with the recent addition of USB memory sticks, you will now be able to transfer your saved games and Arcade titles directly across using up to 16GB USB sticks.

The pad has blacker D-Pad & Sticks, a chrome Guide button, shiny black plastic on top & shoulder buttons

All in all the new slimmer Xbox is a good update for the console. It has addressed many niggles with the current console and a few enhancements have been added too, making it a worthy purchase should you be looking to upgrade your old noise box or purchase for the first time.

I’ll be getting one of these beauties in the coming weeks, so I hope to be putting it through its paces and seeing if its as quiet under load as they claim as well as my overall impressions of the new console. Let us know if you will be picking one up in the comments below.

Anthony Barker

Anthony is the designer, developer and owner of Console Monster. In his spare time, Anthony is a keen gamer who enjoys playing mostly First-Person Shooters and Racing games. When he is not developing games or tweaking this site, Anthony likes to be on the slopes snowboarding or hurtling down off-road tracks on his mountain bike.

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