Xbox 360 Slim: Is it any good?

Xbox 360 Slim is out, a svelter version of Microsoft's popular gaming console. How does it perform?

Xbox 360 slim, shown here with Microsoft's Kinect motion sensor, comes Wi-Fi enabled and has better protection against overheating than its predecessor.

One of the less surprising things to come out of the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year was the announcement of a new “slim” model of the Xbox 360. Microsoft has been planning it for some time, but we weren’t expecting it to launch so quickly, as it’s now available at (most) retail stores.

TechNewsDaily managed to get our hands on one to test it out, and see if it’s any better – or worse – than the current Xbox 360 model.

First off, it’s not entirely slimmer, just smaller. The unit is roughly about an inch and a half smaller in size, with a sleeker clear plastic build for its case. While we like the shiny black look, it’s susceptible to fingerprints, just like the older model PlayStation 3 consoles. Fortunately, you can wipe them off and go about your way (although they’ll be back, count on it.)

IN PICTURES: Controversial video games

The power and DVD drive buttons are also touch-sensitive, similar to the PS3. It’s a sweet feature that saves the console from wear-and-tear through repeated button mashing.

Then there’s the power brick, which was one of the bigger issues with the original Xbox 360 model. It’s also shrunken down between one to two inches in size, and weighs a little less than the original brick. Still, size makes a difference in some entertainment centers, so take that for what you will.

Other hardware improvements

The hard drive included with the Xbox 360 Slim is much smaller than in previous models. Rather than an oblong, silver-colored device that snaps onto the top of a console, it’s a tinier, 2.5-inch diskette-style hard drive that’s a little harder to remove. And, yes, once you upgrade to the Xbox 360, you can transfer data from one console to another. You simply need to plunk down $10 for the transfer cable.

Xbox 360 Slim comes with two additional USB ports. The original console has three, so if you’re someone that likes to plug things in (like wired controllers, the Xbox Camera or a stereo headset) you’ll find plenty of room to do that here. It also works with the new USB hard drives that Microsoft introduced a little while ago, which you’ll need to use since the new model doesn’t come with memory card slots.

Now, let’s discuss one of the bigger problems that has plagued earlier Xbox 360 models – the “red ring of death.”

Older systems managed to overheat, and when they got too hot, the system stopped and three red lights flashed on the front switch. With the Xbox 360 Slim, such a danger is (almost) a thing of the past. A new Valhalla chip set enables the system to run much quieter than earlier models, although it does tend to get hot on the top vent, so watch your hands. If it gets too hot for its own good, the system will automatically shut down to avoid a “red ring of death.” While that’s something that saves you a costly trip to UPS to send the system back, it can also throw you off if you’re in the middle of a time-consuming game, like “Final Fantasy XIII” or “Gears of War 2.” To patiently wait for the system to cool down may be asking too much for more avid gamers.

Built-in Wi-fi

The newer system also comes with built-in Wi-fi. Before the release of the Slim, if you wanted to use Wi-fi, you needed to buy a separate connector for $100. It’s nice to have it included in the system, and connecting to our network very easily. Furthermore, the system is also “Kinect” ready, so you can attach the motion sensitive controller right to the system without the need of an additional power source. No word yet on how this will affect the heat output, but we’ll find out soon enough.

The Xbox 360 Slim comes with the system, necessary A/V cables and power brick, a wireless controller and the 250 GB hard drive. While that’s a pretty decent package for $300, keep in mind that the bundle doesn’t include any games out of the box (unlike the company’s Elite and Arcade packages) and also doesn’t come with an HDMI cable. So, if you want to go hi-def, you’ll need to either use the attachment from your previous system or fork over some money for a new one.

Overall, we do like the Xbox 360 Slim. It has its missing components (game, HDMI cable) and funky PlayStation 3-like shell, but it’s a more efficient machine than previous Xbox 360 models. And no more “red ring of death” either. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

IN PICTURES: Controversial video games

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