While the latest version of the Xbox, the Xbox 360 S, is no faster than its predecessor, it’s still fascinating to see how the console has been upgraded. For starters it only needs a 135 watt power supply, and uses two cooling fans instead of one. These factors combine to make the 360 S both quieter and cooler. It is also smaller and more versatile than its predecessor.
The 360 S ships with Kinect, Microsoft’s motion control system that uses an infrared sensor and a multichannel microphone to allow a player to act as their own controller, with the system monitoring your movements.
It also has five USB ports, which not only makes the unit more versatile and eliminates the need for external hubs, but also allows the old Xbox Memory Units to be phased out.
The biggest changes, however, are actually found inside the casing. The standard unit now ships with a 250GB internal hard drive which – while still removable – is a different design to its predecessors. The 360 S also comes equipped with built-in Wi-Fi, meaning that it can connect to a home hub and access Xbox Live very easily.
All of these features, combined with the Kinect system, make the 360 S a very powerful addition to the Xbox family and one that looks set to be the benchmark for improvements to come.
The Red Ring of Death refers to a ring formed by three status lights on the front of the machine. Normally green, if they go red it’s usually because of either power fluctuations or by overheating damaging the motherboard, which will need to be replaced. Now, though, the Red Ring is no more according to Microsoft. This has been achieved by replacing the original 360’s single fan with two smaller ones, making the machine quieter but also keeping it cooler.
Gaming in motion
Kinect is Microsoft’s new take on motion control. Containing a camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone, Kinect allows a player tremendous freedom of movement.
The depth sensor throws an infrared ‘net’ out into the room which allows the sensor to sense not only that you’re moving, but where in the room you are, and can be adjusted to take into account the size of the room and any obstacles. This sensor field means Kinect can track up to six people, including two active players, and pick up on movements in 20 joints per player.
Kinect’s microphone also allows it to locate the player in the field, allowing for headset-free chat over Xbox Live.
The xBox Hard Drive
The major change with the 360 S is that the hard drive can’t be pulled out and dropped into another Xbox 360. It can be removed, but the process is a lot more involved. While this cuts down on the system’s portability and versatility, it’s balanced by the fact the hard drive is replaceable and upgradeable. Microsoft’s 4GB version is available and can be upgraded to the 250GB hard drive separately, at a later date.