Xbox 360

Dennis Faas's picture

The Xbox 360 is Microsoft's newest video game console, the successor to their original Xbox. It was released on November 22, 2005 in North America, December 2 in Europe, and December 10 in Japan. It will be released on February 2, 2006 in Mexico, February 24 in South Korea, and March 2, 2006 in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

The Xbox 360 will compete against the upcoming generation of consoles, including the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution, and was officially unveiled on MTV on May 12, 2005, a week before the E3 trade show.

Except in Japan the console is sold in two different configurations: the "Xbox 360" and the "Xbox 360 Core System". The Xbox 360 configuration, often referred to as the "Premium Edition", includes a hard drive (required for backwards compatibility with original Xbox games), a wireless controller, a headset, an Ethernet cable, an Xbox Live silver subscription, and a component HD AV cable (which can also be used on non-HD TVs).

The console hardware is based on a custom IBM PowerPC-based "Xenon" central processing unit (CPU) and a custom ATI R500-based "Xenos" graphics processing unit (GPU). It is equipped with 512 MB of RAM and uses the DVD-ROM storage medium for Xbox 360 game software.Retail configurations and pricing

Microsoft's current retail strategy involves two different configurations of the Xbox 360 in most countries.

In United Kingdom and Europe, the console is available in two versions: an Xbox 360 SKU, frequently referred to as the "Xbox 360 Premium Package"; and an Xbox 360 Core System SKU. The Xbox 360 Premium Edition is being sold in America for $399.99.

Microsoft's decision has also allowed Japanese developers to fully utilize the hard drive to optimize game performance, since it is part of the default system configuration in their market. However because of the existence of a Core System edition, many games do not require a hard drive.

BusinessWeek magazine compiled a report which estimates that the total cost of all of the components in the "premium" bundle is $525 USD, aside from additional manufacturing costs, meaning that Microsoft is losing at least $126 on every Xbox 360 system sold in the US, and at least as much in Japan. The strategy of selling a console at a loss or near-loss is common in the console games industry, as console makers can usually expect to make up the investment with revenue from game licensing.

Xbox 360: Hardware Specification Drilldown

  • The central processing unit (CPU), named Xenon (Microsoft) or Waternoose (IBM) is a custom IBM triple-core PowerPC-based design.  
  • The graphics processing unit (GPU) is a custom ATI R500-based "Xenos".  
  • Memory: 512 MiB 700 MHz GDDR3 RAM (Total system memory is shared with the GPU via the unified memory architecture.)  
  • Overall System Floating-Point Performance: 115 GFLOPS theoretical peak performance for CPU; 1 TFLOPS theoretical peak performance of CPU and GPU combined.  
  • Audio: All games support at least six channel (5.1) Dolby Digital surround sound; Supports 48 kHz 16-bit audio; 320 independent decompression channels; 32 bit processing; 256+ audio channels; No voice echo to game players on the same Xbox console; voice goes only to remote consoles; Voice communication except during games or applications that do not support voice; Uses XMA codec (advanced audio technology from Microsoft).  
  • Video: VC-1 at non-HD NTSC and PAL resolutions; VC-1 or WMV will be used for streaming video; VC-1 supports DVD quality and high definition quality video; Bink Video is licensed for games like Project Gotham Racing 3; additional MPEG2 decoder for DVD video playback.  
  • DVD drive: A 12X DVD-ROM SATA drive, capable of reading DVD+R/RW discs, is part of the console, with game titles shipping on single or dual-layer DVDs. The other supported formats are: CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-R/RW, WMACD, MP3CD, and JPEG Photo CD.  
  • Xbox 360 games are set to the standard 7.95GiB of storage available on a dual-layer DVD. Due to the limited space of standard DVDs, some games made for the system may span multiple discs, although procedural generation of textures and models (as seen in the PC game .kkrieger) may reduce the need for multiple discs. The Nintendo Revolution will use a proprietary disc of similar capacity while the PlayStation 3 will have the ability to use 25GB or 50GB Blu-Ray Discs.  
  • Physical characteristics: Weight 3.5 kg (7.7 lb); 30.9 cm (L) x 25.8 cm (W) x 8.3 cm (H) (12.15 x 10.15 x 3.27 in).
Xbox: Backward compatibility

The Xbox 360 achieves backwards compatibility through software emulation of the original Xbox hardware. Games have minor graphical enhancements due to being rendered in 720p resolutions with Anti-Aliasing enabled. Some games have slightly improved draw distance, possibly due to the system's greater memory bandwidth.

A hard drive is required to enable backwards compatibility. Hard drives purchased separately or as part of the console package will include a certain number of "emulation profiles" for games, including Halo and Halo 2. Updated emulation profiles can be obtained through Xbox live, by burning a CD with content downloaded from, or by ordering an update disc from Microsoft at a nominal fee.

The list of backward compatible games for the U.S. market was released on November 11, 2005 and is maintained at Although the U.S. list includes over 200 games, fewer games are listed as backward compatible in the European markets. As of January 10, 2006, the Japanese Xbox site shows only 30.

Microsoft states that they will be adding more emulation profiles as they become available, with the intended goal of making the entire Xbox library playable on the Xbox 360. On 20 January 2006, Microsoft announced that it would be halting backward compatibility updates, at least until March 2006. Xbox Live

With the launch of the Xbox 360, Microsoft's online gaming service, Xbox Live went through a major upgrade adding a basic non-subscription service (Silver) to its already established premium subscription-based service (Gold). Xbox Live Silver is free of charge and allows users to create a profile, join on message boards, access to Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, and talk to other members. Silver members are not allowed to play any games online. Microsoft has also announced there will be trial weekends for Silver members to access the full features of Gold service temporarily.

Xbox Live Gold has the same features as Silver plus online game playing capabilities and video conferencing. However, video conferencing was not available when the console was first released. Microsoft has allowed for previous Xbox Live subscribers to maintain their profile information, buddy lists, and games history when they make the transition to Xbox Live Gold. To transition your account you have to sign up for a .net account on and link it with your gamer tag. Then when you turn on your 360 console you will be asked for your .net account and your information will transfer.

Source / more information:

Rate this article: 
No votes yet