Microsoft unveils Xbox 360 Elite

Microsoft on Wednesday took the wraps off its Xbox 360 Elite, a new version of its video game console expected to hit stores at the end of April. The new version of the Xbox 360 will cost $479.99, still cheaper than Sony’s PlayStation 3.

The Xbox 360 Elite, widely rumored over the past several days on gaming sites, is an upgraded version of the original Xbox 360, featuring a black exterior, 120GB hard disk drive, High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port and high definition video cable. It also includes a matching wireless controller and Xbox Live headset.

The $479.99 price tag comes in $20 less than the PlayStation 3, and the hard drive is six times the capacity of current Xbox 360 models — enough to store a library of Xbox Live Arcade games and thousands of songs, as well as high-definition TV shows and movies downloaded from Xbox Live, according to Microsoft.

Xbox Live is Microsoft’s online service for Xbox and Xbox 360 owners. In addition to being the rallying point for Xbox users who want to play with each other in competitive or cooperative multiplayer games, the service also features a thriving “Marketplace” that enables users to purchase content they can download to their systems. For Xbox 360 owners, Xbox Live Marketplace provides demos, arcade games, additional content for commercial game releases, television shows and movies, and more.

The console is the third to emerge in Microsoft’s Xbox 360 family, after the $399 “standard” version and $299 “core system.” Both of those systems launched in November 2005.

To appease the yearnings of current Xbox 360 owners, Microsoft also plans to offer the 120GB hard drive separately as an accessory for existing Xbox 360’s, for $179.99.

When the Xbox 360 hit stores in November 2005 it was the first console to offer high-definition gaming although it’s now sharing that distinction with the PlayStation 3, which launched in November 2006. Both consoles are also battling with Nintendo’s Wii, which has proved surprisingly popular among consumers thanks to its innovative movement-sensitive controller. The Wii doesn’t offer high-definition.

IDG News Service’s Martyn Williams contributed information used in this report.

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