Microsoft reveals the Xbox 360

  • Posted May 14th, 2005 by Seb Hayes

Last night the MTV show "The Next-Generation Xbox Revealed” aired giving us the first official details and images of the next generation Xbox, the Xbox 360. Of course, the Xbox 360‘s name had been one of the worst-kept secrets on the planet for over a month.

Despite the fact work began on the console within months of the original Xbox's launch Microsoft have only now allowed for the official confirmation of the 360's existence something Microsoft barely alluded to until earlier this year.

Microsoft also released the first official pictures of the Xbox 360. One of which was already widely circulated last month. Elegant compared to the current Xbox, the console's exterior was created by two high-end industrial design firms in Osaka, Japan, and San Francisco. Like the PlayStation 2, the 360 can either lay flat or stand on its side. But while it will come in a white-silver color, its appearance will also be customizable, courtesy of a detachable faceplate. The console's dashboard will also be customizable, as will the pop-up guide described by Microsoft corporate vice president and chief XNA architect J Allard in his 2005 Game Developers Conference keynote speech.

Today also marked the release of the Xbox 360's technical specifications. As had been long-rumoured, it has a custom IBM PowerPC-based CPU with three symmetrical 3.2GHz cores capable of 9 billion dot product operations per second. It sports a 500MHz custom ATI Graphics Processor with 10MB of embedded DRAM, 48-way parallel floating-point dynamically scheduled shader pipelines, and a unified shader architecture capable of 48 billion shader operations per second. Its polygon performance is 500 million triangles per second, with a pixel fill rate of 16 gigasamples per second. The 360's unified memory architecture will rival that of a high-end PC, with 512MB GDDR3 RAM and 700MHz DDR. Overall, the console will be capable of a whopping teraflop of overall system floating-point performance.

Besides its processing prowess, the Xbox 360 will come with three USB 2.0 slots hidden behind a trapdoor for peripherals, and an infrared port that will work with any standard universal remote to control music and movies. It will also have both HD digital and standard audio-visual outputs, since all games will be supported at 16:9 widescreen at 720p and 1080i resolution, replete with antialiasing functionality.

The Xbox 360 will come standard with one wireless controller, which the console is optimized for. “With the rechargeable battery option, it will actually come with a cable. So if your battery low light comes up, you can plug the cable back in and continue gaming while you're trickle charging." Said cable would be USB, according to Allard, who did not say if the rechargeable battery option would cost extra. The standard controller will take two AA batteries.

The Xbox 360 controller has also been redesigned. The removable memory cards--now upgraded to 64MB in size--will be inserted into the console directly, allowing for a less-bulky controller. "It's lighter and smaller than the Xbox 1 controller," said Allard who confirmed rumours that Microsoft "moved the black and white buttons up to the shoulders." Each controller will have a jack compatible with any standard cellular phone headset that gamers can use as an Xbox Live headset. "Any standard cell phone headset may be used," said Allard "Plug it in. Boom! You're on [Xbox] Live. You're talking to your friends."

Speaking of Xbox Live, the unit will be "optimized for online play" out of the box. For the hardwired, it will sport a built-in Ethernet port like the original Xbox. For the wireless, it will be "Wi-Fi Ready" for 802.11 A, B, and G Wi-Fi capability, which will be available via a "connector pack that's a pack of gum size," according to Allard.

According to its spec sheet, the Xbox 360 will come with an external hard drive. But, contrary to rumours, the hard drive will only be 20 gigabytes, not the rumoured 40GB. As shown in previously leaked pictures, the 360's "outrigger" hard drive will snap into one end of the console, and can be removed and plugged into other 360s. "Let's say you're a Live guy and you've downloaded a whole bunch of premium content, ripped a whole bunch of music," said Allard. "You can bring it over and we can enjoy it at my house."

Besides its own multimedia capabilities, the ... (continued on next page)

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