It’s kind of hard to be surprised with anything about the Xbox 360’s announcements as the specs have been all over the internet for the last few weeks. Tonight’s announcement was almost anti-climactic. The specs are still impressive though. Three symmetrical processors with two hardware threads is nothing to sneeze at (this means the unit can handle six tasks simultaneously). Combined with 512 MB of system memory and a 1MB cache there aren’t a lot of other devices out there that are packing that kind of processing power. Hell, even the video processing unit tops almost everything on the market right now. It will be interesting to see how well developers use this all to do something other than shinier, higher definition graphics.
Compared to ATI’s X850 XT card, the Xbox 360’s video processing power stacks up nicely. It’s clocked the same with a 500MHz processor but has three times the pipelines with 48. The fact sheet states that it has a 48-way parallel floating-point dynamically scheduled shader pipelines. It only has 10MB of embedded DRAM so it will most likely use ATI’s HyperMemory technology to share the 512MB of onboard memory. This reduces costs as you’re not producing video cards with expensive memory.
The fact that the device can also be skinned with new different skins has also been well documented but it looks like that feature will apply to both the inside and the outside of the box as users will be able to customize the look and feel of the Xbox menu structures. It’s a nice feature and it continues to push the customization concept. I also think we’ll see a lot of skins for sale on the Xbox Live Marketplace which will allow Microsoft to make money off of this feature.
Various companies sell Media Extenders but the Xbox 360 will be one right out of the box. You’ll be able to stream music and videos to your Xbox 360 if you are running an XP Media Center 2005. Access pictures that are stored on your server as well. You'll even be able to watch TV that's streamed to your console with DVR functionality. Combine with the Universal Remote, you’ll have a very nice TiVo like setup making the Xbox 360 a complete multimedia and gaming appliance.
I was really hoping that Microsoft would ship the 360 with built in wireless but it looks like gamers will have to purchase a separate unit or migrate the solution they have for their current Xbox. We’ll see if this is something they bundle in a premium package or not. I just hope they price it for less than they did the last adapter as $99 was a bit hard to justify.
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