Inside the Xbox 360 Elite
04/19/07 We were fortunate enough to find one at our local Wal-Mart here in Minneapolis. Wal-Mart seems to be the shop of choice with eBay sellers as well, we did a search for 360 elite in hand and well you can see the results Here. A bit surprising since to day is 04/19/07 and the release date is scheduled for ten days from now. We have had a chance to crack it open and document some of the differences between the Elite and the original Xbox 360.
Next, I wasted no time in removing the CPU and GPU heat sinks as I was dying to know if they had implemented the anticipated 65nm CPU core. Both the CPU and GPU both sport different revision information on the chips but its hard to say whether or not 65nm has been implemented. One of the more interesting observations that seems to point to lower power consumption implying a possible 65nm core is the fact that there are some capacitors and transistors that have been removed on this revision of board. Many speculate that because the die is not smaller its not the new core. One argument against this theory is this; if the power requirements drop by half and the die size surface area to dissipate heat is decreased by half; it really is not more thermally efficient. There is a good article at overclockers.com about this topic here. It makes sense to actually change the transistor size but keep the larger die. But still... its all speculation and hopeful thinking.
Is it truly a 65nm core? I wouldn't put my neck out and say it is for certain but what little inspection we have done seems to point to a possibility it is. When we get more time I would like to measure the power consumption of this unit verses the original box. Aside from removing the die from the wafer and measuring transistors with a microscope (yeah right) I don't know how we will know unless someone can confirm the revision information of the chip itself or Microsoft confirms.
One a side note, we all had a good belly laugh here at the shop when we saw Microsoft's most creative measures to minimize the dreaded Xbox 360 3 flashing red lights "ring of death" error caused by poor BGA connections of the CPU and GPU. It seems that that the good ol' a dab will do ya methodology applies here. Take a look at the epoxy surrounding the CPU and GPU which is intended to prevent the BGA connection from popping as the board warps. This has to be one of the funniest things I have ever seen. Will it do the job, we have our doubts, but it will remain to be seen. It certainly seems like taking the easy way out instead of fixing the real problem.
Take a look at the animated gif below and note the lack of the yellow capacitors above the GPU and CPU and the fact that there is half as many transistors on the right hand side of the board where most of the voltage regulation goes on. This seems to be most telling sign of a possible new core.
If you would like to see individual hi-res photos here they are: elite board original board
One of the most important and sought after addition to the Xbox 360 Elite is the new 120 GB HDD. Finally some space to save all of the paid content your heart desires. We disassembled the drive and found a Fujitsu MHW2120BH 120GB drive inside. Our initial attempts at dumping sector 16 using The Specialist's hddhacker application was not a success. It appears that the tool does not yet support the new 120GB drive. Without the sector 16 you will not be able to upgrade your stock 20GB drive to 120GB the cheap way. We will keep you posted on any changes to this situation.
We welcome the return of our good
old friend the chrome hard drive caddy spacer. Our last few Xbox 360's
sported a grey plastic piece instead of the chrome which was very disappointing
to us as it was much uglier.
Last but certainly not least is the key upgrade to the system; the HDMI port. This was the major let down of the Xbox 360 launch and a key difference between the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Finally the wait is over for those who want true 1080p without using the washed out VGA connection or dont have a TV with VGA or a 1080p compatible component input. There has been a million pictures of the HDMI port and HANA the HDMI scaler chip but here's a couple more for good measure.
Just to one up Sony and the PS3, Microsoft actually includes a HDMI cable with the Xbox 360 Elite; and a pretty nice one at that! Thanks Microsoft!
This is the audio breakout dongle included with the elite as well for those who want or need digital optical or analog audio outputs.
In our opinion the Xbox 360 Elite is the best value in gaming to date. Not only do you get the 120GB hard drive and HDMI port but Microsoft spares no expense and included a nice HDMI cable AND the original HD/SD combo cable. This truly was a surprise to see both cables included with the Elite and is very appreciated. The black case, controller and accessories are very sexy. Microsoft has a winner with the Xbox 360 Elite!