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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.

Xbox 360 Elite Retail Box   After much fan fair, false information, bogus reports, speculation, denial of existence and all sorts of forum chatter; the eagerly anticipated Xbox 360 Elite has become a reality.  It sports a HDMI port, 120 GB Hard Drive, black case and accessories and some other minor hardware changes which we will discuss later.  One thing that remains speculation for the moment is the existence of the sought after 65nm CPU.  While the CPU and GPU do have different revision information it is hard to say whether or not it is in fact 65nm.  There are other subtle hardware differences that could elude to it being a 65nm core which we will discuss later.  Now onto the nuts and bolts.  One of our new 360 Elites goes under the knife and gets stripped of its sexy black shell and everything else.  What surprises to we have under the hood?

  For disassembly we wield our XCM 360 Case opening tool and start taking this Xbox 360 Elite apart.

Our first pleasant surprise is a Hitachi GDR-3120L FK78 DVD drive inside.  I was hoping not to see a BENQ drive as there are no flashing utilities available at the moment so there is no ability to replace the DVD drive or use this as a parts motherboard.  Extracting the drive key and flashing the firmware of this unit wont be a problem!

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.

Xbox 360 GPU Xbox 360 Elite CPU

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.

Xbox 360 Elite Hard Drive Xbox 360 Elite 120 GB Hard Drive

Xbox 360 Elite Fan Header   Once other small difference you will find is the fan header.  It has been switched from a 4-pin Molex Mini-Fit connector to a standard good old three pin fan header style connector.  This will render the Talismoon whisper fan useless without some sort of adapter.  Fortunately the Llamma has solved this issue already and has the adapters in stock ready to rock. Talismoon Whisper Fan Xbox 360 Elite Adapter
Get them at Shop Llamma here!

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.

Xbox 360 HANA HDMI Encoder chipXbox 360 HDMI Port

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!

Xbox 360 HDMI Cable

This is the audio breakout dongle included with the elite as well for those who want or need digital optical or analog audio outputs.

Xbox 360 Elite Digital Optical / Analog Audio Dongle

Xbo 360 Elite Black Headset   Xbox 360 Elite Black Controller

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!




See also
360 Elite Part 1
360 Elite Part 2
360 Elite Part 3

Xbox 360 3 Red Light Repair Kit

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Microsoft, Xbox, and the Xbox logos are registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp.  Llamma.com and Xbox-Repair.net are in no way affiliated with Microsoft.  All references to Modchips, Linux and any other forms of xbox modifications are done for the purpose of writing and testing interoperable software as allowed under Sect. 1201 (f) Reverse Engineering exception of the DMCA.  This site does not condone the illegal copying of games.  All advice/information is provided as is without warranty to accuracy. Do not consider any comments as legal advice, I am not a lawyer. All references to Mod chips should be taken as hypothetical in nature, actually installing a mod chip may be illegal. In simple terms don't sue me if you mess up on your own or with my help. Make your own decisions do the research determine what is legal and what is not, I take no responsibility for your actions.  
All photos and content copyright Llamma Corp. 2002

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