iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Microsoft Xbox 360

Modifications and Configurations of the Console

We should mention that the same retail versions of Xbox 360 may differ a little depending on a region. For example, European versions of the Xbox 360 include a 5M RCA adapter (component connection) for the popular European connector SCART. And Xbox 360 for Australia and New Zealand lacks a headset for voice communication with other owners of the Xbox 360.

When the sales began, Microsoft offered two modifications of the Xbox 360:

Xbox 360 (Premium System or Premium Package)

A more expensive bundle that already includes a number of accessories to be sold separately.

  • Xbox 360
  • HDD for Xbox 360 (20 GB; 13 GB of them are available to users)
  • A single wireless gamepad with an adapter for two AA batteries
  • Component HD AV cable (1 Xbox 360 Multi AV Out — 5M RCA Video + 2M RCA Audio + 1 S/PDIF Out)
  • Wireline headset for Xbox Live! services
  • LAN cable (Ethernet)

The main functional difference of the more expensive Xbox 360 is its backward compatibility with the Xbox right "in the box", you don't have to buy a HDD.

Exterior of the more expensive Xbox 360 can be distinguished by a chromium-plated DVD tray.

Xbox 360 Core System

A more affordable bundle without practically all accessories in order to drop the retail price.

  • Xbox 360
  • A single wireline gamepad (3-meter cord)
  • Composite AV cable (1 Xbox 360 Multi AV Out — 1M RCA Video + 2M RCA Audio).

Here are the main functional peculiarities of the Xbox 360 Core System:

  • No backward compatibility with "boxed" Xbox — you can get it by purchasing Xbox 360 HDD
  • No way to output HDTV — you will have to buy one of HDTV cables (component or VGA)
  • No way to store user settings, profiles, and game saves — you should either add Xbox 360 HDD, or Xbox 360 Memory Unit.

You can identify a cheap modification of the Xbox 360 by a while plastic DVD tray.

Additional equipment

Together with the start of Xbox 360 sales, Microsoft offered a number of accessories to be sold separately of the two main bundles.

These Microsoft accessories can be divided into the following groups:

  1. accessories that come shipped in the bundles
  2. accessories that are not included into any retail bundle

Those accessories that are included into one of the bundles are italicized in the lists below.

Interface and communication devices

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller
Wireless gamepad (with an adapter to two AA batteries)

Xbox 360 Controller
Usual gamepad (3m cord)

Xbox 360 Headset
Usual headset (connected to a gamepad)

Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote
Remote control (compatible with Windows Media Center)

Xbox 360 Rechargeable Battery Pack
Special Ni-MH batteries (Nickel Metal Hydride) for a wireless gamepad

Xbox 360 Play & Charge Kit
Charger for the rechargeable battery pack to replenish batteries from USB (you can use a gamepad at that time). P'n'C Kit includes one Rechargeable Battery Pack

Xbox 360 Quick Charge Kit
A dock for quick charging the Rechargeable Battery Pack for wireless gamepads

Xbox Live Vision1
A video camera for Xbox 360 (for video conferencing (maximum resolution — 640x480) and for using your photos in games (resolution — 1.3 Mp))

Xbox 360 Wireless Headset1

Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel1
Wireless racing wheel with feedback (feedback works only when the wheel is connected to an external power source)

Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows1
It allows to use wireless accessories for Xbox 360 (gamepads, headsets, wheels) on PC.


Xbox 360 Composite AV Cable
This cable is for composite (SDTV) connection

Xbox 360 Component HD AV Cable
This cable is for component (Y, Pr, Pb; HDTV) and composite (SDTV) connections

Xbox 360 VGA HD AV Cable
A cable for the standard DB-15S VGA connectors (monitors and HDTV)

Xbox 360 S-Video AV Cable
A cable for S-Video (SDTV) and composite (SDTV) connectors

Xbox 360 Advanced SCART AV Cable
A cable for RGB-SCART connectors

Xbox 360 D-Terminal HD AV Cable
A cable for D-Terminal (HDTV/SDTV) and composite (SDTV) connections

Storage media

Xbox 360 Hard Drive
A hard drive for Xbox 360 (required for backward compatibility with Xbox; it allows to store game saves, demo versions, video clips, music, profiles, etc; minimal size - 20GB)

Xbox 360 Memory Unit
A memory card for Xbox (to store game saves and user profiles; minimal size - 64MB)

Xbox 360 HD DVD1
An external drive for reading HD DVD (HD DVD Video in particular)

Network equipment

Xbox 360 Wireless Networking Adapter
An adapter to connect to Wi-Fi networks.

Cosmetic accessories

Interchangeable face plates
They allow to personalize your console's exterior

1 — accessory is announced, but not yet available in stores.

Photos of the console





The CPU is designed by IBM and Microsoft specially for Xbox 360. It consists of three symmetric cores on a single die.

  • PowerPC with improved VMX extensions
  • Three symmetric cores on a single die
  • In-Order Execution
  • Each core executes two threads simultaneously (hyperthreading)
  • VMX-128 — improved VMX instruction set
    • 128 registers per thread (32 in VMX)
    • Additional commands for 3D graphics ("instructions for rotate and insert operations, pack/unpack instructions for handling Direct3D data types, and loads and stores for misaligned data")

  • 32 KB L1 D-Cache, 32 KB L1 I-Cache
  • 1 MB Shared L2 Cache
  • 3.2 GHz

  • 165 mln transistors

Process technology
  • 90nm (IBM)

External bus
  • Bandwidth: 21.6 GB/s1 (10.8 to CPU; 10.8 from CPU)


GPU has been designed by ATI and Microsoft specially for Xbox 360. It consists of two asymmetric cores in a single package.

The first core is responsible for pixel and vertex shaders and texturing; the second core is "smart memory" — 10 MB of high speed DRAM memory, supplemented with logic responsible for generating MSAA, blending pixels, and writing final rendering results into a frame buffer in system memory.

The main core (Shader Core)

  • Compliance with DirectX 9 SM3 requirements with a number of additional features (polygon tessellation, MEMEXPORT)

  • 48 universal pipelines (1 vec4 + 1 scalar ALU in each; dedicated unit for processing branches in shaders)
  • 16 texture sampling units with bilinear filtering
  • 16 texture sampling units without filtering

  • 500 MHz

  • 232 mln transistors

Process technology
  • 90nm (TSMC)

Secondary core (Memory Core)

  • size: 10 MB
  • Bandwidth of the interface between ROP and memory: 256 GB/s

  • ROPs
  • Rendering a frame in parts using a special algorithm that writes ready parts into a frame buffer in main memory
  • "Free" MSAA (16 gigasamples/s in MSAA 4x mode; averaging samples for writing the resulting pixel into a frame buffer in system memory)

  • 500 MHz

  • 105 mln transistors

Process technology
  • 90nm (NEC)

Other characteristics of the video system

Intercore bandwidth
  • 32 GB/s

Frame buffer fillrate
  • 4 gigapixel/s1 (8 pixel/cycle)

Frame buffer output format
  • HDTV (480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p2)
  • VGA4 (640x480, 848x480, 1024x768, 1280x720, 1280x768, 1280x1024, 1360x768)


  • UMA — unified memory architecture, CPU and GPU use the same memory

  • 512 MB GDDR3

  • 700 MHz DDR (effective frequency: 1400 MHz)

Memory bus bandwidth
  • 22.4 GB/s1 (1400 MHz, 128 bit)


  • CPU processed
    • Except for hardware decompression of WMA format in real time

  • 32-bit calculation precision
  • Over 256 channels
  • 320 independent unpack channels

Multi-channel audio
  • Games support Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Encoding multi-channel audio on the fly into DD5.1 to output via S/PDIF to an external receiver

Output formats
  • Stereo (analog)
    • 48 kHz / 16 bit

  • S/PDIF (digital)

Decoded audio formats
  • MP3
  • WMA
  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Output formats to external decoders
  • Audio encoding on the fly (interactive audio):
    • Stereo PCM + Dolby Pro Logic II
    • Dolby Digital 5.1

  • Pass-through to the external decoder:
    • Stereo PCM + Dolby Pro Logic II
    • Dolby Digital 5.1
    • DTS 5.1
    • Dolby Digital with WMA Pro

Data media

  • DVD-ROM reading speed: 12x
  • Intended to read game and video discs (DVD Video)
  • Maximum disc size: 8.5 GB (DVD-9 — single side, double layer)
  • Reading: DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, WMA CD, MP3 CD, JPEG Photo CD

Memory cards
  • They are used for storing game saves, user settings and profiles, and for transferring them to other Xbox 360 consoles
  • Special standard of memory cards, designed for Xbox 360
  • Minimal size: 64 MB

  • It's intended for storing game saves, user settings and profiles, and transferring them to other Xbox 360 consoles, as well as for storing downloaded games, music, trailers, new levels, demos, etc.
  • HDD is necessary for backward compatibility with Xbox (to play games for the first Xbox)
  • Minimal size: 20 GB.

Interface and communication devices

Input devices

  • Up to 4 wireless gamepads simultaneously
    • Connected via a special interface at 2.4 GHz
    • Guaranteed to work for 25 hours within 9 meters from the console (in case of the rechargeable battery pack)
      • Play and Charge kit to replenish batteries from USB

  • Up to three usual gamepads simultaneously
    • Connected via standard USB ports
    • 3-meter cord
    • Can be used with a PC

Remote control
  • It allows to control DVD Video playback, a TV set or a computer under Windows XP MCE, Xbox 360. Games can be controlled only partially
  • Works via the IR port

Mike and headphones
  • To talk to other owners of Xbox 360 in a network

Network features

  • 1 x 100BASE-TX RJ45 Ethernet (100 MB/s)

  • Wi-Fi (802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g) (54 MB/s maximum)

Ports and connectors

USB 2.0
  • 3 ports
    • 2 on the front panel, 1 on the rear panel

IR port
  • 1, front panel

Memory card slots
  • 2, front panel, special connector

HDD port
  • 1, at the side / on top, special connector

Power connector
  • 1, rear panel, special connector

Video and Audio Out jack
  • 1, rear panel, special format; supports the following cables:
    • Composite (SDTV) AV Cable.
    • Component HD AV Cable — a cable for component (Y, Pr, Pb; HDTV) and composite (SDTV) connections.3
    • VGA HD AV Cable for the standard DB-15S VGA connectors (monitors and HDTV).3
    • S-Video AV Cable for S-Video (SDTV) and composite (SDTV) connectors.3
    • Advanced SCART AV Cable.3
    • D-Terminal AV Cable to connect to D-Terminal (HDTV/SDTV) and composite (SDTV) jacks.3

A port for connecting a headset
  • One port on each gamepad

Physical characteristics

  • 3.5 kg

  • 30.9 cm x 25.8 cm x 8.3 cm (depth x width x height)

  • mat white

Other things
  • You can change the front panel (like faceplates in some cell phones)

1 — theoretical maximum.
2 — 1080p mode will be added after the software upgrade of Xbox 360 components in Autumn 2006.
3 — these cables output analog (stereo, 2 RCA) as well as digital audio (S/PDIF, DD5.1, optical cable for the receiver should be bought separately).
4 — the list of resolutions supported in case of a VGA connection changes depending on Xbox 360 Dashboard; we have published the list of resolutions available in Dashboard 2.0.2858.0.

Key dates

Announcements and other dates

13.05.2005 The official announcement of the console, Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, the USA
The official announcement about launching two console configurations — Xbox 360 and Xbox 360 Core System
Official announcement of the recommended retail price (MSRP) for the three main regions (North America, Europe, Japan)
15.09.2005 Announcement of release dates in the three main regions (North America, Europe, Japan)
04.10.2005 Announcement of three first party launch games (Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham Racing 3)
04.01.2006 Announcement of the external HD DVD drive for Xbox 360
09.05.2006 Announcement of a series of accessories for Xbox 360: Wireless Racing Wheel, Wireless Headset, Live Vision, HD DVD Player, Memory Unit (256 MB) and Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows.
06.06.2006 Grand update of Xbox 360 Dashboard (the key innovation: support for background downloads)

Release dates

22.11.2005 USA and Canada
02.12.2005 European Union
10.12.2005 Japan
02.02.2006 Mexico
24.02.2006 South Korea
16.03.2006 Hong-Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan
23.09.2006 India
29.09.2006 Australia and New Zealand

Release games

Release games are published for the three main regions: North America, Europe, and Japan. Exclusive Xbox 360 projects are italicized.

Game North America Europe Japan
Amped 3 -
Call of Duty 2 -
Condemned: Criminal Origins -
Every Party - -
FIFA '06: Road to FIFA World Cup
Kameo: Elements of Power -
Madden NFL 06 -
NBA 2K6 - -
NBA Live 06 -
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
NHL 2K6 - -
Perfect Dark Zero
Peter Jackson's King Kong -
Project Gotham Racing 3 -
Quake 4 -
Ridge Racer 6 -
Tetris: The Grandmaster Ace - -
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 -
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland -

The most popular games of this platform

Ratings of the most popular projects for Xbox 360 are taken from www.gamerankings.com, early October 2006 (we consider only those games that have 5 reviews or more).

These tops do not take into account mini games, sold via Xbox Live Arcade.

Top Ten Projects

Exclusive games are italicized.

Game Release date Average rating
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The 21.03.2006 94,0%
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 07.03.2006 90,9%
Call of Duty 2 16.11.2005 90,1%
Burnout Revenge 07.03.2006 88,7%
Project Gotham Racing 3 14.11.2005 88,3%
NBA 2K7 27.09.2006 87,2%
Dead or Alive 4 30.12.2005 85,9%
Dead Rising 08.08.2006 85,4%
Fight Night Round 3 20.02.2006 85,2%
Need for Speed Most Wanted 15.11.2005 83,3%

Exclusive Top Ten

Game Release date Average rating
Project Gotham Racing 3 14.11.2005 88,3%
Dead or Alive 4 30.12.2005 85,9%
Dead Rising 08.08.2006 85,4%
Saints Row 29.08.2006 82,7%
Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis 22.05.2006 82,6%
Perfect Dark Zero 15.11.2005 80,8%
Kameo: Elements of Power 08.11.2005 80,8%
MotoGP 06 13.06.2006 79,7%
Far Cry Instincts Predator 28.03.2006 77,5%
Ridge Racer 6 22.11.2005 75,4%

Recommended prices

Fluctuations of the recommended retail prices are tracked for the three main regions: North America, Europe, and Japan.

Date North America Europe Japan
Release date 299.99 / 399.99 USD 299.99 / 399.99 EUR n/a / 39.795 JPY

Sales dynamics

Sales volumes of this console are monitored for the three main regions: North America, Europe, and Japan.

We use here the official data on console shipments to certain markets.

Date North America Europe Japan Total
Release date 0 0 0 0
31.12.2005 - - - 1.5 mln
30.03.2006 - - - 3.2 mln
30.06.2006 - - - 5.0 mln

All articles about this console


Danil Gridasov (degust@ixbt.com)
October 17, 2006.

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