Buying an Xbox 360

We’ve noticed a growing number of our regular community members are talking about taking the plunge and purchasing an Xbox360. It can be a little bit confusing to stand in the retailer with a range of options and bundle deals in front of you. So, I’ve written this blog to help anyone thinking of buying or that has recently bought an Xbox 360 to get the most out of their purchase.

When you enter the shop to buy a 360 you will see all sorts of flavours, some with a hard drive, some without a hard drive and some with a bigger hard drive than those mentioned before with a hard drive. Confused? Yeah, that is why I am here to help.

When you buy a 360 you really do need a hard drive with it. Sure, you get a memory card with the arcade models but 256mb is not going to last you five minutes, let alone a generation’s worth of gaming. So, you want to go for the Elite model with the 120gig HDD right? Well no actually, I would still buy the arcade. You see the arcades models are usually the ones with the latest tech inside and are more likely to be the most reliable models. There is a simple way to tell and that is to look at the date of manufacture through the little hole in the box. With anything built in 2009 being a safe bet that you are getting the new Falcon or Jasper chipsets inside. These are redesigns of the original motherboard using smaller and cooler chipsets (central processing unit and graphics-processing unit) with the Jasper being the latest in the “shrinking” process. When taking it all out of the box a 12.1amp power “brick” (see label on the bottom) signals a Jasper model and you can relax knowing that the chance of that media hyped red ring of death happening to your new adoption is very slim indeed.

Another reason for purchasing the arcade model is that you can then buy a 120gig HDD separately. This means that in the unlikely event your 360 should malfunction and need to head off to Microsoft – you can keep your HDD and just send the console back in. If you purchase a 60gig or Elite model and it goes tits-up, then you are required to send the console and the HDD in together with no promises that your game saves will still be there when you get your system back. Having the arcade model also means you can back up your game saves on the 256mb memory card included and even take your gamer profile around to use on a mates 360 without having to spend 30 minutes downloading it to their console once you get there. It may work out a little more expensive though and if you cannot afford the seperate purchases then perhaps an Elite model is the next best thing.

Right, so you have the 360 arcade model and it is a little bare. Grab a 120gig drive to slap on that bad boy and start thinking about network connection. Are you planning to connect to the internet? If not then skip this paragraph. If so – then read on. You will face two options when connecting the 360 to the inter-webby-thing-a-ma-jib. The first is the cheap option where you simply use an Ethernet cable and plug one end into the console and the other end into your router/modem. The second is the expensive option where you buy a wireless adaptor that slips onto the back of the console and will set you back about fifty UK pounds. The advantage of Ethernet is simply a plug and play nature with no security codes and a stable connection. But should you have a strong Wi-Fi signal within the house and/or have kittens that like to chew wires, then the Wi-Fi adaptor will give you less tangles and more freedom to move the 360 from room to room. My 360 wireless connection has never dropped and the downloads are still very fast – as a warning email from BT pointed out this morning – so I download a lot of DLC and Xbox originals…..80gigs in less than a month? Whoops. You won’t really see a difference with either and should consider that for the price of the wireless network adaptor you could get two decent games.

On to games then and it is a known fact that the library on the 360 is simply bigger (not necessarily better). My advice for games would be: Halo 3; Project Gotham Racing 4; Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising; Mass Effect; Fable 2. Pretty much the best the 360 has to offer that cannot be found on the PS3. If you like real-time strategy then I would suggest Halo Wars too. The beauty of owning a 360 now is that all the good games are really cheap and can often be found in a 2 for £20 offer in any decent game shop. When purchasing the console mention which games you are interested in and don’t be forced to buy a bundle with games you know you are not going to play. A little hint – mention a friend told you about how he took out the stores insurance/extended warranty and was thankful for it. Don’t imply you are going to take the insurance but the assistant will be thinking of his staff bonus whilst aiming to get you the best deal.

A few weeks gaming and you are going to start thinking about rechargeable batteries to cut the cost of using those double A’s. Do yourself a favour and grab a quick charge kit when purchasing your 360. Most stores give discount on the accessories when purchased with “any other product” or any new game, take advantage of this. Do not go for the “Play and Charge” charging kits as they add a wire to your wireless pad and take an age to charge. With a quick charge kit you can simply put the battery in the charger when you finish gaming and it will be fully charged within two hours. Batteries charged in a quick charge kit tend to last around the thirty hour mark where “Play and Charge” kits will die around the twenty hour mark.

So there is some basic information to help you make your decision and hopefully save you money. Tomorrow I am going to post a blog on the things you should know your Xbox can do. I will also be creating an Xbox forum shortly and an announcement of the first game to receive the TSA Community Touch, as we appreciate the best of both worlds here. When somebody asks me which is the better console I usually reply that they are the ferrari and Porsche of the gaming world. One is not better than the other and simply provides a different experience in a familiar environment. Why not have both if you could afford it?