The Microsoft Xbox 360 video game console is a reviewer favorite, primarily because of its excellent graphics quality. If you're into online gaming and want to preserve backwards compatibility with older Xbox games, you'll want to spring for either the base version (*est. $300), which comes with a removable 60 GB hard drive, or the 120 GB Elite (*est. $400). Reviewers say both are better options then the Xbox Arcade (*est. $200), which has just 256 MB of storage and no hard drive at all. Older models of the Xbox 360 were plagued by general system failures -- the dreaded Red Ring of Death (RRoD), but design changes may have made those more of a bad memory. Either way, a retroactive three-year warranty against the RRoD (other problems are still only covered for one year) can add some peace of mind. If not, the Sony PlayStation 3 (starting at *est. $400 to $500) also offers excellent graphics, has a built-in Blu-ray disc player and hasn't been troubled by the same technical problems. However, game availability -- while better -- still lags, as does online gaming. If you're not a power user, the Nintendo Wii (*est. $250) with its motion-sensing remote draws rave reviews as a high-energy, family-friendly system that gets players up and moving.
Dozens of reviewers covered the Xbox 360 when it debuted, and several have covered subsequent refreshes. However, we found user ratings to be invaluable because these report on the kinds of reliability issues -- which are particularly critical when it comes to the Xbox 360 -- that professionals often miss. Among professional reviews, CNet stands out for its timeliness, though some older reviews are worthwhile as well.
CNet.com has the best of both worlds: a detailed and very recent expert analysis of the Microsoft Xbox 360 plus over 1,000 user reviews. Author Jeff Bakalar rates the Xbox slightly higher than the owners themselves do. He reports that system failures seem to have improved with the latest Xbox models.
Review: Microsoft Xbox 360 (60GB) review, Jeff Bakalar, Oct. 2008
More than 220 owners had posted their reviews at the time of our last visit, with a sizable percentage reporting on the system problems and "red ring of death" that has plagued the Xbox 360. Some experts say the problems affect mainly older consoles, and many (though by no means all) of the failure reports do seem to involve older versions.
Review: Xbox 360 Elite System Console reviews, Contributors to Amazon.com
PC Magazine has a decent but slightly dated write-up on the Microsoft Xbox 360, but much more extensive coverage of the step-up Xbox 360 Elite. According to author Brian K. Neal, "Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite wins the crown as the best gaming/media entertainment device available."
Review: Xbox 360 Elite Review, Brian K. Neal, Aug. 2007
Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera is a professional video game reviewer, and he writes about the Microsoft Xbox 360 from a gamer's perspective. Even though his impression of the Xbox 360 is primarily positive, he doesn't shy away from mentioning its shortcomings. While dated, this is one of the more detailed reviews available.
Review: Xbox 360: the Ars Technica review, Ben Kuchera, Nov. 2005