The current Xbox 360 has made some serious improvements over previous Xbox 360 consoles, reviews say, especially in the area of reliability. It's also become a formidable set-top box for video streaming. But the Xbox 360 still can't play back Blu-ray Discs. A newer Microsoft video game console -- the Microsoft Xbox One (Est. $500) -- corrects that deficiency, adds other impressive media features and sports much more powerful gaming hardware. However, it can't play Xbox 360 games and its own game library remains very thin.
Looks great, works better. The Microsoft Xbox 360 finishes a close second behind the Sony PlayStation 3 (Est. $200 and up) when it comes to graphics prowess, and well behind the current-generation Sony PlayStation 4 (Est. $400) and Microsoft Xbox One, but that doesn't mean that things don't look pretty darn good on the screen. Games have intricate detail and rich, vivid colors. Load times are quick enough, and game play is generally smooth.
The biggest operational improvement in the current Xbox 360 is its stability. Previous Xbox 360s were prone to overheating, which led to the dreaded "red ring of death" -- a general system failure that causes the Xbox's power light to glow red -- that's been the source of lots of user complaints as well as a class-action lawsuit. Reviewers say this should be less of a problem with the Xbox 360 Slim, and owner feedback bears that out. A large reason for that improvement is a larger fan and redesigned venting system to prevent overheating. However, the Xbox 360 Slim is still prone to hot temperatures; Engadget.com reviewers say their console was "burning hot to the touch."
Despite the revamped fan, the Xbox 360 is a pretty quiet performer. "When idle, the 360 is almost absolutely silent, and when running its disc drive, the console is barely noticeable with minimal volume," Jeff Bakalar writes at CNET.
The game library is top-notch, as is online gaming, but other consoles have closed the gap, and the latest Xbox One and Sony PS4 have blown right by it. The Xbox 360 still has a selection of games that are exclusive to it, as does the PS3, so the key to which video game console is right for you could boil down to which one offers exclusive games that are your must-haves. One source of griping is that online gaming requires a subscription to Xbox Live Gold (Est. $5 per month). If you are considering the Xbox One instead, keep in mind that the newer console can't play Xbox 360 games.
Look, ma, no Blu-ray. The Xbox 360 lacks a Blu-ray Disc player, but its optical disc can play back DVDs and CDs. The Xbox 360 is DLNA compliant, so you can stream content stored on a networked computer, and Microsoft offers a large Xbox Video store. Purchased or rented content from the Xbox Video store can be watched on any device -- tablet or smartphone. A SmartGlass app lets users send purchased content from their mobile device to their Xbox 360 and use their smartphone or tablet as a second screen for related interactive features.
There's a ton of streaming content available via the Xbox 360, but you'll need a subscription to Xbox Live Gold to get to most of it. Virtually all major video-streaming partners are represented, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, CinemaNow and more. If you have a subscription from a participating cable provider, you can also access content from premium channels such as HBO and Epix. On the sports front you'll find MLB.TV, NBA Game Time and ESPN. Subscribers to Comcast or FiOS can even use their Xbox 360s in place of normal cable set-top boxes, albeit with some limitations.
The nicest Xbox yet. "The redesigned Xbox 360 has the same horsepower, game library, and rich online experience as previous Xbox 360 models, but contains several key tweaks and improvements -- inside and out -- that make it the best Xbox yet," Jeffrey Wilson writes at PCMag.com. The new gaming console is smaller and sleeker than previous Xbox consoles, and it's outfitted in a glossy black finish with touch-sensitive buttons. The console comes with a wireless controller, headset and composite AV cable.
The Xbox 360 is currently available with either 250 GB or 4 GB of storage, on its own or in bundles with the Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect voice- and gesture-control peripheral (Est. $100) and/or select games.
CNET gives the Xbox 360 an Outstanding rating. Jeff Bakalar says the Xbox 360 is quieter and less prone to overheating than its predecessor. Although he doesn't think it's a mandatory upgrade if you own a previous-generation Xbox, Bakalar says the console has improved.
Review: Microsoft Xbox 360 Slim, Jeff Bakalar, June 24, 2010
The Xbox 360 earns an Excellent rating from PCMag.com, and Jeffrey Wilson calls it "the best Xbox 360 yet." Although he gives it a positive review, Wilson says the PlayStation 3 remains the site's Editors' Choice winner, and the 2012 refresh of that console retains that recognition.
Review: Xbox 360 (250GB), Jeffrey L. Wilson, Nov. 22, 2011
The Xbox 360 earns a Recommended label from Britain's TrustedReviews.com. Hugo Jobling says the console is "the best Xbox Microsoft has made thus far," and he appreciates the new features, including integrated Wi-Fi. A separate review also gives the Recommended label to the Kinect, though it's noted that the motion controller won't appeal to hard-core gamers.
Review: Microsoft Xbox 360 250GB Review, Hugo Jobling, Feb. 17, 2012
The Xbox 360 receives 4 stars out of 5 and a Recommended rating from DigitalTrends.com. Ryan Fleming says the built-in Wi-Fi is long overdue but a welcome upgrade, and that the Xbox is quieter and cooler as well. "If you are looking for a new console and Blu-ray isn't your thing, then you won't be disappointed with the redesigned Xbox 360," he writes.
Review: Microsoft Xbox 360 Slim Review, Ryan Fleming, June 19, 2010
Sean Hollister says the Xbox 360 is more stylish and energy-efficient than previous versions, but he doesn't think it is worth an upgrade for current users. Still, he says it is "the best Xbox 360 ever made, bar none."
Review: New Xbox 360 250GB Review, Sean Hollister, July 2, 2010
Wired gives the Xbox 360 an overall rating of 8 out of 10. Like most reviewers, Terrence Russell says it is not a must-upgrade for current Xbox owners, although it is much improved over previous generations.
Review: Microsoft Xbox 360 Slim , Terrence Russell, Sept. 2, 2010
Various versions and bundles of the Xbox 360 gather hundreds of reviews at BestBuy.com. The base 4G Xbox 360 earns more than 200 on its own, with a 4.5 star rating. Around 93 percent of reviewers say that they would recommend it to a friend.
Review: Xbox 360 Consoles, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of March 2014