In the previous installment about video game consoles, we covered the origin of Sony’s PlayStation, the current models, and what they do. This time around, we’ll go over Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

If you’re wondering what the differences are between all the brands, you’ve come to the right place. So hang on to your game controller as we tackle Part Two of “Video Game Consoles: Which one should you buy?”

Xbox 101
Microsoft was considered a late comer in the game industry and didn’t offer its version of a video game console until 2001 with its Xbox. By then the field was led by Sony’s PlayStation, and Nintendo’s GameCube.

When the Xbox first arrived on the scene, it sported several milestones such as the first video console to offer an onboard hard disk drive, the first one to offer Dolby Interactive Content Encoding Technology that allowed real-time audio rather than going to pre-recorded playback while playing, and a superior integrated online gaming service called Xbox Live that allowed members to play interactive games with each other via a broadband connection.

The original Xbox was discontinued in 2007 in the United States and was replaced by the next generation machine, the Xbox 360.

Xbox 360
The successor to Microsoft’s video game empire, the Xbox 360, was released in November 2005 and is still sold to this day. The new addition to the Xbox family improved its performance by running on a Xenon triple-core processor with an ATI Xenos graphics processing unit. The new Xbox 360 offered a redesigned game controller, was configurable with a 20, 60, 250, or 320GB hard disk drive, and a new case design.

A controversy overshadowed the reliability of the Xbox 360 early on and was known as the infamous “Red Ring of Death” or RROD syndrome. Significant numbers of Xbox 360 owners reported a circle of red LEDs around the circumference of the power button. This status warning meant a serious problem had occured with the machine and could only be fixed by sending it in for repairs. The system failure was later traced to a flaw with the Xbox 360's design, which lacked proper internal ventilation, thus overheating the electronics.

Microsoft denied that it was a widespread problem but as the incidents approached epidemic proportions, the company acquiesced and extended the warranty of the Xbox 360 for an additional three years at no charge. Since then, the machine has been revamped and is very dependable and has undergone several major internal improvements to its electronics and case design.

It has been featured in “slim” editions, and now has a motion sensing accessory called Kinect, which allows players to use their entire bodies to interact with certain game software.

For many Xbox 360 fans, the appeal of the Xbox 360 is in its strong online gaming community where tens of thousands of individuals participate in multiplayer games around the world. The genre of “shooters” is the most popular of all multiplayer games and friends often form their own teams to compete against other gamers.

While the Xbox 360 offers a great solo game experience, much of its allure stems from its social gaming network, Xbox Live. It costs $60 for a full year’s subscription for the Gold Membership. For those who don’t engage much in multiplayer games, there is a free Xbox Live Silver membership.

Who will buy it?
For anyone who loves to interact with others on social networks, the Xbox 360 experience is probably second to none as far as its vast multiplayer gaming community. The Xbox 360 has an extensive game library, solid performance, strong multiplayer support, and great graphics.

So for those looking for a solid game machine with a huge community of online opponents, the Xbox 360 should be at the top of their list.

Next time
We'll conclude this series and cover the video game machine that no one thought would be a success: the Nintendo's Wii. Until then, keep on gaming!

Frank Ling is the National Technology Examiner for He is a writer, professional photographer, and video editor. One of his all-time favorite jobs was working at a large video game publisher as a QA trainer for testing game software.

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