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The Xbox 360 Elite is official, HDMI and 120GB for $479

We can't honestly say we didn't see this one coming after spotting it in magazines and internet leaks for months. Introducing -- officially this time, mind you -- the Xbox 360 Elite! The Elite, as we already know, features an HDMI port, a 120GB hard drive, and comes in a new black color and will be in stores on April 29th for $479.99 (€479.99/£349.99). What we didn't know: the Elite is not a limited-edition product; this will be a permanent, third SKU. The Elite will come with an HDMI cable -- which it proudly declares on its packaging -- in addition to a cable used to transfer data from your existing hard drive over to the new one. It will use the "same components" as the existing Xbox 360 consoles, no cooler running 65nm processors here.

The 120GB hard drive will be available at retail for $179.99. Black wireless controllers, black battery packs, and black Play & Charge kits will also be available at retail for the same price as their white counterparts.

Gallery: Xbox 360 Elite | 15 Photos

We had a chance to speak with Microsoft's Albert Pinello, who was able to answer many of our outstanding questions about the Elite. First, current Xbox 360 owners eager to connect their 360 using HDMI will be dismayed to learn that the HDMI connection "can not be adapted back to the existing consoles." The Elite also does not include an integrated WiFi solution. When asked why, Pinello offered the Xbox company line of "choice." Citing the bandwidth limitations of 802.11a, b, and g, Pinello suggested that consumers interested in the Elite would have undoubtedly prefer their own solution, a claim we would have to refute.

Why a whole new SKU? Microsoft had no interest in replacing the Pro's 20GB drive with a 120GB drive. Pinello agreed, "For a new customer who's coming in who wants that 120, if we didn't have Elite in the market, he would have been forced to make a choice that I think would have been less than optimal." Microsoft is positioning the Elite as a niche product designed for a small subset of gamers interested in the increased storage demands of the Xbox Live Video Marketplace (and possibly the IPTV service) and the HDMI output. It's also a bullet-point battle, adding twice the hard drive capacity and matching the HDMI-functionality of the 60GB PlayStation 3 model.

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