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Joystiq Holidaze: explaining the Xbox 360 SKUs

Ross Miller

We'd love to say picking up Xbox 360 is as easy as going to the store and grabbing the first box with the console's name on it. For better and worse, this generation of consoles gives consumers many choices at the (potential) expense of causing confusion at the store.

So it's with this in mind that we present you this handy guide for discerning the difference between the various Xbox 360 versions (aka SKUs) out there. Please note that the red and green coloring is not only festive decor for the holiday season but also a subjective highlight of what each version excels in (or subsequently lacks).

Elite Halo
Pro Arcade Core
Price $449.99 $399.99 $349.99 $279.99 $199.99*
Storage 120GB HDD 20GB HDD 20GB HDD 256MB
memory card
Color Black Green/Orange White White White
HDMI port Yes Yes Certain models** Yes Certain models**
Bundled Accessories
Ethernet cable Yes Yes Yes No No
Headset Wired Wired Wired No No
Play &
Charge Kit
No Yes No No No
Video cables HDMI 1.2,
Composite Composite
Controller Wireless Wireless Wireless Wireless Wired
Xbox Live Silver,
1 Month Gold
1 Month Gold
1 Month Gold
1 Month Gold
Yes Yes Yes No*** No***


* The Core model has been discontinued. The $199.99 price tag is based on the GameStop refurbished price.
** See explanation below
*** Hard Drive required

And just in case you still have questions, we've gone ahead and written up a F.A.Q. after the break.

I've got to ask some rhetorical questions, can you help me out?

Of course, just like this, in fact.

Awesome! Thanks!

No problem.

Zephyr, Falcon, Jasper ... Can you explain all these different chipsets?

Zephyr is the name giving to the first upgrade of the Xbox 360's motherboard, which started showing up in retail consoles July 2007, and sported an HDMI 1.2 port and an improved heatsink.

The Falcon chipset will sport a smaller, 65nm CPU -- theoretically, this means cooler temperatures and less energy usage. These chips are expected to find their way into consoles by the end of this year. The rumored Jasper chipset isn't expected until August 2008 and will reportedly feature a smaller, 65nm GPU.

Except for checking for an HDMI port (included in all Zephyr and later chipsets), there is no easy way to tell which chipset you have.

Why not?

Because Microsoft isn't interested in telling you, that's why.

Okay, fine, but how do I tell if my Xbox 360 console has an HDMI port?

All Elite, Halo Edition, and Arcade models come equipped with HDMI port because they were manufactured starting after Zephyr was introduced. The Pro and Core models all have HDMI if they were produced after July 2007, and the best and only way to tell is by looking at the box (see the picture to the right).

What if I'm buying my Xbox 360 used and I can't check the box?

Then you can look at the console itself. An HDMI port should be found under the giant proprietary A/V. Use the picture below for reference.

Why isn't the Core or Arcade model backwards compatible?

A hard drive is required for backwards compatibility, both for holding the emulation software and to act as a storage space for original Xbox games to use (remember, the original Xbox had a hard drive). It's important to remember that if you buy an Arcade or Core SKU and want to be backwards compatible (or just store more than 256 MB), all you need to do is buy an HDD from Microsoft.

Can I beat you in Halo 3?

Probably, but you'll have to catch us first!

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