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Ben Heck ponders Xbox 360 Slim: Motherboard, Memory Unit support, internal hard drive


Full image after break
In light of recent Xbox 360 hardware news, like pictures revealing an alleged Xbox 360 Slim motherboard and documentation of USB storage in a future update, we decided to see if the two stories tied together in some technical way. Surprisingly, they just might. Modding artist, hardware sculptor and warranty wrecker, Ben Heck, told us that if the leaked Slim motherboard is legitimate, not only does he see no place for memory cards (lending even more credence to USB storage for data transfer), but he dropped on us the idea that it may also have an internal hard drive. To emphasize, this conversation is speculation based on potential evidence that has not been confirmed by Microsoft.

Joystiq: Okay, before we go any further, explain this internal hard drive theory?

Ben Heckendorn: Well if you look at the upper left of the board, there appear to be (2) SATA connections. One is clearly for the DVD-ROM, of course, but what's the other one for? My guess is an internal hard drive. How it connects I'm not sure, but why else have 2 SATA connectors? Also there's an extra plug that could be hard drive power (next to DVD power).

Now, after looking at the board, you said you were "99 percent sure" there are no Xbox 360 memory card slots. Please explain.

None of the connectors look remotely like an Xbox 360 memory card reader [Ed: See one after break]. Keep in mind the memory cards were kind of a "Trojan horse" to have a hard drive-less (cheap) 360 back in 2005. Now, especially with built-in memory since the Jaspers, they are essentially useless. Why waste money and space on adding something none of your new customers will even need?

Of note: The memory cards were basically USB devices, except they ran off 3.3 volts and had security chips to authenticate them, as do all Xbox 360 peripherals.

Xbox 360 Memory Unit reader
Internal optical audio, that's new, right?

Yes in all likelihood that's what the black thing at the middle top is. So it'll be like the PS2 / PS3 in this regard. The 360's A/V plug has had optical audio connections all along but the connector itself would be in the cable / dongle. Seems kind of pointless considering HDMI has audio, but maybe audiophiles dig that stuff, who knows.

Where's the HDMI port?

Probably stacked under or on top of the A/V connector, as it is with current 360s.

Is it possible that "Not sure" could be the Natal connector? Or will that be wireless?

Well to work with existing 360s Natal will be USB-based. I highly doubt it would be wireless as a) it's not meant to be moved b) it would then require batteries c) that would increase the cost, even though it'll still probably be $100 -- the "it's only gonna be $50" crowd is nuts.

I also highly doubt Natal would be built into this new unit, but it could be bundled with one. I expect a brand relaunch almost.

Ben Heck imagines the Xbox 360 Slim
Theorize about the "Not sure" things in the top left of the motherboard.

I'm not sure if they're connectors. The motherboard seems to appear THROUGH them, not reflected off them. They look more like bent pieces of metal, not solid boxes. I would then guess some sort of cheapy heatsink, but again it's nowhere near the power input.

The alleged 16GB limit on USB storage. Is that an artificial limit, or does that have to do with "FAT32 HDD structure"?

FAT32 tops off around 2 TB I believe. However most IDE hard drives ran into a different barrier based off the number of bytes they could use for sector addressing (limited it to 130 gigs for a while)

However the Xbox doesn't use FAT32, or NTFS, rather some weird hybrid of the two. Biggest limit is probably cost, don't 16 gig flash USBs run at least $75? [Ed: Amazon turns a couple up for as little as $28]

Speaking of costly, the Xbox 360 WiFi adapter costs a pretty penny. Do you see internal WiFi on here?

Nothing that screams out WiFi. The photo isn't good enough resolution to pick up the antenna connectors (if any, I'm guessing no) and there don't appear to be any daughterboards for it either (as with the Wii). It is possible, but highly unlikely, that the mystery pieces of bent metal are the antenna but that would be really weird. In almost anything I've ever seen a pair of antenna are splayed out from the WiFi, either around the case (PS3 / Wii) or around the screen (DS, or a laptop)

It is pretty weak that the 360 STILL doesn't have WiFi when everything else does, but I imagine they are going for cheapness over features. I could see this puppy, with hard drive built-in, dropping for $250 or maybe even $200. PS3 is catching up and MS will have to do something.

Also considering there are very few components around the power jack this thing will still use an external brick a la the PS2 Slim.

So, how big do you think the Xbox 360 Slim would be, based on the specs of the motherboard?

This new MB is appx 8.35" wide X 7.8" high.

The old MB was 10.25" X 8.25.

However, considering they still need the DVD drive in there and that's not going to magically shrink much (slot loading a la Wii doesn't make it much smaller, especially on the X Y since a disc is always 4.715" diameter) overall size reduction probably won't exceed 1" on height (standing) and possibly very little to .5" on depth (standing)

It's hard to gauge thickness from this photo, but I could see it being slightly thinner than an existing 360. They could mount the DVD lower than it is currently, since there's no pesky overheating GPU / heatsink under it now.

Thank you, Ben!

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