Peter Brownstein / Technology / February 17th, 2009

XBOX 360 Purchase Guide

Lincoln recently sent an email to his sister, who was looking for information regarding buying an XBOX 360.  He decided to do some research on the subject, and along with his own experience, he put together a pretty good list of things to taking into account when looking to buy this console.  Many people probably already know a good deal on this list, however if you are completely new to XBOX 360’s and aren’t quite sure what to get, the following may be a great start for you:

  • There are a few “packages” of XBOXs, which I’ll cover below. The one you choose depends largely on how you plan to use the XBOX. If you plan playing games with other people online, you’ll need an XBOX live GOLD account, and probably a headset to talk to people. If you want to download movies or shows and watch them, you may want a larger hard drive to store stuff. (You can buy movies from XBOX Live, or if you have a NetFlix account you can access it through the service too – I’ve heard rave reviews about the Netflix deal.)
  • Things you shouldn’t worry about:
    • Every console comes with one wireless controller. You can buy more controllers for $50 retail each, and buy rechargeable battery packs if you want the convenience.
    • You’ll see a lot of confusing stuff about XBOX “silver” and “gold” accounts, and how “this console includes a silver account” or “one month free gold account”…. Ignore all of that. Anyone can create a silver account for free whenever they want (even do it over the web), and that will let you send messages to friends, and make a profile. Whenever you want, you can upgrade to GOLD for one month free. That lets you play games and download some premium content. If you want to keep the GOLD account, it’s $60 bucks for a full year. You can pay with your credit card right over the XBOX (also you can opt to have it “remember” your credit card, for future purchases).
  • Packages:
    •  XBOX 360 “Elite” Console (retail $400)
      • 120GB hard drive ($149 by itself)
      • HDMI Cable included
      • Headset included ($60 by itself)
      • This is the big boy, and it’s actually a good deal for what you’re getting. If you have a TV with a HDMI input and plan on doing movie downloads and playing games online, you may want to consider this one. The cable will give you a better picture, and you can use the extra Hard Drive space for storing stuff. Also note that this package usually comes with 2 games – currently they have one with LEGO Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda. I played the demo of both of those and they were pretty fun.
    • XBOX 360 “Pro” Console (retail $300)
      • 60GB Hard drive (half the size of the Elite)
      • HD AV cable (not HDMI) included
      • Headset included ($60 by itself)
      • This is what we bought when we got ours. It also comes with the same 2 games as the Elite. We’ve been happy with it for a while, but I will say that we’ve bought the HDMI cable since, and probably spent more cash on it. We also run out of Hard Drive space quite often. If I was to buy a system today, I would spring for the Elite. But, if you’re not planning on watching a lot of movies, consider this one. It’s totally legit.
    • XBOX 360 “Arcade” Console (retail $200)
      • 256 MB memory card (not 256GB hard drive!)
      • HD AV cable (not HDMI) included
      • No headset
      • Avoid this lump of crap. The memory card is barely enough to store your saved games. You WILL end up buying a larger drive, and spending more money on it. Also in Microsoft’s effort to produce a lower cost alternative, they skimped on the hardware. People have complained about games not working, the system overheating and failing, and the fans being louder than the other models. I only listed this here so you would know what NOT to get.
  • Final notes:
    • The XBOX Live arcade gives you access to TONS of old-school style games that are a lot of fun. You can often download them for free or for only 5 to 15 bucks. There are also lots of demos you can download and try out. When we got our XBOX, I spent the first 3 months just downloading free stuff and goofing around. Not only did this make the best use of my Live account, but it saved me from having to buy games at Best Buy for $60 a pop. I highly recommend just getting your GOLD Live account and seeing what you can do for free before buying any games.
    • If you have any specific games in mind (Like ROCK BAND), consider the possible added cost of the guitars or extra equipment you might need before buying the system. Same thing if you’re looking to buy a specific game, since they can be pretty expensive when they are new.
    • Once you decide what you want, if you’re not afraid to purchase online, I would recommend it. You can probably avoid around 10% of retailer mark-ups that way. I like simply checking for their lowest prices on “new” products. Don’t forget about the shipping charges when you’re comparing prices.