The Xbox 360 is getting to be a better deal all the time. Hot off the news of a price drop, Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox 360 Premium--which now retails for $350--now includes an HDMI output. The confirmation comes after Shacknews posted photos of a newly purchased Xbox 360 with the telltale port, essentially proving that the rumored upgrade was already available in stores.
So what's the big deal? HDMI provides a single-cable, all-digital connection to compatible HDTVs and AV receivers, delivering far fewer wires, higher quality, and better 1080p compatibility than the combination of component video and analog or digital audio cables. (More on component versus HDMI.) HDMI is available on all PlayStation 3 models, but Microsoft had previously made it a step-up feature, requiring users to purchase the more expensive Xbox 360 Elite, which debuted just a few months ago.
Do the new 360s also include the cooler-running 65nm CPUs and quieter DVD drives that have also been long-rumored? Microsoft isn't saying. When interviewed by GameSpot, the company representative said only, "We are constantly updating the console's more than 1,700 internal components and therefore will not comment on details of specific components or manufacturing processes." The new CPUs are a crucial detail: the current heat-intensive 90nm chips are said to be a major contributor to the Xbox 360's high failure rate, which has dogged the popular console with a high return rate and accompanying customer service headaches.
The HDMI-equipped 360s have already begun to hit the retail channel. They're distinguishable from their HDMI-less predecessors by an HDMI logo on the box. (Online shoppers, presumably, may need to haggle with their e-tailer of choice to guarantee an HDMI-enabled model.) Microsoft further stressed that it "has not announced any plans" to add HDMI to the $280 Xbox 360 Core system. That's yet another reason to avoid that entry-level model; unlike the other three Xbox 360 models (the $350 Xbox 360 Premium, $400 Xbox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition (due in September), and the $450 Xbox 360 Elite), the Core system lacks a hard drive, wireless controller, and--now--HDMI output.
So, is it time for you to finally pick up an Xbox 360? The price drop and HDMI output is certainly a nice one-two incentive, especially with the likes of Bioshock and Halo 3 hitting in just a few weeks. But savvy shoppers looking for an even better deal might want to hold out until later this year, until we find out when (or if) we'll see that cooler--and presumably more stable--CPU.