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Xbox 360 Buyer's Guide:

Company: Microsoft

Remember the good old days where you could walk into the store, buy a system and it had everything included in the box? Two controllers, a nifty accessory to play certain games (i.e. the light gun), all the wires you'd ever need and even a game (gasp!)? Well, those days are long gone and now console purchases have become a little more complex, leading us to having to piece together guides like this one to help break it all down, so without further ado -- here's your guide to everything you'll need for your Xbox 360.

Before you buy anything else, you'll have to get the system. Even here, Microsoft has gone and made the purchase just a little more complex than just picking up a box labeled Xbox 360. Instead, you'll have to decide between two packs: the Premium Package and Core Package. Each pack is designed to reach a different sort of gamer. The Premium pack is designed for the hardcore gamer and includes a ton of accessories (which are detailed below) for turning your 360 into an entertainment hub, while the Core is meant more for the casual gamer who really just wants to play games and that's about it.

Xbox 360 Premium Package

The Premium pack is the pricier of the two kits and costs $399. While the price may seem steep, the number of additional items that come packed in with the system are worth more than the $100 price jump over the Core pack (which retails for $299). With the Premium Package you get:

  • Xbox 360 Game Console

  • Xbox 360 20GB Removable Hard Drive
    The current Xbox included an internal hard drive in all systems, but the 360 is now making it optional. The hard drive is removable, making it easy to detach and bring with you, making it more or less a giant memory card in some respects. If you choose to not go with the hard drive, you'll have to purchase a 64MB memory card to store your saved games. The lack of a hard drive also means you won't be able to store as many songs to use the system's custom soundtrack feature (something that is universal in all games now), nor will you be able to use backwards compatibility for older Xbox games, including Halo and Halo 2.
    Sold separately, the hard drive costs $100.

  • Xbox 360 Wireless Controller
    The Xbox 360 will feature support of up to 4 wireless controllers out of the box. If you haven't been able to check out a 360 kiosk yet at a local retailer, it might be a good idea to do so just to try out the controller, which is (at least in my opinion) one of the more comfortable controllers ever built. The controller features the Guide button, which allows you to jump into a special menu giving you access to movies, music and Live at any time, as well as rumble functions and a jack that allows you to plug in any headset for use with Live's chat functions. The controller allows for up to 30 hours of gameplay off 2 AA batteries.
    Sold separately, the wireless controller costs $50.

  • Xbox 360 Headset
    Any headset will work over Live, but for those who may not have one available, Microsoft is offering the "official" Live headset. In addition to allowing you to trash talk and strategize with other gamers on Live, the 360 now offers a built-in message functionality so you can leave short messages for family or friends.
    Sold separately, the headset costs $20.

  • Xbox 360 Media Remote
    The media remote is sort of the "special gift" that comes with the 360 since it will only be available in the initial run of systems. A new, more fully functioned version of the remote will also be available at launch. The remote controls normal functions like video playback and DVD navigation, as well as giving you the Guide button so you can check who is online even while watching a movie and even has a button that lets you turn off the 360 from your sofa.
    The Media Remote is only available in the Full System kit. The Universal Media Remote sells for $30.

  • Xbox 360 HD Video AV Cable
    The HD Video cable is the all-in-one solution for hooking your system up to your TV. The cable features connections for both standard definition TV's that use composite connections as well as High Def TV's that use component hook-ups. The cable also includes audio connections and a port for an optical audio cable (optical wire sold separately).
    Sold separately, the HD Video Cable costs $40.

  • The Premium Package also comes with a free, one-month trial of the Xbox Live Gold service.

Xbox 360 Core Package

While the Premium Pack is for those who want to squeeze everything out of their system at launch, the $299 Core System is meant for those who just want to game. With the Core Package you get:

  • Xbox 360 System

  • Xbox 360 Controller
    The Core System's controller features all of the functionality of the Wireless Controller, only it includes a wire that keeps you tethered to the system all times. For some, this is a big deal, while for others it might not be. The upsides to the wired controller is that you'll never have to replace batteries and the controller can also be hooked up to you PC via a USB connection and used to play PC games.
    Sold separately, the controller costs $40.

  • Xbox 360 Composite AV cables
    Like the HD Cables, this allows you to hook your system up to your TV. Unlike the HD cable, however, it only supports standard TV signals and not HD.
Of special note, the Core System also requires that you purchase a 64MB memory card in order to store save games.

Both systems come with the free Xbox Live Silver plan, which allows you access to nearly everything included in the "new" Xbox Live service except for online gaming. With the Silver package, you can get updates for games and purchase items in the Xbox Live Marketplace. Playing games online will be limited to special periods throughout the year, such as the launch of big name titles or other promotions. The Xbox Live Gold package, which costs $50 a year to subscribe, includes everything found in the Silver package as well as unlimited online gaming.

Other Accessories

Xbox 360 Memory Unit
Retailing at $40, the 64MB memory unit allows you to save your games (provided you're not using the hard drive) as well as your Live gamer profile. And, though full details haven't been announced yet, most Xbox 360 kiosks have a slot for the memory unit that will allow you to download special content to use on your home console.

Xbox 360 Wireless Network Adapter
For those with a wireless network in their home, the Wireless Network Adapter will allow you to bring your system onto your network. In addition to playing games on Live, you'll also be able to hook your 360 into your media center to transfer movies, music and pictures from your PC to your 360. The adapter supports 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11a.

The Wireless Network Adapter retails for $100.

Xbox 360 Play and Charge Kit
For the times when your batteries are running low and you're in the middle of a game, the Play and Charge Kit lets you plug your 360 Wireless controller into your 360, giving it just enough power to make it to the next level.

The Play and Charge Kit retails for $20.

Xbox 360 Rechargeable Battery Pack
Another power solution for those with wireless controllers, the rechargeable battery pack allows up to 25 hours of gaming on one charge.

The Rechargeable Battery Pack retails for $12.

Xbox 360 Custom Faceplate
One of the more unique aspects of the Xbox 360 are the custom faceplates. The plates can easily snap off the system (similar to a cell phone's custom faceplate) and can be replaced with all kinds of designs, giving your system that added bit of flair. About five designs should be available at launch, including one with flames painted on it, one with a wood grain finish, a silver one and a blue "Hot Rod" design. As the year goes on, expect other companies to make special plates available, including ones with licensed characters or special features.

Custom faceplates retail for $20.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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