The New Xbox 360 Slim is a Big Step Backward

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As a tech journalist I have a good record with firsts. I’m pretty sure I was the first journalist to see the iPhone. Ditto the Wii. Also the Xbox 360: in the months before it came out I spent a lot of time in Redmond with J Allard and the other guys who were building it.

So I remember well my first look at it. It was different. It was curvy. It was feminine. It was friendly. It was a special custom color that J called “chill.”

So yeah, that’s over. The new Xbox 360 isn’t chill, it’s black. It’s not curvy, it’s angular. It reminds me of nothing so much as the first Xbox.

(More on Techland: E310: Xbox 360 S vs PlayStation 3)

In other respects it’s a step forward. The Xbox 360 was a rush job: it was engineered during a brutal campaign to steal a march on Sony. Microsoft was last to act in the last console war, first to act in this one. To do that they spent a lot of money and cut a lot of corners, and it paid off bigtime. But the 360 always smelled a bit klugey, and it’s high time they refreshed it.

So: It’s slightly smaller. It’s a lot quieter. It’s still got a humongous power brick, but it’s not quite as humongous as it was. It’s got five USB ports compared to the older model’s three, and two are in front. And: built-in wifi.

And — cue  laugh track — it’s “Kinect Ready!”

(More on Techland: Is Microsoft Holding Back Kinect?)

The only downers are that it doesn’t ship with an HD cable, and that it’s, well, not that slim. It’s a bit slimmer. But it’s not going to make a real practical difference for anybody. Also — #petpeeve —  the switch to touch-sensitive buttons from clickable ones offends my old-school haptic sensibility.

Plus that design. I feel like it’s 2001 again. J Allard must be spinning in his grave.

Or wait, no. J Allard is probably rolling around in a pile of cash.

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