Microsoft Finally Confirms Xbox 360 Elite

Microsoft last night issued an announcement confirming the existence of Xbox 360 Elite, an upcoming model of its Xbox 360 featuring HDMI output and a 120GB hard drive. The news comes after months of rumor and speculation, which were kicked off in earnest with leaked photographs of an Xbox 360 unit allegedly codenamed "Zephyr" and including the upgrades eventually revealed to be part of the Elite model. Last week, the reports edged closer to an official confirmation as Game Informer published news of the upcoming Elite console in its most recent issue.

Xbox 360 Elite is set for release in United States retail stores on April 29 for $479.99, an $80 premium over the standard 20GB Xbox 360 and a $180 premium over the hard drive-less Xbox 360 Core System; neither of the two current Xbox 360 models includes HDMI output capabilities. The new model will be finished in matte black, with a matching black wireless controller and a black headset. Also included will be an HDMI cable and a one month trial subscription to Xbox Live Gold. Contrary to certain hopes, Xbox 360 Elite will not make use of the 65nm CPUs said to be incorporated into the console some time this year.

The system is expected to appear in other major markets worldwide later in 2007.

Also available in stores will be the 120GB Xbox 360 hard drive, which at a price of $179.99 corresponds with the price difference between the Elite and Core units. The standalone drive will be packaged with a data transfer cable allowing existing 20GB hard drive owners to move downloaded content over to the larger capacity drive. This cable will not be included in the Xbox 360 Elite bundle.

In response to the announcement, Sony Computer Entertainment America marketing senior VP Peter Dille said in a statement, "We think every PlayStation 3 owner should have an 'elite' experience, which is why we include an internal hard drive and HDMI output in every PS3 we sell, along with the 50 GB of storage capacity on a high definition Blu-ray disc." Xbox 360 Elite comes in at only $20 less than the Blu-ray-equipped 20GB PlayStation 3 model.

Alongside the Elite confirmation, Microsoft announced various new content parters for its Xbox Live Video Marketplace service, including A&E Network, ADV Films, and National Geographic. Neither of last night's announcements made any mention of the console's upcoming IPTV functionality, which the company briefly outlined during CES. All Xbox 360 consoles will support IPTV via a firmware update when the service eventually goes live.

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