Although next week might belong to the long-awaited movie, "Star Wars: Episode III," this is clearly the week for Xbox 360 hype, which is reaching unprecedented heights with daily leaks and revelations about key system features. Last night, the actual specifications of the new system were leaked to the Internet, and the Xbox 360 is looking like a formidable machine.
Allegedly powered by a custom 3.2GHz IBM PowerPC microprocessor with three symmetrical cores, the Xbox 360 will also include 512MB of RAM and a custom ATI video processor with 10MB of embedded DRAM. The Xbox 360's optical drive will support all the current major formats, including DVD video, DVD-R/W, DVD+R/W, CD-ROM/R/RW, Windows Media Audio (WMA) CD, MP3 CD, JPEG Photo CD-ROM, and more.
All Xbox 360 video games will support 1280 x 720 (16:9, 720p) and 1920 x 1080 (16:9, 1080i) displays with full anti-aliasing. These modes equate to the two most popular HDTV resolutions and will work natively on today's HDTV sets. Xbox 360 will also work fine with standard definition (SD) sets, however, and will supposedly convert the video to the proper resolution and quality level on the fly.
The Xbox 360 console sports three standard USB ports and will use wireless controllers that will also work with Windows-based PCs. You can connect as many as four wireless controllers at a time. The Xbox 360 will ship Wi-Fi ready and can be upgraded with a 20GB external hard disk that clips to the side of the unit. Xbox 360 will support multichannel surround-sound output.
Microsoft will back the Xbox 360 with a new version of the Xbox Live gaming service, which will be split into two service levels. Xbox Live Silver won't require a subscription fee. Xbox Live Silver users will be able to compete on the Internet with other gamers, for free, on weekends and take advantage of other Xbox Live features. Xbox Live Gold subscribers will be able to compete online every day of the week and access exclusive Gold-level membership benefits, including upgrading existing Xbox Live accounts to the new service.