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I am planning on buying an Xbox but am confused by all the different versions. What are the differences between them?

  • Edited so the question is no longer an opinion as to which is best or a shopping recommendation. – Studoku May 23 '14 at 14:08
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The Xbox 360 hardware has gone through 3 major revisions:

Here's a photo from a CNet review of the E:

3 generations of Xbox 360

The one on the left is the "old style" Xbox 360. There were a couple of versions of this, and some early models did not come with HDMI ports. You're only going to buy one of these if you buy used, and I'd be careful. A lot of the early run had issues with overheating and were prone to the "red ring of death."

The middle unit is the Xbox 360 S. It improves on the classic 360 by adding a dedicated Kinect port, additional USB ports, integrated wireless and a built-in optical audio out. All of these models come with HDMI ports.

The one on the right is the Xbox 360 E. It is a redesign of the 360 S to make it look a bit more like the Xbox One. However, they dropped the optical out, the AV port (for Component video) and a USB port. There's no real advantage to this model as far as I can see. (The linked CNet review says the pros are it's "slightly quieter")

In addition to these models, there are also variants of each of these. Usually it amounts to a difference in the amount of storage. There are also various bundles that pack in games or peripherals like Kinect.

It seems clear that for almost any way you could judge the three, the Xbox 360 S is the winner. The only advantages the E has is similarity in design to the Xbox One, and perhaps a slight noise difference. The "classic" 360 is probably cheaper, but buying one used is slightly risky.

There's some more detail and a somewhat-useful table in this Wikipedia article.

  • "Slightly" risky is an understatement. Many older consoles like that are prone to "quick" fixes that allow someone to sell it off real easy. A word of advice though, if you do plan to purchase the older style, look for the ones that have 256mb or 512mb of built-in memory, and I'm not taking about a separate memory card or HDD. If it has that built-in memory it means it's a Jasper model which have failure rates akin to the 360 S models. – user66184 May 23 '14 at 15:53
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    @Thebluefish, yeah, there are other risks as well. I just figured if I said "it's really risky" I'd get a comment saying "well, I bought one used and it was fine, so your statement is overblown" :P Instead I erred on the side of not risky enough, and got a comment saying my statement was under-blown... I'd also be afraid of getting a modded console or one where it was banned from XBL. At any rate, if you go used, get it from a place with a good return policy. – agent86 May 24 '14 at 1:20
  • I do not see why you think there is only a market for the original console in used form. You can find used Xbox Ones and PS4s for sale at retail outlets like GameStop, so the age of the console really does not correlate strongly. People will turn around and re-sell a console they only owned for 5-6 months as weird as that may seem. I would definitely avoid the very first run of consoles though, not for a lack of reliability but because many televisions do not support 1080p over component or require breakout cables just to use component at all these days. The HDMI models are more versatile. – Andon M. Coleman May 24 '14 at 4:07
  • @AndonM.Coleman, I don't believe there is only a used market for the original console. I'm sure there are used E's and S'es on the market. However, the original model is discontinued and has been for some time. Thus, you're unlikely to find a new one. Since it's hard to determine what vintage an original style 360 is, you might end up with one that is at higher risk. I agree with you that I find used Xbox 360's (of any model) to be higher risk than other consoles, though. – agent86 May 24 '14 at 14:02
  • @agent86 Oh.... I get you now. You meant to say that the only way you will be able to buy an original 360 model is if you look in the used market. I thought you were saying that the used market only consisted of original 360s ;) – Andon M. Coleman May 24 '14 at 19:24
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I got an original No-HDMI out Xenon model from a friend for precisely the price it's worth.

Free.

That's the only way anyone should bring one home.

One way to spot the Jaspers is by looking at the label on the back. If your looking at one of the original chassis, you do NOT want one that says 12V 16.5A or 198 W. Again, unless it's free. I'd honestly recommend never buying one from EBay or Craigslist at any price, since you don't even know if the insides match the label.

From Gamestop, might be worth it on a refurb since if it's a Jasper (12V 12.1A or 145.2 W) according to the label, it almost certainly really is one. However, I'm seeing refurb bundles on the classic chassis for only 10-20 bucks cheaper than a refurb bundle on a similar S or E.

Take the S, or the E in a pinch.

I only even took the original non-HDMI Xenon for free as a Windows Media Extender point for a 20" tv I don't care about HDMI on. When it dies, it dies.

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Aside from appearances, the most significant differences between an original 360 (2005-2008) and the "S" / slim version (2010) are related to the processor type, power consumption, and heat dissipation, all of which significantly affect the long-term functionality of the system.

From the table below (source), we can see that the Valhalla processor used in the Xbox 360S is the most power-efficient and therefore has the least amount of system heat. The best possible processor for the regular 360 is the Jasper; any processor revision prior to that will have higher chances of failure due to overheating.

Table of comparison of processors used in the Xbox 360

Also, the 360S has a more sensible ventilation design where the grill is on the top of the system (vs. the back of the system like in the original 2005 design), allowing heat to dissipate naturally upwards.

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