Xbox 360 Buyer's Guide

It's quickly become common knowledge that the Xbox 360 will be available in two different bundles when it releases later this year. While most hardcore gamers are up in arms about the Core Package, both bundles offer a value depending on your gaming needs. Let's take a look at each bundle, and what advantages and disadvantages they offer consumers.

Xbox 360 Core Package

Included Items:

* Xbox 360 Console * Xbox 360 Controller (wired) * Default Xbox 360 Faceplate * Standard Audio/Video Cables

Breakdown+ Least expensive Xbox 360 option+ No need to batteries in the controller+ Audio and visual capabilities on par with most TV sets+ Ability to upgrade to a higher capacity hard drive without eating the cost of the 20 GB HDD+/- If you own an iPod or other USB music device you can still use custom soundtracks, but otherwise you'll miss out on the feature without the hard drive- Minimal downloadable content without a hard drive- With no hard drive you'll have to purchase a memory unit for $40- Some gamers will want at least the s-video A/V cable to get better picture quality

The VerdictThe Xbox 360 Core Package does not include the hard drive or wireless controller, but that doesn't mean it isn't a value. For gamers who don't own an HDTV, or will be playing on an older TV in their rooms, the component video cables included in the Premium Package would not be of any value to them (although they would still work). An s-video cable isn't included, but many gamers will likely be using the standard A/V cables anyway.

The main downfall of the Core Package is the simple fact that everyone who purchases it will have to buy a memory unit for an additional $40. That makes the price difference between the two units a mere $60. While many consumers may view that price difference as an extra game they can purchase at launch, spending an extra $60 for everything included in the Premium Package is a very good deal. However, Microsoft has stated that higher capacity hard drives will be available in the future, so depending on the price of a higher capacity drive, some consumers may be better off saving $60 on the Core Package.

Overall, it really depends on your gaming needs as to whether or not the Core Package is a value. If you own a USB music device such as the iPod or Sony PSP, you can still use the custom soundtrack feature included in every Xbox 360 title. Your games might have longer load times, but the only real downfalls of not having the hard drive are the custom soundtrack and downloadable content features of Xbox 360 software titles. If you can live without those two features, or own a USB music device and downloadable content isn't a major selling point for you, the Core Package will save you money.

Xbox 360 Premium Package

Included Items:

* Xbox 360 Console * Xbox 360 Wireless Controller * Default Xbox 360 Faceplate * Component HD Audio/Video Cables * 20 GB Detachable Hard Drive * Xbox Live Headset * Media Remote

Breakdown+ Wireless controllers for clutter-free gaming environment+ 20 GB detachable hard drive for custom soundtrack and other unique features+ HD component video cable that doubles as a standard AV cable out of the box+ Xbox Live headset included+ Limited feature media remote for controlling your console and TV- $100 more than the Core Package- You'll need either two AA batteries or a NiMH rechargeable battery for the controller- No s-video alternative for gamers without an HDTV- The universal media remote sold separately offers more features than the media remote included with the Premium Package

The VerdictHigh Definition and Xbox Live gamers will benefit the most from the Premium Package. If you won't be gaming in HD, and if you don't plan on using the Xbox Live service, the Premium Package doesn't offer much of a value. Even if you are an HD gamer, the included component video cables are not high end component cables. The monster video component cable available for the Xbox is a higher quality cable than the one included in this bundle. HD gamers with a surround sound system will still need to purchase an optical audio cable to take advantage of the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound option included in every game. In addition, the Xbox Live headset is now a standard connection, meaning that your old XBL headset will work (sans the extra piece needed for the original Xbox).

Having wireless controllers out of the box is a nice addition, but that also means you'll need to supply two AA batteries, or buy the Play and Charge Kit for $20 that comes with a NiMH rechargeable battery. The AA batteries only offer 30 hours of play, which means a good number of gamers will be replacing them on a regular basis.

The bottom line is simple, if you're a big fan of downloadable content, the hard drive is a must, so the Premium Package is a given since the hard drive is $100 by itself. However, that's really the only value feature of the Premium Package. The wireless controllers will require an extra purchase for batteries, the component video cables don't offer an s-video option, they're not high quality cables, and you'll still need to purchase an optical audio cable for surround sound gaming. So while some gamers may want the extras included in the Premium Package, they aren't really getting a value price for them outside of the hard drive. You'll be paying more for the extras offered in the Premium Package, and some gamers may even require additional purchases on top of the $400 price to maximize their gaming experience.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.