Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Xbox 360 Slim: Thoughts from the MotherBoard

 Image via VGCharts, via Mods n Bits (article no longer loads)
Yes, this is fake. It's a case mod.

I've been pondering over the facts that have been coming out ever since the leaked images of the supposed new motherboard for the Xbox 360, which lacks any Memory Unit ports (according to Ben Heck), and Major Nelson confirming the 120GB hard drive and MUs will be phased out in favor of 16GB, Sandisk supplied, 360 branded, USB flash drives coming with the April 6 firmware update.

Yes, all of the evidence at hand points to something. What that something is, a lot of people are already pointing their fingers and minds towards a unifying idea: the long rumored Xbox 360 Slim.

Joystiq (as all of the above links are articles of) did the best they could when they got Ben Heck's thoughts on the motherboard images, which did nothing but fuel the fire of the redesign. It was going to happen - Ben Heck unlocking his mind on the situation - and it can't be helped; you could say that article Joystiq ran is the starting point for this one. However, I'm not saying that. Ideas about what all of this could be started as soon as I saw the motherboard. I'm no computer technician, as I wouldn't be able to tell a damned thing from the motherboard image other than the processor, the fan, and the ports running along the boarder (never heard of a "daughterboard" until that article ran). But, I do have a hell of a knack for one thing: pointing out the obvious in an underlying fashion that would make you think I'm a soothsayer of some sort (not of the Pachter-kind).

First thing I want to explore would be the exclusion of the Memory Units from the new motherboard. Removing this proprietary item is, by far, the best business sense any company could make. Apple moving towards USB rather than the 30-pin dock connector, Sony dropping the Memory Stick line from their portables, Nintendo implementing a better online system, it's all phenomenal ideas that shouldn't have to be thought of because the aforementioned companies shouldn't have done what they did. Microsoft is trying to make amends by offering a much broader, technologically friendly alternative to the hard drive at a cheaper rate, however, they ultimately locked in only one size of the USB flash drive to 16GBs. Of course, Major Nelson says this can be partitioned to a lower format for those who want to continue to use their device for something else, however, why only the 16GB-sized flash drive? Why not a variety of sizes? It's the hard drive situation all over again, albeit, at a somewhat surprisingly friendlier way. With the removal of Memory Units, Microsoft is weening those who use Memory Units (myself included) to help us cope with the fact we won't be seeing any Memory Unit ports on the new Xbox 360.

With the removal of the Memory Units, Microsoft has a fair amount of room for other things. Well, they have more room to sacrifice to the ether, allowing them to shrink the motherboard. Since we're on the topic of "storage," we can move onto the other interesting point Ben points out: the second pair of SATA drive connection and power supply.

Ben says that there is an additional SATA port connection next to the one used for the DVD player, as well as a secondary power supply next to the one that, you got it, powers the DVD drive. Why would there be the need for a secondary set of drive/power connections for a SATA port? Well, the first that should come to mind would be an internal hard drive, as the HDD for the 360 is a SATA drive (anyone would peruses Wikipedia or has cracked open the HDD case would know this), and would make perfect sense. Microsoft pretty much went backwards in tech-time when the announced an external, removable, yet proprietary hard drive for the 360, and would be limited to the 20GBs available at the time. Since then, we've been exposed to the 120GB, 60GB and now 250GB HDDs, in that order. With this internal storage solution, perhaps Microsoft is finally going to go back to what they did with Xbox 1, and create a storage large enough for anyone. To be honest, slapping a 250GB HDD in there would suffice. If you can max out 250 gigs on a game console, god help you.

You have included a secondary pairing of SATA drive connection and power, plus the removal of Memory Unit ports all lead to vastly changed system architecture, something that indicates nothing more than a system redesign. E3 is just over 2 months away, and I'll be doing a small prediction piece on what hardware reveals we'll be subjected to in June. Until then, this gives explanation why I believe the Xbox 360 Slim is real, and it's not far away. Matter of fact, we may even see that Project Natal/Xbox 360 Slim combo package come to life.