Microsoft Announces Xbox 360 Elite

Microsoft has confirmed earlier reports of the Xbox 360 Elite, saying it would begin arriving in US stores on April 29 at a street price of $479.99 USD.

As expected, the new model comes with a 120GB hard drive and HDMI support, along with HD cables, wireless controller, and Xbox Live headset. Both the console and controllers will feature a premium black finish.

The Redmond company has also decided to offer the 120GB drive separately for a price of $179.99 USD, and additional black controllers for $49.99 USD. One month free of Xbox Live Gold will also be provided.

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"Today's games and entertainment enthusiast has an insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content," Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment chief Peter Moore said. "Xbox 360 Elite's larger hard drive and premium accessories will allow our community to enjoy all that the next generation of entertainment has to offer."

Although the Xbox 360 Elite was hardly a secret in recent weeks, a number of details swirling around the rumor mill proved incorrect. The new console has not been changed internally to take advantage of a 65-nanometer CPU, which was expected to bring down manufacturing costs.

Also missing is a built-in HD DVD drive, or rumored quieter DVD drive. While Microsoft has said it plans to eventually build HD DVD into its consoles, the company is apparently waiting for production costs to come down before it does so.

"[The Xbox 360 Elite is a] nice evolutionary update that clearly shows where Microsoft is heading with this product," JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg said. "While the core emphasis is still on games, no doubt Microsoft has some ideas how you might fill that hard disk."

Gartenberg was primarily referring to Xbox Live Marketplace, which was bulked up Wednesday with content from A&E Network, ADV Films, National Geographic and TotalVid.com. In addition, Paramount Films will offer its feature films for download in high-definition.

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