The Best Xbox 360 Console For You

Microsoft stopped making new Xbox 360 consoles in 2016, but there's still a lot of fun to be had if you take a deep dive into the platform's massive library of games. Whether you never owned an Xbox 360 when it was still a current gen system, you're looking to pick up a used system for a younger child who is starting to get into gaming, or you just want to play some great exclusives that you missed out on, there are still plenty of reasons to pick up an Xbox 360.

The problem is that, unlike consoles from earlier generations, the Xbox 360 underwent two major revisions and also had a number of different models within each revision. It was confusing enough at the time, so it's easy to understand how the sheer number of options could become overwhelming if all you want to do is pick up a used Xbox 360 off eBay or Craigslist.

If you are looking to buy an Xbox 360, here are the three major hardware revisions, including some of the most important facts about each. Following this brief rundown, you'll find some more in depth information about each type of Xbox 360.

Xbox 360

  • Available in Arcade, Core, Premium and Elite configurations.
  • Earlier models don't have HDMI outputs.
  • Arcade model includes no hard drive.

Xbox 360 S

  • Comes with built-in Wi-Fi.
  • Features either 4 or 250 GB of storage.
  • Improved cooling to avoid overheating issues.

Xbox 360 E

Xbox 360 Elite, Pro and Arcade

Released: November 2005
Audio and Video Outputs: A/V cable (component, composite), HDMI (limited models)
Kinect Port: No, requires an adapter.
Manufacturing Status: Discontinued in 2010.

The original Xbox 360 is the most complicated of the bunch, because it was available in so many different configurations. The original options were the Core and Premium versions, and the main differences were that the Premium edition had more storage, an additional A/V cable, a wireless controller, and one free year of Xbox Live.

The Pro and Elite versions came later, and the sure way to find an Xbox 360 with an HDMI port is to buy an Elite. Other versions of the console may or may not include the HDMI port.

While all versions of the original Xbox 360 are capable of playing all Xbox 360 games, older units are less reliable than newer ones. Later revisions of the hardware are less prone to the widespread red ring of death that can render an Xbox useless.

The best way to find an Xbox 360 with the revised hardware is to look for one with a lot number higher than 0734.

Pros:

  • Best price - The original Xbox 360 is usually also the cheapest option out there.
  • Massive game library - Plays all the same games as the later versions.
  • Easily removable hard drive - The hard drive can be popped off and moved to another Xbox 360 very easily.
  • Only Xbox 360 with memory cards - Provides another way to move Xbox Live profiles and save data from one console to another.

Cons:

  • Less reliable - The original Xbox 360 had a high failure rate, so look for one with revised hardware.
  • No native Kinect support - Requires an adapter to use a Kinect.
  • Louder than other versions - The disc drive  in particular makes a lot of noise.
  • No built-in Wi-Fi - Requires a wired Ethernet connection or a Wi-Fi adapter to play online.

Xbox 360 S

Released: June 2010
Audio and Video Outputs: A/V cable (component, composite), S/PDIF, HDMI
Kinect Port: Yes
Manufacturing Status: Discontinued in 2016.

The Xbox 360 S is commonly referred to as the Xbox 360 Slim because it's smaller, and thinner, than the original design. It also features improved cooling, with better air flow and more fans, to avoid the kind of overheating issues that plagued the original.

Aside from the visual retooling, the Xbox 360 S also has some other important differences. It includes a built-in Kinect port, so you don't need an adapter to use a Kinect. It also has an S/PDIF digital audio output in addition to the same A/V and HDMI connections as the original model.

Unlike the many confusing configurations of the original model, the Xbox 360 S is only available in 4 GB and 250 GB versions.

Pros:

  • Built-in Wi-Fi - Play online without an adapter or a wired Ethenet connection.
  • Redesigned shell - Smaller and smarter looking than the original Xbox 360.
  • Redesigned hardware - Less likely to overheat than the Xbox 360.
  • Built-in Kinect port - Doesn't need an adapter to use Kinect.
  • Plenty of built-in storage space - The 250 GB unit has more storage than most versions of the original Xbox 360.
  • Digital Sound - Includes an S/PDIF audio output built right in.

Cons:

  • No memory card slot - You need to connect a USB hard drive if you want to use removable storage.
  • No easy way to swap between hard drives - The hard drive is relatively easy to replace, but the easily removable hard drive caddy from the original Xbox 360 is gone.

Xbox 360 E

Released: June 2013
Audio and Video Outputs: HDMI, 3.5mm
Kinect Port: Yes
Manufacturing Status: Discontinued in 2016, but the platform is still supported by Microsoft.

The Xbox 360 E is an even more pared down version of the Xbox 360 hardware. It's slightly smaller than the Xbox 360 S, and it runs a little more quietly, but you can still play all the same games.

In addition to a visual redesign, the Xbox 360 E also omits some connectors. The A/V connector found on the original Xbox 360 and Xbox 360 S is gone, as is the S/PDIF connector.

Pros:

  • Redesigned appearance - The smallest Xbox 360 available, with a visual appearance similar to the Xbox One.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi - Play online right out of the box.
  • Kinected - Includes a built-in Kinect port.
  • Additional audio output - Has a 3.5mm audio jack.

Cons:

  • Can't easily swap hard drives - The Xbox 360 E still doesn't have a hard drive caddy, and it's a little harder to upgrade as well.
  • No memory card slot - Memory card slots weren't added back in, so you still need to use USB for external storage.
  • No A/V port - The A/V port was removed, so you can't connect it via component or composite. The only video output is HDMI.
  • No S/PDIF audio output - The S/PDIF output introduced on the Xbox 360 S was also removed.
  • Fewer USB ports - One less USB port than the Xbox 360 S.