OK, so we've been through this drill before.
Carnoy reviews a product
, gives it a high rating, then writes a column
talking about all the things he doesn't like about it. Worse, he starts referring to himself in the third person, which can only mean the ego's just running a little too high. Ack, I know, it's revolting. But, hey, it's kind of fun. So let's get right to the list of the unsavory traits of the Xbox 360
. I've ordered them from mildly bothersome to really irksome. And, of course, feel free to add your own
1. Beige isn't the new black
Too white bread
Call me petty or metrosexual, but I don't like the color of the Xbox 360--and so what if you can change the faceplate? It's just not doing it for me. Part of the problem is that Microsoft sent us a charcoal-colored debug unit, which plays early versions of games burned onto DVDs, and the debug is cooler-looking than the retail unit. Ideally, Microsoft will put out a special-edition 360 down the road that offers beige-bashers a more satisfying alternative--you know, like the black iPods
. 2. No killer games at launch
It's not that we haven't generally liked what we've seen from the 360's launch titles
, but there just hasn't been that one mind-blowing game that screams "next generation" and leaves the original Xbox's games in the dust. Sure, Perfect Dark Zero
is impressive, and I'm personally a fan of NBA 2K6
, but I think these first-gen titles will pale in comparison to Halo 3 and some other enticing games
we'll see in 2006 and beyond. 3. Accessories cost a small fortune
If you opt for a second wireless controller
and a rechargeable battery kit
, you'll be out $70. And what's with $19.95 for a faceplate
that's just a hunk of plastic? You should get a three-pack for that price.
4. The hard drive isn't big enough
20GB is too small
Yeah, Microsoft went with a laptop drive instead of a standard desktop hard drive to keep the Xbox 360 trim--and those laptop drives are more expensive than the standard version. That said, 20GB is pretty puny these days. Hopefully, in the not so distant future, we'll see bundles with capacities of 60GB, 100GB, and beyond. Then we'll be able to turn this sucker into a real high-def media server. 5. Limited keyboard/mouse support at launch
With the USB ports, it seems logical enough that the Xbox 360 would accept PC accessories such as a mouse and a keyboard. In fact, the 360 does offer undocumented support
for a USB keyboard, but it's apparently limited to messaging and filling out forms on Xbox Live. There's no official word from Microsoft as to when or if keyboard or mouse support will be added for use in actual games (World of Warcraft 360, anyone?). That hurts a little.
6. No built-in Wi-Fi
Sold separately: the 360's external wireless networking adapter
I know the folks at Microsoft had to cut costs somewhere, but a little built-in Wi-Fi would have been nice. I would have been more forgiving had they also included more USB ports (see number 7) on the back of the unit, where the USB Wi-Fi adapter
accessory plugs in. To be fair, though, at least the wireless adapter is a trimode device (802.11a/b/g), so it should have the necessary bandwidth to stream video. 7. Not enough USB ports, especially on the back
As I said, there's only one USB port on the back, and in a lot of cases, that's going to be tied up with the USB Wi-Fi accessory. That leaves only the two USB ports on the front left available to plug in such accessories as the video camera (coming soon). Toss in another wired controller, and your 360 is full up--and looking untidy, with wires sprouting from the front.
8. No HDMI or DVI connectivity
What little things irk you about the Xbox 360?
It didn't break my heart that Microsoft didn't include a next-generation DVD player (HD-DVD or Blu-ray), but the least it could have done was throw in an upconverting DVD player
that did faux HD via an HDMI or a DVI connection. Not that HDMI or DVI is going to make a huge difference in video quality over the available component-video connection, but those all-digital connections are becoming standard on HDTVs, and the PS3 will allegedly offer two
built-in HDMI ports. To be fair, Microsoft hasn't completely ruled out a HDMI/DVI cable/adapter becoming available in the future. But there was no word of it at launch.
9. No built-in card reader
Yet another 360 accessory you'll need
This is a pretty severe bummer. Instead of just being able to save games or serve up content (photos, video, music) from a standard flash-memory card, I've got to buy some stupid proprietary 64MB memory card
for $40. Yeah, I know that the memory card isn't necessary for anyone smart enough to buy the 360 premium bundle, which includes a hard drive. And I understand that Microsoft is running a business, and high-margin accessories are where the money's made, but come on! By contrast, Sony's PS3 is slated to have a built-in card reader that will handle CompactFlash
in addition to Sony's own Memory Stick
format. 10. You can't get it.
The cynical among us might presume that Microsoft is holding back units to build hype. But there's a big difference between hype and just plain poor planning--and it now seems clear that Microsoft screwed the pooch on this one. The fact is that the Xbox 360 should have had more of a staggered launch schedule with only the United States on tap for 2005. Heck, Sony is likely to launch the PS3 in Japan well in advance of the rest of the world; why didn't Microsoft just do North America if it knew it might have trouble putting out enough units? As it is, the 360 launched last week in Europe and Japan this week, and I still haven't gotten the unit I preordered from Gamestop back in July.