The Core System is a cheaper, bare-bones version of Microsoft's Xbox 360.
Editors' note: Microsoft has discontinued the Xbox 360 Core version discussed here and replaced it with the Xbox 360 Arcade, which is available for $200. That model includes HDMI output, a 256MB memory card, and a wireless controller.Quick Take: The Xbox 360 Core System is Microsoft's low-end Xbox 360 bundle. For $299, you get the Xbox 360 console, a single wired controller, and a composite A/V cable. In contrast, the $399 Xbox 360 bundle comes with the console, a wireless controller, a combination composite/component A/V cable (capable of connecting to standard- or high-definition TVs), an Ethernet cable, an Xbox Live headset, and a 20GB hard drive. For a limited time, the $399 bundle also includes a Media Remote Control. In other words, the $399 bundle is far and away the superior value.
While you could live with the Core System's lack of a wireless controller and headset, its missing hard drive is the deal breaker. Without a hard drive, you can't use Xbox Live, save your games, or play original Xbox titles. You'd be "saving" $100, only to have to go out and buy the stand-alone hard drive accessory for that same price. Likewise, all the other missing peripherals are available à la carte for the Core System, but they'll run you at least $110, not including the $100 hard drive. In other words, the $399 bundle gives you at least $210 worth of extra accessories for only $100 more.
If you have any interest in getting the Xbox 360, do not buy the Core System. Save, scrape, or splurge, but get the full Xbox 360 bundle. You'll be saving yourself money and aggravation in the long run.
Editors' note: For complete Xbox 360 coverage, including a hands-on review, check out CNET's Xbox 360 central. On April 29, 2007, Microsoft released the Xbox 360 Elite with HDMI output and a 120GB hard drive. Read our review of the Xbox Elite. Or for a comparison of the three currently available Xbox 360 models, click here.