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It’s been a while, five years almost, since the first Xbox 360 made its debut, and while there have been the occasional colour changes and some quiet changes to the internal components, the basic design of the wildly popular gaming console has pretty much remained the same. So when Microsoft launched a comprehensively overhauled Xbox 360 — the Xbox 360 ‘S’ — recently, I sat up and took notice. Is the slim avatar the way forward for Xbox gaming, or is it just a kneejerk reaction to the slimming down that other consoles saw? Let’s find out!

To be fair, the ‘slim’ tag that this baby has acquired courtesy the ‘S’ in its name might as well have been for ‘short’. It isn’t really much thinner than the previous gen though it is shorter when stood on its end, with much of the space saving thanks to them shifting the 250GB hard drive inside the box instead of the bulky grey enclosure of yore.

Also, black is back with the S, and it sports a piano black glossy finish, with a smattering of chrome accents on the left and the right edges and the buttons. The design is fresh and modern but the body attracts fingerprints and doesn’t feel as premium as the previous gen — blame that on the plastic panelling.

But it is what is inside the box that will make most folks consider this update more seriously, with Microsoft clearing a backlog of complaints and missing features in the S. Wi-Fi is finally built into the device (no extra peripheral needed), and you now get five USB ports and a dedicated optical digital (TOSLINK) port, apart from the regular array of ports — Ethernet (wired Internet) port, HDMI (audio-video).

What it does have extra is a new port especially for Kinect, Microsoft’s upcoming camera-based motion sensor controller. That’s not to say older Xbox 360 owners are out in the cold, they’ll just have to use a separate power source for Kinect while the S owners can just plug Kinect in and power it off their console. Also instead of the two cooling fans, there is a single larger fan which lets it run quieter than the previous gen, though mildly hotter.

But if you’re looking for me to talk about how much faster it is than the previous gen, well…there’s not much to say in that department. Since all Xbox 360 games are developed with a known set of hardware limitations, your gameplay will not benefit at all, either in terms of the crisper images or greater responsiveness, over the previous generation. Surprisingly, game load times aren’t particularly faster either, so performance benefits are negligible.

In the end, the S doesn’t give you a compelling reason to upgrade if you already own an Xbox 360, but with the Kinect-readiness, built-in Wi-Fi, improved storage and the better cooling design, it is worth that extra bit if you were considering picking up an Xbox 360 this festive season.

• Rating: 8/10
• Price: Rs 21,990
• URL: http://bit.ly/bfAfTM

Halo-ed grounds

What better way to enjoy a brand new console than to play the latest installment of one of the most legendary games ever — Halo. Even more so because the original Halo has widely been credited with saving the Xbox console in the first place. With Halo: Reach, the developers Bungie took the prequel route, and like with movies, we know these are trickier to make since they run the risk of alienating a strong fan-base (Star Wars anyone?). Fortunately, Halo: Reach delivers where last year’s ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, the previous release of the Halo game) version of the game didn’t — engaging gameplay, challenging computer opponents, and detailed-without-being-distracting backstories. Which in a way is good — I mean, if you were looking to score this game on purely technical fronts — graphics and frame-rate — the game won’t score high. But going only on gameplay — even for a Halo newbie — this game is pure gold. If you’re picking up the 360 S this festive season, pick this game up as well. Highly recommended.

• URL: http://bit.ly/asvSHp
• Price: Rs 2,599 (Standard Edition) Rs 2,999 (Limited Edition) and Rs 6,999 (Legendary Edition)

Call time

Bond, James Bond. Who hasn’t felt like being their own version of the super-spy at some point of time in their life? With the LG GD910 watch phone, you’re well on your way in dressing yourself up on true spy-chic. At first glance, it seems a little bulky for a watch, and clearly too small to be a phone. Wrong on both counts! This is one seriously kitted out watch, with a video-calling-enabled phone, no less! The digital watch face is a touchscreen of the more response capacitive variety, and the menu system is well thought out, given the constraint of the screen size. To use the phone features, you have to pair the GD910 with a Bluetooth headset — there’s one included in the retail package. In true spy-style, the GD910 packs in a meek 0.3 megapixel camera and a voice recorder for all those sting operations I’m sure you’re thinking up by now. And yes, it also has the license to kill…your wallets!

• URL: http://bit.ly/cWT4mP
• Price: Rs 39,990

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