The reduced power draw couples with much improved ventilation to deliver one of the Xbox 360 250GB's biggest improvements over the previous models. The slimline console is significantly quieter than our resident Xbox 360 Elite. Idling at the dashboard or watching a couple of videos downloaded from the Marketplace the system was inaudible. And while the console does get pretty warm to the touch the fans never spin-up enough to intrude.
Now that the Xbox 360 no longer sounds like an F-14A Tomcat on flyby every time you do more than admire it, powered off, from a distance, it's DivX playback ability looks much more attractive. Our PlayStation 3 still does a better job of upscaling standard definition content, mind, and the XMB is far and away the better menu system for navigating media. But we already know that the PS3 is the better all-rounder, and this Xbox 360 SKU refresh can’t hope to change that.
Those hoping for a speed boost to the DVD drive and hard drive transfer rates will be disappointed. In our testing there wasn't any perceptible difference in game loading times or hard drive-install times. The latter are still a 'start, go make a cup of coffee, return' affair. Hard drive-based game loads remain the way to go, though, because now DVD drive spinning up is still annoyingly loud.
Realistically, there are very few compelling reasons to upgrade to the Xbox 360 250GB if you have a previous model. Sure it's less power-hungry, quieter and has a larger capacity hard drive bundled than the Elite (limited edition specials accepted) ever did but under the window dressing it's still just an Xbox.
If you're buying a new console, however, the Xbox 360 250GB makes a great case for itself. The £199 asking price is £50 cheaper than the rival PS3 Slim, and the feature set is finally comparable, thanks to the inclusion of Wi-Fi. And while we still need to be convinced by Kinect, it's hard to deny that to a certain demographic it's going to have a massive appeal.
Put simply, the Xbox 360 250GB is the best Xbox Microsoft has made thus far. It’s better featured, with more USB ports and built-in wireless, its more energy efficient internals mean it's quieter and less power-hungry than its predecessors and, perhaps most importantly, it's priced more aggressively against the PlayStation 3 Slim than ever before.