Xbox One vs Xbox 360 console comparison review

Xbox 360 vs Xbox One

If you are laughing at the very idea of comparing the Xbox One with the Xbox 360, you should think again. Although the newest Xbox is a superior product, it is also more expensive. And the Xbox 360 is consider by many to be the best games console in history. It is still great, just not as great as the Xbox One. And for many of the less hardcore gaming fraternity, that may well be enough. In this article we examine how the Xbox 360 stacks up today as a gaming- and entertainment device. And we ask whether for you personally it may still be a better deal than that of the Xbox One.

Also see: Best Black Friday Games Deals

Here's our Xbox One vs Xbox 360 games console comparison review. (For more on this subject, see also: PS4 vs Xbox One.)

Update 21 April 2016: More than a decade after its launch Microsoft is ending support for Xbox 360, which you might like to keep in mind when reading our comparison of the two consoles below. You can still buy the Xbox 360 today as shops sell the last of their stock, but no new consoles are being made.

Xbox One vs Xbox 360: Price

Here is why we are doing this comparison, which may at first seem odd. You can pick up a 500GB Xbox 360 direct from the Microsoft Store for just £199.99 inc VAT. Shop around and you might find it for less or bundled with several games for the ultimate bargain, and expect prices to fall now that Microsoft has ended support. At that price it remains a good deal: perhaps not for everyone, but don't be fooled into thinking that the Xbox One is the only Microsoft console you should buy.

The 500GB Xbox One, meanwhile, costs around £299.99 (see Microsoft Store) or more when bundled with more than one game.

With both consoles there's a hidden cost: the annual fee for the subscription service required for online play. An Xbox Live Gold membership costs £40 per year. (See also: PS4 vs Xbox One vs gaming PCs: why a PC can be best for true gamers.)

Xbox One vs Xbox 360: Hardware and Specifications

With the Xbox One Microsoft seems to have fixed the reliability issues that plagued the early Xbox 360 consoles, but it is worth pointing out that any Xbox 360 you buy as new will also be unlikely to so suffer.

The Xbox One is based on the same AMD Jaguar processor technology found in its Temash and Kabini APUs. It has eight CPU cores, running at 1.75Ghz. The Xbox One's GPU is derived from the Bonaire architecture found in the Radeon HD 7790, and has 12 GCN compute units to play with. The Xbox One's GPU runs at 853MHz. The Xbox One can call on 8GB of 2133MHz DDR3 RAM. This uses a 32MB ESRAM cache to keep data flowing smoothly. All of this gives the Xbox One the gaming power of a mid-range gaming PC.

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Turning to the Xbox 360 we find a a custom-designed triple-core 64-bit PowerPC-based CPU, known as 'Xenon' by Microsoft. The Xbox 360's GPU is an ATI Xenos chip, and you get only 512MB GDDR3 RAM clocked at 700MHz. This relatively paltry amound of memory is shared by the CPU and the GPU via the unified memory architecture. Clearly this hardware bears no comparison with the Xbox One's, and as time goes by this is likely to make newer games a less satisfying experience on the Xbox 360. You get what you pay for, after all.

Xbox One

Back to the Xbox One, around the back you'll find a bewildering array of ports, with two USB ports, Ethernet, an optical output and a specific port for Kinect, plys two HDMI sockets. One of these is an output for your TV, but the other is designed to take a signal from your Freeview/Freesat PVR or Virgin/Sky set-top-box. This sends the TV signal through your Xbox One, and allows you to choose programmes using the console's OneGuide.

The Xbox 360 cannot compete on connectivity terms. There is a detachable- and upgradeable 20GB hard drive, and a 12x dual-layer DVD-ROM drive. Three USB 2.0 ports and two memory unit slots round out the wired connectivity, and a Wi-Fi connector is available as an upgrade.

In terms of power and performance, and connectivity, the Xbox One is a clear winner. But that doesn't mean that the Xbox 360 isn't fit for purpose: just that you have to think about exactly what you want from your console, and how much you are prepared to pay for the privilege. (See also: Should I buy a next-gen console: are the PS4 and Xbox One worth it?)

Xbox One vs Xbox 360: User Interface

The Xbox One's interface has a similar feel to Windows 10, with a start screen and live tiles for games and apps, but it can make simple operations like checking on your achievements or finding out what friends are doing seem like hard work. It's best used with Kinect and voice commands, as you don't need to remember which screen to find an app or feature on, you just utter the appropriate command.

The Xbox One can give you a split-screen view to run two apps or one game and one app at once, plus an instant resume which allows you to put your console in standby, turn it on again, and carry on playing exactly where you left off.

From 2008 onwards the Xbox 360's interface was updated to what Microsoft called the 'New Xbox Experience' (it is, of course, no longer new). This featured the Twist UI: a similar interface to that found on Windows Media Center in Windows 7. This is much more of a traditional games console interface, offering a dashboard with features such as Marketplace. It's perfectly usable, if not as slick and good-looking as that of the Xbox One - although arguably it is easier to use with a traditional controller. As of 2011 this was superceded by a new interface that looks much more like Windows 8 (and the Xbox One). This takes away many of the visual and interface differences between the two Xbox consoles,  offering features such as cloud storage for game saves and profiles, as well as live television, Bing voice search, access to YouTube videos and better support for Kinect voice commands.

In some ways we preferred the older Xbox interface, but that may be an old person thing. Regardless, there is little to choose between the two consoles considered here in terms of the user interface.

Xbox One vs Xbox 360: Cameras

The Xbox One's second-generation Kinect camera is a big improvement on the first, with more accurate motion tracking that works better across a range of lighting conditions, and can also track your body in more detail, even down to the individual finger joints. Interest in Kinect seems to have waned over the last year, with only three major titles supporting the controller released in the last twelve months. Aside from games, the main reason for having it is voice controls, used in some games, and also within the main interface to launch games and apps or search for content. It makes the Xbox One's entertainment features much easier to use, but if you mostly want to play games, then spending £370 to £390 on a Kinect/Console bundle doesn't make a lot of sense. (See also: Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 review.)

Sadly, it's been grossly under-used by games designers so far, with just a handful of games that use it, and precious little sign of more to follow. But as time goes by this is likely to be a huge advantage over the Xbox 360.

As with the wireless adaptor, you can use the Kinect camera with the Xbox 360, but it is an additional cost for an extra device. Current versions of the Xbox 360 come with a dedicated port for the Kinect Sensor, but a quick scout around the internet suggests that it will set you back at least £100. At this stage you'd have to question whether an Xbox 360 plus Kinect Sensor makes a good deal. If you want Kinect, I'd argue that the Xbox One is a better investment, but the Xbox 360 works fine without one. It's a well-priced lower-spec gaming device, after all. (See also: PlayStation 4 vs PlayStation 3 comparison review.)

Xbox One vs Xbox 360: Backwards Compatibility

Here is a killer issue: the Xbox One is not backwards compatible. This means that if you already own an Xbox 360 there's no real reason to stick with an Xbox One when you upgrade, bar the fact that your Xbox Live profile carries over.

But this could also make you think twice if you have a bunch of Xbox 360 games and you are thinking of buying an Xbox One. Yes, you will get newer games not available to the Xbox 360, but you won't be able to play your current games on your new console.

Xbox One vs Xbox 360: Games

The main reason to buy the latest console is to play its exclusive games. And here the Xbox One has a fantastic racing game, Forza Horizon 2, and a superb compilation of the Halo series, all with enhanced visuals and remastered to play at full HD 1080p.

Forza Horizon 2 aside, the best games on the Xbox One have come from third parties, with Far Cry 4, Assassin's Creed: Unity, Destiny, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and an enhanced Grand Theft Auto V all pushing graphical boundaries or, in Destiny's case, transforming the way we play online.

Xbox 360

And yet the fact remains that the Xbox 360 retains a vast library of excellent games, albeit without the bells and whistles of the very latest titles. Again: if you can get over the fact that the Xbox 360 isn't the latest and best, it is still an excllent purchase. But if you are serious about playing the best games in the best format, you need the upgrade. (See also: How to use an Xbox 360 wireless controller on a PC.)

Xbox One vs Xbox 360: Entertainment Features

Microsoft originally sold the Xbox One as the ultimate all-in-one entertainment system, pushing how voice controls and integrated TV would put it right at the heart of the living room. It still has arguably the best set of entertainment features of any console, with apps for all the major catch-up TV services bar ITV Player, plus all the major video-streaming services, including Amazon Instant Video, YouTube Netflix, Blinkbox and Now TV.

The Xbox One also has a Blu-ray drive and playback app, and DLNA media streaming both through the console's own Media Player and an app for Plesk. Throw in Microsoft's own music and video services and its TV features, and it's the best console for those who want to do more with their console than play games.

In terms of content, the Xbox 360 can happily compete. You can watch all the great content on Xbox Movies, of course, and also Netflix (with a subscription), Amazon Instant Video and YouTube. Plus the catchup apps. The Xbox 360 offers that DVD-ROM drive, too. But you can't use it as your central home hub in quite the same way as you can the Xbox One. It is more of an additional entertainment source. And remember that you need an additonal device to connect wirelessly to the web.

Xbox One vs Xbox 360: Buying Advice

If you want the best then there is no contest: the Xbox One is faster and more powerful than its older brother. And it offers greater home-entertainment, connectivity and interface features. But if you want to save a few quid and buy a relatively inexpensive but still great gaming device, the Xbox 360 is still worth considering. (For more on this subject, see also: PS4 vs Xbox One.)

Microsoft Xbox One: Specs

  • 8-core CPU, 8GB RAM, 500GB hard drive
  • 8-core CPU, 8GB RAM, 500GB hard drive

OUR VERDICT

If you want the best then there is no contest: the Xbox One is faster and more powerful than its older brother. And it offers greater home-entertainment, connectivity and interface features. But if you want to save a few quid and buy a relatively inexpensive but still great gaming device, the Xbox 360 is still worth considering.

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