Review: Xbox 360 Elite & VGA vs. HDMI

Got my Xbox 360 Elite this morning. I went to Walmart first, found a woman in the electronics section, and asked where are the 360 Elites. She looked at the flyer in her hand and said “They ain’t out yet.” I said they’re shipping today, and asked if she’d check the computer for me, to see if they’re in back. “They ain’t here, I tol’ you – some people axed the same thing yesterday, we ain’t got none.” I said okay, told her to have a nice day, and she said the same in return.

I figured I’d go to Circuit City or Best Buy and wait till they open at 10. On the way there I noticed Target was already open, and on a whim went in to ask if they had the 360 Elite. The nice young guy in the games section said he thought so, he’d go check. He came out with four 360 Elites, selling one to me, and two to another guy who showed up.

I opted for the 3-year warranty for $29.99, bringing my total receipt to $544.62.

At home, I unpacked the 360 Elite and was bummed to find that the rumored transfer cable/kit was not included. I did a search to find out what was up, and learned that even if it was included, using the transfer cable would wipe out whatever new stuff was on the 360 Elite’s drive – not that any of it is very interesting. (A downloadable coupon in the support section entitles 360 Elite owners to a free transfer cable kit.)

I decided to transfer my stuff using the 64 MB memory card I had on hand. One look at the size of some of my saved stuff – like more than 1 GB for Oblivion alone – gave me pause. The I realized that for that game, and most others, I needed to transfer only the actual save game files, which were rather smallish; the rest, such as the 1+ GB Shivering Isles expansion pack I bought a few weeks ago, I could re-download once I was all set up. I also transferred over Arcade games like Uno, Wik, Worms and some others. The back and forth process from 360 to 360 Elite took about 45 minutes.

Now, for my most burning question: Would the HDMI connection be noticeably better than the VGA connection I was already using?

In a word: No.

An email to my Xbox press contact, asking for clarification, received this reply:

As you mention, the console can output 1080p resolution video over both VGA and HDMI. There may be very, very subtle differences depending on a consumer’s display, but we wouldn’t expect many people to notice.

There will be a difference between HD DVD video played over component and that played over HDMI. The content protection policies of HD DVD allow a maximum output of 1080i over component, so if you have HDMI (or VGA for that matter) you will get the full 1080p resolution.

In the end, by supporting HDMI we are giving our customers who have HD displays another option in the case their display doesn’t support VGA, plus they get the benefit of audio and video over a single cable.

In fact, others have reported that the HDMI isn’t noticeably better than the component video connection, either. On that, I disagree – switching from component to either HDMI or VGA is considerably different, and I notice a dramatic improvement with the Xbox 360 dashboard, in games, and when watching DVD movies.

My second biggest curiosity was noise, and whether the 360 Elite would be quieter than my original 360.

In a word: Yes.

When the DVD drive isn’t spinning, the 360 Elite is quieter than my original Xbox 360. When playing a game it is also quieter. Others have reported the drive isn’t actually quieter, just different in tone. That may be the impression for those who are comparing the old and the new in a large office environment, but in my bedroom, the new is quieter than the old. Perhaps that’s because my original Xbox 360 was the earliest of early units – shipped to me a few days before the 360 was released to the public. It’s that “old.”

But is it whisper-quiet? Nope. It’s still a pretty noisy product.

Bottom line: If you’re HDTV or monitor has an available VGA port, use it (by purchasing the optional VGA cable) with your existing Xbox 360 and enjoy video as good-looking as the 360 Elite’s. If my HDTV had only HDMI and component connection, I would definitely buy the 360 Elite for the sharper picture it delivers when connected that way. As for the hard disk, I had at least 8 GBs available on my old 360 and I don’t see filling this one up fast. My media lives on my MacBook (which I can tap into via the 360 with the add-on program 360Connect), and as far as downloading movies, which I do quite often (last night I watched The Parallax View, a 70s conspiracy theory film starring Warren Beatty that I highly recommend), I watch them then delete them, since they’re only viewable for 24 hours once you start watching. Still, others may want a bigger hard disk for their stuff, and the 360 Elite satisfies on that front (albeit at a pretty high price when compared to the GB-per-buck ratio found on PC add-on drives).


14 Responses to “Review: Xbox 360 Elite & VGA vs. HDMI”

  1. Says:

    very nice review! how does the audio hookup when using the VGA cable?

  2. Joe Hutsko Says:

    Hey, Greg. When hooking up with the VGA cable you use the red/white RCA audio plugs that hang near the end of the cable, close to the VGA connector. From what I’ve subsequently read online, the Spring Update will include important color correction (if I’m not mistaken) fixes for VGA, and should make VGA resolution even better. Thanks for the comment, Joe

  3. SesMan Says:

    I enjoyed reading your review of the Elite. Looks as though I’m not missing much. Doesn’t make me want one any less though.

    In reference to what was stated in your comment to Greg, the differences that I noticed between the graphics for the VGA and Component were that the Component on my Samsung DLP was better than the VGA on the SOYO. While the SOYO LCD appeared more crisp, there were certain graphical elements that did not come across like they should have. So, it is nice to see that there may be an update that will improve VGA resolution.

  4. Joe Hutsko Says:

    Interesting about the component and VGA issue with your Samsung and SOYO. Meanwhile, I left out the fact that I connected the HDMI cable from the Elite to my monitor using an HDMI-to-DVI cable, as DVI is what I have on the back of my Gateway monitor. So those with DVI ports on their HDTVs can also connect the 360 Elite using that kind of cable – or, as I summed up, go with VGA and existing 360 for excellent picture quality, providing your HDTV or monitor has a VGA port. Thanks for the comments, guys! Joe

  5. Daniel Miller Says:

    Well, that’s good news. I have my 360 on my VGA & my PS3 on my only HDMI and was worried I would have to buy an Elite and then spend money on some sort of switch.
    Now I don’t have to buy anything!
    1080p; I really can”t tell the difference between it and 720p, but I’m sure glad I have it!

  6. Chris Staines Says:

    Thanks, Joe! You answered the only question I had: VGA or HDMI? With the audio not being an issue, thanks to the optical option on the 360, you’ve pretty much made up my mind to stick with the current, white 360 and skip on this iteration.

    Once again, thank you for being blunt, and not skirting the issues in your review.

  7. Dave Cooley Says:

    I have the 360 prem + a samsung 1080p dlp when i hook up the vga cables the picture looks a little fuzzy and washed also it is alot smaller than the regular component cables which to me look crisper and a noticably larger pciture for games and hddvd’s. I was hoping the hdmi would solve this. any comments

  8. Dave Cooley Says:

    Any response on why the standard component cables look crisper than the vga cables at the 1080 setting. Thank you

  9. Joe Hutsko Says:

    Hey, Dave, thanks for the comment. My short answer is I’m not sure. Have you adjusted the the video settings on the 360? Seems unusual to me, and maybe another reader can comment…? Thanks again for posting. Joe

  10. Dave Cooley Says:

    I have the settings on 1080p on the 360 and say rainbow six looks great on the component cables and the vga cables the video is smaller it still fills the screen but smaller and not as crisp maybe im just expecting too much but the vga cables just dont look crisp. Thanks for the respponse

  11. Gray Says:


    Is your display 1080p? Which model is your TV?

    I have a 40″ Samsung M86 and it won’t accept the 1920×1080 via VGA, even after the Spring 07 update and using ‘expanded’ reference levels….

    So i am stuck with component til i can get an Elite in the UK

  12. Dave Cooley Says:

    My tv is a samsung 56 1080p dlp. I just read a review on and they say that the hdmi video quality is steller compared to the vga as most large screen rear projectors do not fair well on vga cables.

  13. DevlArmz Says:

    To my personal extended study of hdtv’s and cables, I would have to point out that the 360 bottome line looks best on flat panel lcd tv’s.The reason is that its basically a huge computer monitor and handles 1;1 pixle mapping.If you have this cable be sure to set the resolution to the native resolution of your tv for the best image, my tv is 1366 x 768 wich with the vga is ideal with 1360 x 768(i think thats the right res anyway).

  14. GotGrizzle? Says:

    I have a Sony Bravia 40″ 1080p running an XBOX 360. VGA looks amazing; I compared my roommate’s elite HDMI and can see no difference between the two. Do some research on your television to make sure that its VGA connection is able to push the max resolution of 1920 x 1080, some TV’s cannot even push that resolution even if they are 1080p televisions. You are only able to achieve this resolution through HDMI.

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