Hardware Test: Xbox 360 Elite • Page 4

Has Microsoft done enough revision?

Digital Quality Tests
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If you have the right equipment, it's relatively straightforward to test the quality of the digital output of the new Xbox 360 Elite. Development 'debug' stations can be interfaced with a PC, and direct dumps of the console's framebuffer (the actual video RAM if you will) are transferred across at the touch of a button. It's how most of the games press take their own screenshots when they can be bothered. So getting a reference quality shot direct from the innards of the 360 is no problem.

Then it's just a case of loading up the same game on the retail 360 Elite, connecting it up to a sufficiently powerful capture system and then getting the same shot. This is extremely straightforward using a Digital Foundry HD direct-to-disk recorder - the only system capable of losslessly grabbing 24-bit colour depth and full HD capture resolution. Just initiate a mammoth video capture, then extract the shot that most closely matches the shot we already have from the debug station's video RAM.

Test #1: Call of Duty 2

I've always had a soft spot for Infinity Ward's classic wartime shooter, and since I already had a couple of framebuffer grabs lurking on my laptop, I set out to replicate them via the digital output of the Elite.

Since the capture unit was in this case digitally calibrated to full-range RGB, I set the reference levels on the 360 Elite to 'Enhanced' and went ahead with the capture. The comparison shot speaks for itself really. Aside from the colour being just a touch out, the HDMI output of the Elite is doing a fine job in pumping out the 360's framebuffer with no loss of detail.

Test #2: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007

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Impressed with the results of the first test, I wondered what could be learned by comparing a 360 framebuffer shot with HDMI grabs from the Elite and the PlayStation 3. Time to boot up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007, a game I found to be virtually identical across the two formats in round two of the Eurogamer PS3 vs Xbox 360 face-off.

A quick trip to Hole 18 of St Andrews was enough to confirm that in the digital domain, there really is practically zero difference whatsoever. The Elite's HDMI signal proved to be the match of the 360's framebuffer and once again, you can only tell the difference by looking at the tiny variations in the colour saturation.

It's the same with the PS3 version of the game too - identical resolution, very slight change in the colour.

The Xbox 360 Elite offered up everything I was hoping for in terms of the overall precision of the image over HDMI. It's simply sensational. However, I am surprised a little that the colours aren't completely identical between the video RAM and the HDMI output. Although the 360 offers up three different reference levels for colour, none of them were identical to what was lurking inside the video RAM. The 360 apparently renders everything internally in the component colourspace, so maybe the translation into RGB for output over HDMI is causing this.

But this is monumentally obtuse criticism considering a tiny tweak on your display would resolve the difference - a difference you're not going to notice in all probability any way.

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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