Unfortunately, there's no built-in HD DVD drive to rival the Blu-ray player in the PS3. Instead, you need to buy an add on. The DVD player is fine for casual viewing, but the HDMI connector seemed to offer no discernible improvement, although a forthcoming Dashboard update might offer some software upscaling improvements.
The Xbox 360 Elite has the same basic guts as earlier 360 models: a customised IBM PowerPC CPU boasts three processing cores running at 3.2GHz each, each offering two hardware threads, while the ATI graphics processor is said to be able to pump out 500 million triangles per second. The console has half a gigabyte of memory that's shared between the system and video card, plus an extra 10MB of dedicated video RAM just for good measure.
Here's the question for current and prospective gamers: is the Elite worth the extra cash? For anyone who owns the existing Xbox 360, the answer is probably no -- the HDMI connector is more a convenience than a necessity, and the larger snap-on hard drive will be available to existing 360 users as an accessory.
Moreover, there's certainly a tinge of disappointment that the Elite's higher price tag doesn't deliver a few more bundled features in the box -- the Wi-Fi adaptor and the HD DVD drive still need to be purchased separately, for instance. In other words, the Xbox 360 Elite is just a warmed-over version of the previous model that doesn't deliver any groundbreaking, PS3-killing features.
That said, the Xbox 360 currently has a larger and more impressive library of games, and until the PS3 can offer some compelling alternatives, the Xbox 360 remains the better option. And if you're going with the 360 for the first time, you might as well spend that extra and get the Elite.
CNET.com's executive editor David Carnoy, senior editor David Katzmaier, and assistant editors Matthew Moskovciak and David Rudden contributed to this review.
Additional editing by Jason Jenkins