Microsoft has officially announced the much-speculated-about Xbox 360 Elite. So what makes it Elite? Well, the big features that everyone is talking about are the HDMI port (instead of component), the 120GB hard drive (instead of 20GB) and a black case and controller (which does look really snazzy). Of course, these new features come with a new Elite price tag of $479 (compared to $399 for Xbox 360 Premium).

As an early adopter of the Xbox 360, I am a little irritated by the release of an new system less than 18 months after launch, especially after reading this quote from Xbox product manager John Rodman:

“We made a tenet to not ship the Elite console…unless we got quality to where customers and readers and ourselves are happy.” 

It is bad enough that I’ve had 2 Xbox 360s replaced since December 2005. Now there is a new system which not only has better features, but, by Microsoft’s own admission, is a better made product than the one I have sitting at home.

Microsoft didn’t leave current Xbox 360 owners out in the cold entirely. They did announce that the 120GB hard drive will be available as an upgrade. Unfortunately, the price for the new drive will be $180. Pretty steep for a drive that size. Fortunately, you don’t really need the larger drive unless you are downloading a lot of movies or TV shows from the XBOX Live Marketplace.

After the initial limited edition run of Elites are sold, it has been reported that Microsoft will make the new hardware (minus the black case) the standard configuration for the Xbox 360 Premium.

So I’ll continue to use my “not-Elite” Xbox 360 as-is. I just hope I can deal with the shame…