Limited addition "Lunar White" controller is also announced as Gamestop exclusive

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in June announced a new $399 USD SKU of its Xbox One console.  The $50 extra bought you a 512 Gigabytes (GB) extra of storage, bumping the internal hard drive capacity of the console to 1 Terabyte (TB).  Alongside the new higher capacity console, Microsoft also announced a new Xbox One "ELITE" wireless controller for "hardcore gamers", which featured reprogrammable buttons and other niceties traditionally only seen in third party controllers.

Today Microsoft announced a number of new offerings for pre-order, including a $499 bundle which includes an ELITE controller.  

Xbox One Elite

With this new offering we see approximately five distinct Xbox One SKUs at three price points (all of which come with a wireless headset):
The items in green are the new(er) stuff and are only in pre-order status at present.  I added the release dates for each highlighted below them in yellow.

Of the new new offerings, the Halo 5 bundle clearly offers the least bang for your buck in terms of physical hardware, offering no additional hardware versus the 1 TB $399 USD SKU.  Clearly the console is attempting to sell itself based upon the popularity of the Halo franchise.

However, the value is weakened by the fact that Microsoft will also be offering on 9/29 the same custom Halo controllers that come with the bundle for $70 USD (only a $10 USD premium over the basic controller price of $60 USD).  The steelbook edition of Halo V is priced at an additional $40 USD so basically the game itself and controller offer $50 USD in value.

Thus Halo fans will have to find a way to justify the console's purchase price via the other goodies -- the Guardian model by Metal Earth / Exclusive DLC: Warzone REQ Bundle.  Alternatively Halo fans can drop a cool $249 USD ($239 USD w/ $10 Xbox gift card rebate) for an "ultimate" edition of Halo V (console NOT included) that comes with both those items and more (everything but the custom console).

In addition to the incoming custom Forza Motorsports 6 (9/7; $65 USD) and a Master Chief Halo 5 custom controller (9/27; $70 USD) Microsoft is also offering a separate limited edition controller in a "Lunar Gold" white/gold color scheme, priced at the same $65 USD sticker. (The standard controller is jet black.)  It will be available exclusively from Gamestop Corp. (GME).

Xbox One Lunar White

Perhaps the more intriguing option for those who aren't diehard Halo fans, is the just-announced equally priced ELITE bundle.  For the $100 USD premium over the base rate for a 1 TB console, you first get an ELITE controller, which retails for a cool $150 USD.  At a markup of $90 USD over the base controller, the ELITE controller alone justifies (well, sort of) most of the console bundle's $100 USD markup.

Xbox One Elite Controller

What makes the this SKU especially interesting, though, is that it actually introduces another hardware change, albeit a minor one.  In edition to a superficial makeover, the ELITE edition console gets a 1 TB hybrid hard disk drive.  Versus the standard 1 TB HDD offering in the $399 USD consoles, Microsoft claims this mixed magnetic and solid state storage drive will lead to 20 percent faster load times in games.  
Xbox One ELITE bundle

If true that's impressive. The only cause for skepticism is that we don't yet know how big the solid state cache is.  Microsoft promises that it will intelligently cache your most commonly played games to the high-speed solid state storage, but at some point clearly it will have to start hitting the hard disk and performance will drop back down.

Hybrid drives, of course, aren't anything new, but it's interesting to see what effect they might have in the console space.

In terms of the leap to 1 TB, the extra space affords more room of your media if you use the Xbox One as entertainment hub.  Alternatively, it gives you more space for games.  Xbox One games range wildly in size, but generally fall between 2 and 40 GB.  Here's a list of sizes for some titles.  Assuming an average size of 20 GB, you'd likely be looking at somewhere around 45+ locally installed games before you run out of space.

One thing's for sure -- with the popular Windows 10 incoming to the console in time for the holiday season, Microsoft looks to have a strong pitch against its Japanese arch-rival Sony Corp. (TYO:6758).  Sony is also being hurt by reports that its early stock of 1 TB PlayStation 4s were based on the older CUH-1100, not the the CUH-1200, as was hoped/anticipated.  The CUH-1200 is expected to pack power saving improvements, which means Sony may be leaving early adopters of the higher capacity SKU with an inferior console that will be replaced shortly.  TechRadar goes as far as to suggest, "If you're about to buy a new 1TB PlayStation 4, don't."

All this gives ample opportunity for the Xbox One to gain ground on the PS4, after trailing it rather badly in unit sales for some time.

Sources: Xbox Wire, Major Nelson

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