Earlier this week Microsoft announced a new Xbox One Elite Bundle that includes its upcoming Elite Wireless controller. If you haven't heard of it, the Elite controller is a $150 customizable controller that is overkill for most of us. With the bundle priced at $500 it didn't seem like enough of a deal to be worth posting about.
But I missed an interesting detail. The Xbox One in this controller is a little different too. It has a 1 GB solid state hybrid drive, the first Xbox One model to include such a drive.
How much of a difference will that make? Microsoft says it boots from 'Standby Mode' to a playable state 20% faster than an Xbox One with a traditional hard drive. That's an impressive figure, but in my opinion the Xbox One boots from Standby pretty quickly anyway. And with the new Xbox app on Windows 10 I usually start the Xbox remotely before I leave my office, though maybe that's just me.
Microsoft doesn't mention if game load times will be improved and frankly I don't know enough about hybrid drive technology to make an informed prediction; if pressed, I'd guess that the drive will normally wind up with OS files that every game uses in its fast storage and game specific files will load off the traditional media, so any gaming load time decreases would be minimal. I welcome any and all theories about this in the comments.
I'm still not sure who this bundle is for. If you're a serious enough gamer that you want the Elite controller you probably already own an Xbox One. There's no game included in the bundle so you're going to be spending another $50-$60 to have something to play (either a game or an Xbox Live Gold membership so you can take advantage of the growing library of free-to-play titles on the Xbox One). There's no Kinect which might become a more desirable peripheral once Microsoft integrates Cortana into the Xbox One OS in November.
The new bundle isn't available until November 3rd, and in the US it'll be an Gamestop and Microsoft Store exclusive for the month of November. That means fewer chances to get a discounted price via a Black Friday deal, but who knows? Maybe Gamestop will throw in a game or something to sweeten the pot.
Still, I think going for a cheaper bundle that includes a game and the standard controller and Xbox One is a better choice for most shoppers. There are 1 TB Halo and Madden bundles that go for $400. If you need to you can then add a $150 Elite controller later, spending $550 total but winding up with two controllers and a game. The $500 Elite Bundle doesn't add the Elite controller as a second controller but replaces the standard controller that usually comes with the system. If you want a 2nd controller for when friends come over, a standard Xbox One controller is another $50. Once again you're spending $550.
In either case you'll wind up with a 1 TB drive, 1 Elite Controller and 1 Standard Controller. The difference is having a hybrid drive vs having a game to play. If the biggest selling point of the hybrid drive is 20% faster boot times of an already fast-booting system...meh, personally I'd take the game. As we get closer to the launch of the system we might learn that it significantly improves other aspects of the system, in which case I reserve the right to change my recommendation.