If you need proof that the Xbox has always been different from other consoles, look at the ports and plugs. From the original Xbox to the Xbox One, and soon, the Xbox Series X, Microsoft has upheld the tradition of implementing an I/O panel filled with all of the standards as well as a few ports that enable some unique features. In the case of the Xbox that released in 2003, having an Ethernet jack was evolutionary and helped to popularize online gaming for consoles. On the other hand, the Kinect auxiliary port was unique, but it never really went anywhere.
We recently explored the history of the Xbox dashboard, the ever-changing software used to navigate the consoles. It was fun to pick apart the software to see how Microsoft evolved with the times. And now, since Microsoft has shown off more of the Xbox Series X, we’re going to give the same retrospective treatment to the ports.
A simple port layout for simpler times. Microsoft got off to a good start in the console race with an internal power supply and an Ethernet port. Who could forget, though, that in order to watch DVDs with the Xbox, you needed to purchase the remote and IR receiver that plugged into a controller port?
- Rear I/O: power port (internal power supply), proprietary A/V port, Ethernet
- Front I/O: four proprietary controller ports
Xbox 360 (launch version)
The Xbox 360 kicked off a lot of new ideas for Microsoft. It ditched wired controllers for wireless ones. It moved the memory card slots from those original Xbox controllers onto the console itself, and it made the hard drives hot-swappable. The USB ports eventually allowed for the use of USB drives and devices for storage and media playback. These were all good changes. On the downside, the rear USB port was designed to accommodate a $99 dongle that enabled Wi-Fi connectivity. Perhaps worse than that, the external power brick was a pain to lug around. Its size could be likened to a literal brick, but perhaps a little lighter. It was almost nine inches long, three inches wide, and two inches thick.
- Rear I/O: power port (external power supply), proprietary A/V port (supported composite, component, VGA), Ethernet, one USB port (HDMI was available in the Elite, and later added to the standard console)
- Front I/O: two USB ports, two proprietary memory card slots
- Side I/O: proprietary connector for removable hard drive
Xbox 360 Slim
This revision is slimmer and smaller than the launch version of the Xbox 360. By this time, Microsoft implemented HDMI across all Xbox 360 consoles as well as digital optical audio (a feature that Sony had earlier with the PS2). Perhaps the biggest change here is the introduction of the Kinect auxiliary port.
Wait, did someone say Kinect? The Verge’s archives has a perfect picture for that.
- Rear I/O: power port (external power supply), digital optical audio port, proprietary A/V port, HDMI out, three USB ports, Ethernet, one auxiliary port for Kinect
- Front I/O: two USB ports
Xbox 360 E
In 2013, as Microsoft was gearing up to launch the Xbox One, it released the Xbox 360 E. It has a more elegant look than the Slim model, and it’s a far cry from the original Xbox 360 design. Much about this device’s port selection is the same as the Slim, though missing from this one is the proprietary A/V connector and one of the USB ports.
- Rear I/O: power port (external power supply), HDMI out, a composite port, one auxiliary port for Kinect, Ethernet, two USB ports
- Front I/O: two USB ports
Xbox One (launch version)
Microsoft really went for it with the port selection on the Xbox One, throwing out the strategy of segregating ports for different price tiers of its Xbox 360 consoles. The Xbox One was a fully blown media center, complete with separate HDMI in and out ports as well as an infrared port to loop it in with your entertainment center remotes. Despite how large this console was, you’d, unfortunately, be wrong to assume that Microsoft put the power supply inside of it. Yes, it included a huge external power brick.
- Rear I/O: power port (external power supply), HDMI out, HDMI in, digital optical audio port, two USB ports, one auxiliary port for Kinect, infrared port, Ethernet.
- Front I/O: nothing
- Side I/O: one USB port
The Xbox One S and X consoles largely mirror each other’s design, and the same goes for port selection. Microsoft finally ditched the Kinect auxiliary port with both consoles, and at last, it put the power supplies inside of the console.
- Rear I/O: power port (internal power supply), HDMI out, HDMI in, two USB ports, infrared port, digital optical audio port, Ethernet
- Front I/O: one USB port, infrared receiver and blaster
Though the Xbox Series X won’t be released until later in 2020, Microsoft seems to have nailed down the port selection on the Xbox Series X, according to a hands-on look from Digital Foundry. We’re quickly learning more about the unreleased console — for instance, that the mysterious rectangle next to the HDMI port is a storage expansion slot for a proprietary PCIe 4.0 drives. We also learned that it has two USB Type-A ports on the back (even though the new controller will charge via USB-C). And, praise be, the power supply is built into the console itself.
- Rear I/O: power port (internal power supply), Ethernet, two USB ports, digital optical audio port, HDMI out, proprietary memory expansion slot
- Front I/O: one USB port