A Hard Disk - Hurrah!
Having a hard disk in the standard version is big news. Here, Microsoft competes directly in the very lucrative market of memory cards. Yes, you can still use those memory cards to save data and use on your neighbor's console, but that is their only function. Having a hard disk in the Xbox is a great idea. You can save as many games as you want. Just think about the cost of saving games on PS2 with titles such as Gran Turismo 3, for example. You would easily need $130 worth of memory cards to be safe on PS2. And with different people playing different games on one console, the savings are really big. The hard disk also serves as buffer storage for game data extracted out of a DVD, which considerably diminishes waiting time.
You're likely to find either a Seagate U series 5 with 10 GB, where apparently only eight get used, or a Western Digital WD80EB with 8 GB. Both are 5400 rpm drives with single-platter designs. Not only does this save on costs, but both drives run more quietly and stay cooler, as well. The Seagate is better because it's a bit faster, but the difference is very small. You could complain that this disk is very poor compared to PC standards. But with console architecture, who cares? Don't worry when it comes to saving and to the buffer. The game will save data during dead times, which will have no negative consequences on games being played at the same time. You're not playing the game from the hard disk, you're saving data on it to speed up the uploading process. A 7200 rpm disk would have been able to gain a second or two during uploading, but frankly, when you think of the costs and constraints, it doesn't matter. The size is good enough since, for the most part, we're talking about temporary storage. And access time really is not that big a deal. Lastly, you must consider that, compared to a PS2, games will upload much faster (as much as 4 times faster) between missions or tables if they're programmed correctly, and that you can save what you want. If it weren't for the slow hard disk and the 64 MB of memory instead of 128 MB, the waiting time of up to three seconds between two tables for options could have been eliminated, but that would have raised the console's price considerably. Honestly, can't we wait just a second, or what? Don't think of replacing the hard disk. It is IDE standard but the firmware is proprietary. You could do it but it would be complicated, and it wouldn't be worth it.