I posted a thread on the Geezer Gamers site to see if anyone had a hard drive transfer kit laying around from their own replacement or upgrade experience, and user uk1fan came through for me. Armed with the kit, a copy of my replacement plan, and my 360 wrapped up in the original packaging, I went to Best Buy to do the exchange. Because of the price drop, I traded even-up for a brand-new Elite, and I had no issues transferring all my data over to the new console. Score!
(Of course, all my content licenses can't be transferred until next year, since I already used the License Transfer tool earlier this year to consolidate everything on the last console...)
I noticed something interesting about my new console. It seems to access data much faster than the old one(s). When I go to the Games blade, the "My Games" number used to count up fairly slowly, and pulling up the games list would take almost a full minute for the list to populate and for games to shuffle into place. Now, when I hit the Games blade, the "My Games" number counts up almost too quickly to be seen, and the game list is populated almost instantaneously.
Another thing I noticed is that "Inside Xbox" videos used to buffer constantly. Often, I'd have to wait 30 seconds or more for every 10 seconds of video. But just yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I watched an entire "Inside Xbox" video without a single "Buffering..." message at all (even when I first started the video).
And a third, relatively minor thing, but in context makes me wonder. When I used to use the Chatpad, I'd almost always have to go back and find where it dropped a couple letters before sending my message. But the first time I sent a message on the Elite, it picked up every letter, nothing dropped.
I opened a discussion on Geezer Gamers about this. I was curious if it was a function of the Elite console (an unadvertised benefit of the "black box"), the hard drive (was it something about the 120GB hard drive, or something about the 20GB hard drive being the same one I had with 360 #1 in 2006, even if the console attached to it had been replaced twice), or the newer innards that all new Xboxes have now?
We haven't come up with any firm conclusions. After all, we're basing this on purely anecdotal evidence. Some have said they've seen a difference when they've upgraded hard drives. One said he noticed just about everything I did when he picked up a new 60GB Pro.
Could it be that the old 20GB drives were crap, maybe lacked some on-drive cache that the 60GB and 120GB drives have? Could it be that the process of upgrading and transferring had the net result of doing a hard drive defrag, that is needed more than we know? (I remember when I used Ghost to defrag, as completely removing and recopying every file does a particularly good job as a very thorough defragger.) Could there be something extra in newer consoles that actually does do a better job (an upgraded SATA controller)? The CPU and GPU changes have been talked about for a while, but if there's been any news about other changes to the 360, it hasn't jumped out at me.
In any case, I'm very happy to report that I have a nice new console that hopefully *knock on wood* I'll never have to replace again.
And if so, I have a new Replacement Plan, good through September '10, and RRoD coverage through September '11. ;)