I own a total of five Xbox 360s. Four of them have died. Three because of the Red Ring of Death, all out of warranty. Many have had serial Xbox 360 failures, I had them in parallel.

The last revision of the Xbox 360, codenamed Jasper, was supposed to fix the infamous RRoD problem. So far my Jasper has been running fine. While Microsoft never confirmed the cause the RRoD seemed to be a result of poor cooling and manufacturing issues (either at the die/underfill level or at the solder level or both).

Needless to say, I wasn’t terribly happy about purchasing a sixth Xbox 360, but here it is:

This is the latest revision of the Xbox 360, commonly referred to as the Xbox 360 Slim thanks to its shrinking in virtually all dimensions compared to the previous white box:

The internals are mostly new, featuring for the first time a single chip with CPU, GPU and eDRAM. Prior to this motherboard revision the Xbox 360 motherboard had two discrete packages, one with the CPU and one with the GPU + eDRAM.

The old Xbox 360 had eDRAM and GPU - Xenos on a single package (right), plus a separate chip for the CPU - Xenon (left)

For those of you who don't remember, ATI originally designed the Xbox 360's GPU and called it Xenos. The GPU was the first we ever looked at that used a unified shading architecture, so there were no dedicated pixel or vertex units. The core was made up of 48 shader processors and each SP could work on a vect4 plus a scalar op in parallel. These days we'd probably call it a GPU with 240 cores, although it's a bit dated from a functionality standpoint. The GPU runs at 500MHz and is also home to the memory controller.

On a separate die, which ATI referred to as the daughter die, was 10MB of embedded DRAM along with all of the hardware necessary for z and stencil operations, color and alpha processing and AA. This eDRAM and associated logic helped Microsoft bring AA to games and improve overall performance compared to what was possible at the time with conventional architectures.

The CPU, codenamed Xenon, implemented three in-order PowerPC cores with SMT support - meaning the whole chip could work on six threads at the same time. The design was ahead of its time but given its 90nm manufacturing process it only had 1MB of L2 cache to share among all three cores. These days it isn't really considered the ideal approach to a many-core CPU. Private L2 caches with a large shared L3 cache is preferred for scaling beyond two cores.

Leading up to Jasper, each die was shrunk independently with each Xbox iteration. The table below shows us how:

Xbox 360 Revision CPU GPU eDRAM
Xenon/Zephyr 90nm 90nm 90nm
Falcon/Opus 65nm 80nm 80nm
Jasper 65nm 65nm 80nm

With the new Xbox 360 (codenamed Valhalla), at least two, possibly all three of the die are combined and placed on a single package:

Bringing it all onto (presumably) a single die makes cooling much simpler as now there’s only one heatsink and one fan for all of the major heat generating components in the unit. This level of integration is made possible only by the not-so-magic of Moore’s Law. At 40nm it shouldn’t be a problem to bring all of those components onto a single reasonably sized die, which in turn reduces Microsoft’s manufacturing costs. It’s not totally clear whether Microsoft is building these chips on a 40nm, 45nm or 55nm node. The 40nm approach would make the most sense but TSMC is very capacity constrained at this point so it would be a slow ramp before all Xboxes got the Valhalla treatment. Update: Apparently 45nm is the magic number. The new CGPU is rumored to be made at Chartered Semiconductor, now under the ownership of Global Foundries.

The uncertainty is because of a pesky heat spreader. While previous Xbox 360 CPU/GPUs were visible to the naked eye once you popped the heatsink off, the Valhalla design has a heat spreader covering the Xbox CGPU (Microsoft’s term, not mine). Unwilling to potentially kill yet another Xbox 360, I’ve left my heat spreader intact for the purposes of this article.

What follows is an entire dissection guide for those of you who want to get inside the new Xbox 360 (for whatever reason you might have ;), as well as some power/noise information for those of you contemplating the upgrade.

Enjoy.

Much Prettier than the Original
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  • Rafterman - Saturday, September 25, 2010 - link

    Was looking at the new X-Box S. The guy in the shop said it outputs 720p/1080p. Afterwards I'm thinking how does it do this if it does not have a blu-ray dvd drive and it got me thinking, are x-box games not HD(blu-ray) alla PS3 games. I understand you can run DLC at HD(1080p ect) but how does it work with games bought in the shop on DVD. Reply
  • xboxer - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    Does anyone know if there is any speed difference in the CPU in the new slim versus the original? Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Its the same speed. Same architecture, same frequency, same buses. Just smaller. Reply
  • ordine - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - link

    Bring back the old Cartridge was nice and fast,wonder if it would work these days . Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    It would cost more per gigabyte. The PS Vita is sort of using them - if you count SD-like memory cards - but that can get away with less storage per game, most likely. Reply
  • jigglywiggly - Sunday, October 09, 2011 - link

    It's uglier, why does everyone think it's prettier?
    Second, you could have done the x clamp fix to fix your old xboxes or just give them to me :P
    Reply
  • VenomousTBag - Thursday, September 19, 2013 - link

    Absolutely awesome. XBOX360 + Strawberry milkshake = f**ked? NO - thanks to this guide, I have just fixed the unfixable :) Thank you sooooo much :):):):) Reply
  • justammad - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    So the best xbox 360 console is jasper? To enjoy longtime gaming? Reply
  • justammad - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    And whats about The gaming and problems experience of the 2013 xbox 360 e slim? Reply

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