Power Consumption: 50% of the Original Xbox 360, and Quieter

Moore’s Law is good for any of three things: 1) increasing performance, 2) adding features, 3) reducing power. Consoles have the benefit of not having to worry about improving performance or adding features over time. There are no changing API specs and games are always designed to the same hardware performance level. This leaves us with improvements in power consumption (and Microsoft’s profitability).


The new Xbox 360 power connector (right). It's slim.

The new power brick isn’t compatible with the old Xbox 360s. At 135W it isn’t enough to power even the Jasper Xbox 360 and thus you get a new power connector. It’s much lighter than the old unit and a bit smaller, but still larger than anything you’d get with a notebook for obvious reasons.


New power brick (left) vs Old power brick (right)

Given my plethora of Xbox 360s I happen to have a good amount of historical data on power consumption for all of the major revisions, I’ve added the relevant Valhalla numbers below.

Power Consumption Comparison
Xbox 360 Revision System Off Idle Halo 3 Rockband 2 Gears of War 2 Red Dead Redemption
Xbox 360 Slim (Valhalla) 0.6W 70.4W 87.0W 82.7W 88.0W 90.4W
Xbox 360 Late 2008 - 2010 (Jasper) 2.0W 93.7W 105.9W 101.0W 105.9W 109.3W
Xbox 360 Late 2007 - 2008 (Falcon) 2.8W 101.4W 121.2W 112.8W 121.5W  
Xbox 360 2005 - 2007 (Xenon) 2.3W 155.7W 177.8W 167.7W 177.1W  

The biggest improvement is actually when the system is totally off. The new Xbox 360 slim pulled 0.6W compared to over 2W for the older 360s while doing nothing more than being plugged in. Idle power is roughly 75% of what it was with the Jasper Xbox 360 and load power is around 80 - 83% of what we saw with the previous generation. Note that the new Xbox 360 consumes less than half the power of the original 360!

Idle power consumption is actually not very impressive for a 40nm Xbox 360 if that's indeed what we're looking at. A modern day Core i5 system with an efficient power supply will idle at under 70W with a beefy discrete graphics card. While this is a significant drop compared to previous Xbox iterations, it's not impressive as a computing device.

The savings are tangible however and also result in a cooler, quieter system. The CPU and GPU are now cooled by a single, larger fan that keeps idle noise down to a minimum. I measured noise levels between Valhalla and Jasper at 2” away from the chassis and came up with the numbers below:

Sound Comparison
  Xbox 360 Slim (Valhalla) Xbox 360 Late 2008 - 2010 (Jasper)
Idle 45 dB(A) 50 dB(A)
Load (Spinning Disc) 51 dB(A) 54 dB(A)

The measurements were taken in my office with a noise floor of around 37 dB(A). At idle the new Xbox 360 slim is noticeably quieter, but still audible. The drop in idle noise is perfect for those of you who use the Xbox 360 as a HTPC of sorts. You can still get quieter out of a well designed HTPC however.

While spinning a disc the old Jasper was absurdly loud it is more bearable on the new 360. It’s still not silent (nor can it be while quickly spinning a disc) and you’ll still scratch discs if you move the Xbox 360 while a disc is spinning, but it’s an improvement.

Much Prettier than the Original Getting Inside the new Xbox 360
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    I'm guessing cost more than anything else, this thing has to be as cheap as possible in order to turn a profit.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • landerf - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Slim DVD drive's cost more and are slower to read discs. Having engineered a HTPC that fits into a 360 case with a full size drive, psu, and real gfx card (90 degree pci-e riser) I can tell you it's all about engineering smartly. If there's plenty of room for something bigger but cheaper then that's just what makes sense to use. Reply
  • Guspaz - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    The 360 uses a 12x DVD drive, so at least the rotational speed of the drive isn't hard to match (slim drives also go up to 12x). I'm not sure if the average seek time would be fast enough in a slim drive, though.

    Another consideration is that a slim drive would have required Microsoft to switch to a slot loading system like Nintendo and Sony use; a slim tray would be too flimsy for a console, and requiring the user to snap the disk onto the central spindle might have been a bit awkward.

    To be honest, though, I'd rather have had the new xbox use a slot-loading slim drive and an internal power supply.
    Reply
  • adam92682 - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    The Saturn, Playstation, and Gamecube required the user to snap the disc onto the central spindle. Reply
  • nubie - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Ha, you forgot the Dreamcast and Sega CD.

    Seriously, that doesn't look like a full-size drive to me (I could be wrong). Not a slmiline drive, but doesn't seem full-size to me. Since they are using custom drives all they need be concerned with is the size of the actual electro-mechanical bits and circuit boards.

    I like the HS design, looks like an OEM bundled PC HS/Fan, maybe we will see some heatpipe versions.

    I like the HDD tray, looks like with a simple plastic carrier you can slot in any laptop style HDD. (Or just stuff newspapers around it if you don't care about fire.)
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Limited to 8x. Unless you can show me a 12x drive. They've been stuck on 8x for years. Reply
  • NaMcOJR - Saturday, June 19, 2010 - link

    It's the only thing that's missing there, yeah... Reply
  • rorrim180 - Sunday, November 28, 2010 - link

    I would guess that they could not implement a mechanism to close the tray if they used a slim drive. Reply
  • arnavvdesai - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    While power has increased considerably for the PC counterparts, I still dont see any better cooling methods introduced. Even if were to assume that Microsoft would stick a 5870 into their box I dont see how they can cool such a beast in a small form factor. We would need to move to a lower die size in order to be able to adequately cool the device. Also, we need to remember that TVs have a hit the 1080p mark and will not move to a higher resolution anytime soon, so console makers will have to push technology in different area of improvements. Also, what about buffers for the GPU? While CPUs can make do with 12 MB of L3 cache what about GPUs. With higher textures we need the ability to feed the beast and consoles will need to somehow figure that out.
    Also game developers have not really demanded higher capabilities from the consoles. I have a 5870 in my PC and having played the same games on PC and my 360 I dont see much difference in fidelity .
    We must also remember that software for this generation cost a lot more to develop for. This means that if a new technology was introduced they would have to optimize for it at an even higher cost and most devs are not ready for it.
    The only reason I see in the future which would demand more power from consoles is 3D. If significant market penetration is achieved (which is a long way IMHO) then and only then will we demand more from our consoles. Also, Microsoft will have a tough choice when it comes to the media they want their games to be on. Blu-Ray seems to be the only alternative at the moment and I am sure Microsoft would prefer something more( them getting that is a different thing altogether)
    Reply
  • Earthmonger - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    I'll state here what I stated elsewhere: This thing looks like a fat woman sat on a DVD player. What were they thinking? I don't want it anywhere near my EC.

    Hopefully someone will put out some decent-looking aftermarket cases. And at just $300, warranty isn't really a concern.
    Reply

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