Power and Thermals

Packing all this performance into the new Xbox Series X was most certainly going to be an engineering challenge to deal with the heat generated. The design of the new console is a clear indication that heat was one of the top priorities when engineering the console. The open-top design creates convection currents which naturally draw heat to the top, and the Xbox also adds in a large fan at the top to encourage the hot air to move out the top of the device. There is a split-motherboard as well, separating the high-heat components like the SoC, and the storage, to allow for a more evening cooling.

Microsoft outfitted the Xbox Series X with a large passive heatsink as well, with vertical fins as part of the “parallel cooling architecture” which allows the air to rise through the heatsink and be cast out of the top of the device by the fan, similar to how a server CPU would be cooled.

First, let’s see what kind of power figures the Xbox Series X generates.

Power Usage

When in the energy savings mode and powered off, the Xbox Series X drew just 0.2 watts of power, which was a bit less than the Xbox One X. In the instant-on mode, that figure jumps up to 11-29 watts. One of the biggest advantages of Instant-On was, as it is named, how quickly the console resumed, but thanks to the Xbox Velocity Architecture and the console’s incredible boot time, it may not be worth running that mode. Instant-On also allows for games to be updated in the background, as well as the console to be remotely access to start a new game download, as an example, and those would still be benefits, but the power difference is significant and if you are OK not having that you can save some on your power bill.

In fact, it would be nice if Xbox offered a hybrid mode, where the console would be in full-off mode, but then wake every 8 hours or so to check for updates, apply them, and go back to off. Maybe someday.

Powered on and sitting idle at the dashboard, and the new Xbox Series X is a bit more power efficient than the Xbox One X, thanks to the 7 nm process, and it consumes around 44-45 Watts at idle.

That trend continues with a backwards compatible game in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The new console consumes almost 25 Watts less power in the same portion of the game to achieve the same performance levels. The new 7 nm process and RDNA 2 architecture is showing its strengths.

Moving to a game optimized for Series X in Gears 5, which features 4K60 gameplay and cut scenes, and the Xbox Series X finally eclipses the Xbox One X, which also offers 4K60 gameplay in this title. But still, a hair over 200 Watts of total device power is particularly good for a 4K60 game. If you look at the Radeon RX 6800 graphics card, it has a total board power of 250 Watts for 13.9 TFLOPS vs 12 TFLOPS in the Xbox Series X, and the Xbox also includes the CPU, storage, and all other aspects. Microsoft has clearly paid close attention to the DVFS curves on the Zen 2 and RDNA 2 components, keeping them from getting too far out of hand and causing a significant power requirement increase for a minimal performance gain.

Looking at the infrared signature from the Xbox Series X, and we see pretty normal results for a console.

Xbox Series X Heat Signature

The heat is unsurprisingly concentrated on the top of the system, where the fan is expelling the hot air. The console gets warm, but never hot, and the heat output and temperatures are really not much different than the Xbox One X.

Xbox Series X Heat Signature

Noise is a different story though. The Xbox team has hit one out of the park here. At idle, the Xbox Series X is basically silent. The SPL meter could not detect the Xbox Series X over the baseline noise in the room, so it read about 36 dB(A) measured one inch in front of the console. At load, the noise level basically did not change, with a measurement of 37.3 dB(A). That is an incredible result for a console with 12 TFLOPS of graphics performance and the ability to pull 200+ Watts.

Xbox One X Heat Signature

As a comparison, the Xbox One X, which should be stated is three years old now, with three years of dust and wear on the fan, idled at 38.5 dB(A) measured one inch in front of the console, and ramped up to 45 dB(A) under load playing Gears 5. To put this difference in perspective, the new Xbox Series X is quieter playing Gears 5 than the Xbox One X is at idle. The attention to detail on cooling and sound by the Xbox team is really a homerun here.

The Xbox Series X Design Media Playback
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  • Kangal - Saturday, November 7, 2020 - link

    I haven't seen any TV, Radio, or Billboard ads. Even the buzz online has been quite mute.
    Despite that, 2020 is a bad time for console release. Not only is the pandemic risk a real problem, but the component supply issues are tough, the people having a lot less spending money is massive, and on top of that software and game developers have also been hit.

    Now every disadvantage has it's advantage!
    1) I think this was the perfect opportunity for MS to one-up and beat the console race, by pulling a "pro move". And what I mean about that is that MS should have trolled Sony, by developing a next-gen console that is launching in December, priced much higher, have worse specs, be much hotter, be much louder, look uglier, have a confusing name, and have gimmicky launch titles. So it's basically a 4K-checkerboard console with NO RayTracing. Yep, even going as far as sending lots of units to game publishers to work on, some individual units to online reviewers, and even limited supply to retailers. This would've meant Sony develops a PS5 that's even worse than now in terms of features (No RayTracing) and specs (20%-60% slower), and at a higher $600 price, to help the company profit-margin.

    2) Then at the last minute, bam, MS apologises and cancels the product just before launch. Then cite the covid restrictions, supply issues, etc etc as the culprit. But promise to release the system very soon when they are ready. A slimy business move indeed. It will have the half-baked PS5 competing with itself, which doesn't matter, as PS4 had won the current-gen console race.

    3) Then "re-develop" the next-gen console to actually release a year later, in Oct 2021. By this period, they would have stopped Xbox One/S/X production and ended stock. And released the "Xbox Two" as a better named, beautiful console, that runs cold, runs silent, ships with the Elite2 controller, and has a couple awesome exclusive games. It would run all enhanced "XB1X" games, and it supports next-gen games with an output of 4K-HDR-RayTracing with 120fps, but all games are actually rendered in 1080p. So because of the questionable 4TF RDNA +2 GPU its only a slight upgrade (modest upgrade to Base Xbox One), and priced equal to the discounted Xbox OneX at $300. Even worse it lacks a Disc tray, so it is Digital Only which gives a monopoly to MS for game sales and streaming. However, thanks to the much faster 4.0GHz Zen3 CPU, 16GB GDDR6 memory, and the Soldered 512GB nVme SSD, it does support all next-gen titles. So this rounds out the Xbox One era, with no reviewers sent any units, with all retailers having full stock already, it is ready for sale right away, shocks the industry and defeats the 1 year old $600 PS5 on a strict value proposition.

    4) But wait, there's more!
    Upon release of the Xbox Two, one week later MS holds a press release/announcement. This is their true fifth-gen console aptly named "The Xbox V". It's even better named, more beautiful design, runs silent, runs cool, released cheaper and better than expected. The next day and following, there are ads for it everywhere on TV, Radio, Billboards, and everywhere online. Whilst pre-orders start the next week, for a sweet $500 price, with heaps of stock in MS's warehouses boxed and ready. They would also have a new 5th-gen controller dubbed "XP5" for Xbox Pad 5 with an updated design. It also uses upgraded parts like 4.0GHz Zen3 CPU, a more modern 12TF RDNA2+ GPU, ample 32GB GDDR6 memory, and a 1TB nVme SSD that is user replaceable. Not to mention a much more polished API, Software, and launch titles/exclusives (not gimmicky). Overall there's a huge and noticeable (30%-90%) performance difference between the "half-baked PS5" versus the "enhanced Xbox V". This means PS5 suffers immensely with all third-party releases for the entire generation (not enough RAM, worse APIs, and slower CPU and GPU), and this new console package with such an instant reveal and launch puts Sony at a difficult position. Hence, having an early victory in 2020 for Sony proves useless in terms of profit and market share, and the console race really heats up.

    PS: ....with all this hypothetical yet possible scenario laid out, I should note Nintendo lost a similar opportunity with the Switch console. Which could have retailed more/less price, and launched same/earlier period, YET using the new technologies it could have been much more advanced and even more powerful than the PS4, thus supporting all third-party games from the current-gen consoles. It would've extended its effective lifetime, not be obsolete so quickly. Perhaps remain relevant in the next-gen console era as well, instead of relying on gimmicks, fans, and nostalgia.
    Reply
  • persondb - Saturday, November 7, 2020 - link

    That would require Microsoft to know ahead about the current situation. Because you know, hardware takes a long time to develop and it was likely finalized just before the start of this pandemic. Same for playstation really. Reply
  • Tams80 - Sunday, November 8, 2020 - link

    This is what an uninhibited stream of fanboi fantasy looks like.

    Utterly clueless, impractical, unrealistic, and silly. Move along; nothing to see here.
    Reply
  • TesseractOrion - Sunday, November 8, 2020 - link

    Total drivel. Reply
  • Kangal - Sunday, November 8, 2020 - link

    I concur.
    Still fun thought exercise. Besides fact is stranger than fiction.
    Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Monday, November 9, 2020 - link

    People without disposable income have made the PS4 Pro and Nintendo switch disappear from retail supply though. Seems people have more money than you think Reply
  • FloridaMan - Friday, November 20, 2020 - link

    Sir,

    Corporate espionage is a real thing. Nearly all tech companies engage in an array of both soft and hard spying to know what the competition is bringing to the table.

    AMD would be point entropy in this situation. Not only is a third party designing for both Sony and MS, but their using the same architecture as well. One has less room to differentiate their product within those lines. However, this is beneficial to the consumer as developers are working between a framework rather than having to code for separate entities.
    Gone are the days where one might wait a year for game to port. (At least for consoles. The PCMASTERACE still locked behind this constraint on many titles, but we are patient, and mighty! What cannot be unlocked will be emulated, modded or synthesized!)
    Reply
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    I don't know if that's true or not, as I don't watch any TV. But maybe they feel it would be counterproductive in this environment. Hyping something up that will be in short supply for a while might make people frustrated. And by short supply I don't mean the supply will be low, I mean that demand will already outstrip supply without any advertising.

    The console market as a whole is probably pretty stable without any advertising, but Sony and Microsoft would want to gain an edge against each other in enthusiasm. So I would expect campaigns to try to influence people. Perhaps at first they will be a bit more subtle? (such as to get their product talked about on gamer youtuber channels, etc...) Then it's out there in people's minds without the direct, implicit promises of availability that come with direct advertising.
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    Maybe they know they're facing supply shortages and there's no point in paying for advertising to sell a product that might already be sold out through the end of the year. I think enough gamers knew about PS5 and XSX that a tv commercial wouldn't move the needle. Reply
  • HarryVoyager - Saturday, November 7, 2020 - link

    That would be my suspicion. As I understand it, the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S have all, already, completely sold out in most markets, and it will be a while until they've got enough hardware on hand to make more.

    At that point a big ad blitz is just going to cost you money.
    Reply

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