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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  • jabber - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    Tough call releasing a very non-essential bit of tech in the middle of a pandemic and economic downturn. Reply
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    Gaming is strong because people are going out less, and it's not really an economic downtown. More like a big interruption. It remains to be seen what the longer-term effects are. Gaming tends to hold up well in actual economic downturns, anyway, from what I remember hearing. Evidence to expect strong sales: Typically, console sales are weak before a new console launch, but the PS4 and X Box One continued to sell well this year. And just look at how the Nintendo Switch is doing, much better than last year. Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Monday, November 9, 2020 - link

    Not such a tough call when the Nintendo Switch and PS4 Prop have been sold out in most retail channels continuously since April. Reply
  • zepi - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    They are so badly supply side constrained, that there is really very little need to spend the marketing dollars right now.

    I'm sure MS and Sony will start pushing advertising once they have actually something to sell and they can really start competing for the marketshare.
    Reply
  • steezebuscemi - Friday, November 6, 2020 - link

    I haven't seen anything on TV, but also never really pay attention to free to air. But everywhere I look on the internet for the past 6-9 months has been speculation, rumours and excitement over this console gen. So it might just be where you are looking. I'm getting a PS5, I know numerous people getting Series X's, and I know a heap that missed out on preorders for either. Reply
  • Zagor Te Nay - Monday, November 9, 2020 - link

    Don't know, my environment (friends and colleagues) are quite excited... but more about PS5 that XSX.

    I feel MS took some - or a lot - of edge from the hype with their approach. Games available on older Xbox, new Xbox, PC, and then mushed up in easy to digest subscription. It just doesn't let new consoles stand out of the crowd much, it feels more like "one of many". Plus, there is no real look-what-it-can-do title on launch. Maybe new Forza or something would raise excitement a bit, but as it is, lineup is a bit lackluster.

    I work in IT company, so yeah - geeky environment. I hear chitchats about Miles Morales, DualSense, GT7 wishes, fears and expectations... but not much about new Xbox. I know it is anecdotal, still it holds some value for people in my circle; everyone from the circle, looking for new console, will be getting PS5 - as the things are now. I'm yet to hear one person who has set targets on XSX. It also doesn't help that many are PC gamers, too.
    Reply
  • d0x360 - Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - link

    I'm pretty excited...well I was, I already have my series x so now I'm just happy. Especially since I won't be able to get my hands on an amd 5900 and a 6900xt until probably March due to supply. Reply
  • Jorgp2 - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    >This encompasses four key components, the first of which is the NVMe SSD itself which can handle 2.4 GB/s of uncompressed data. But to connect it to the system, and reduce CPU overhead, there is also a hardware decompression block,

    Then there is no need for them to have used a proprietary memory card, most high end NVMe drives would have been fast enough.
    Reply
  • Silversee - Friday, November 6, 2020 - link

    It's not proprietary memory. It's a proprietary slot-based package.

    I surmise that they wanted a design that was plug and play for consumers and did not require opening up the case or messing with M.2 slots. So, they created the card interface.

    They have indicated that other vendors may be offering compatible storage as well, so we may see market forces reducing costs.
    Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    My "want it now" for this was significantly dampened when it became clear that Microsoft's own Flight Simulator is not available for the Series X at launch. That was/is weird, and gives me pause about availability of games that can really take advantage of the power this thing has on offer. Don't like saying it, but it looks like SONY is doing a better job there with its PS5, and I am not a PS fan. Reply

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