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.


Much Prettier than the Original
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  • xboxknow - Saturday, June 19, 2010 - link

    Also -- you can see Canada written on the lid -- the early parts are being assembled at IBM's Canadian assembly facility.
  • teknomusik - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Does the slim still have an infrared signal receiver? I read somewhere that it doesn't, and I wasn't able to tell after looking at all of the pictures here.
  • CityZ - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    It does. You can see it on the motherboard next to the front USB ports.
  • F3N1X85 - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    This is killing me because I cant find an answer to this ANYWHERE so since u looked at it's guts I assume you can answer it.

    Did they remove the IR receiver?

    I use my current xbox as a media device more than an game system. I use a logitech harmony one to turn on my xbox, tv and receiver with one button and control my xbox itself. Now if, god forbid, my 360 red rings I will probably want to get the newer one. But if this new one no longer has an IR sensor then it puts a slight kink in my normal operation methods.
  • Drakino - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    "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."

    Yep. I'm only on my second XBox, with the launch day unit replaced under their extended "oh crap, we built a turd" coverage. While the new system looks slick, I'm not interested in rewarding Microsoft with any more of my money. If my current system fails, I'm going to sell off the games I have. I'll never understand the attraction people have to the 360 with the repeated and widespread failures. I already made an effort to pick up any cross platform game on the PS3 a number of years ago, so the 360 has been seeing less and less use as time goes on. I don't have the time to play every game that comes out, so having just the selection available to the PS3 doesn't bother me.

    Vote with your dollar, thats all companies really pay attention to. Stop rewarding Microsoft for failure.
  • bill4 - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Yup. It figures, any hate filled rant against the 360 is almost always accompanied by the other shoe dropping, "that's why I love my amazing Playstation 3 (tm)". I was literally just waiting for it as I read through your post.

    Anyways, you can do what you want, RROD is a dead issue since Jasper what, 3 years ago? I've owned a X360 since launch for 4.5 years, 3 different ones, and had one failure in that time (around a year after launch I think) that was fixed totally free and took less than two weeks turnaround time. Honestly, not that big a deal. That replacement Xbox then worked flawlessly for two years, at which point I voluntarily upgraded to a Jasper elite which has worked flawlessly since then. It's just not even a concern.

    Anyways I owned a PS3 (sold it) and that system is just terribly designed in so many ways (small example, I found it super annoying that my PS3 controllers were always out of charge for some reason. Worse, they only give you a exceedingly short recharge cable, another dumb decision, so I had to practically smash my face against the TV glass all the time while charging my PS3 controller. I later randomly read on a forum that the reason is, PS3 by default doesn't shut the controller down with the system, just terrible). I also hate the Ps3 last gen controller, especially for FPS, and PSN and XMB are both just low rent, and I read constant stories of never ending updates and installs and patches on PS3. And PSN download speeds are supposedly terrible, though I really didn't download that much in my time with it.

    But in the end it's the games, and I'll take Gears and Halo over Indiana Tomb Raider, I mean Uncharted, etc.
  • wicko - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    And it never fails that a 360 fanboy has to go into damage control mode and bash the PS3 for reasons that are entirely false. And FYI, I own both consoles currently and will not be selling either one.

    The controller DOES shutdown when you turn the system off. USB cables are plenty long and it costs maybe a dollar to buy an extra long cable if you need one at monoprice or something. The charge lasts quite a long time even when its telling you the battery is low, it will still last 30 minutes or more. If your controllers were dying it is possible that you have defective controllers or you're doing it wrong.

    Controller preference is a matter of opinion. Some people like the PS3 controller, some like the 360 controller. I'd prefer if sony had similar thumbsticks in that they have more resistance when you rotate them, and that the 360 controller didn't have a d-pad you'd expect to see on a 3rd party controller.

    PSN and XMB are fine, in fact MS took a page from XMB when they made NXE except they bloated theirs with Ads and useless items/channels. XMB makes a hell of a lot more sense since it's much easier to find different settings and what not, as well as in-game XMB being identical to out of game XMB. Everything is in the same place no matter where you access XMB.

    PSN being free also kills any real advantage XBL has, its just a much better deal altogether. And PSN+ makes XBL look ridiculous since you get more than just the ability to play online (which should be free) and early access to demos.

    As for PSN downloads, well, they max out my 5mb connection so I can't complain, but I'm sure people with 10-20mb connections aren't getting speeds they're accustomed to. Valid complaint.

    As for the games.. well again up to preference, but there is just so much more variety on PS3. Sadly, Halo has gone downhill in my opinion and I hope Reach is a throwback to the first game that I spent so many hours playing. But Uncharted 2 just takes the cake, there aren't many games that can match it. And I laugh at your Indiana Tomb Raider comment, considering Halo = Alients movies. Next time you're going to bash the PS3, at least get some facts behind you.
  • wicko - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Sorry, *Aliens movies.
  • chrnochime - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    And the MS fanboy rush out and claim that the PS3 just suck more than the 360. Please the 360 has been fundamentally flawed up to now, and all it took was 5 freakin years of actual production to make the system work as it should've always been.

    Too short an USB charge cable? Get a freakin' longer USB cable. If you're so well versed in gaming and PC as most gamers are, you should know where to get (cheap) usb cable already. And that crap about FPS on 360 being better than PS3? Please both suck compare to KB + mouse, so don't pretend FPS on 360 is just so fun LOLOL(tm) (tm by the fanboys who else).

    And those "constant stories" blah blah blah. If you actually owned one, and didn't experience any of the symptoms, what's your point in bringing them up?

    Voluntarily upgrade to Jasper? Why bother when you were so happy with the pre Jasper anyway? Don't tell me you did it NOT because you weren't worried your system could go any time. Wow lots of confidence in your fav company there.

    Just so you don't go thinking I'm a Sony fanboy(not that I give a crap what some anonymous poster online think), I own all three systems AND PCs for HTPC and gaming, so I got no bias whatsoever. I just HATE fanboys who keep saying HALO is so damn great when the freakin' controller is just a poor choice of input device for playing FPS.

    And that thing about TV *glass*? You mean Plasma screen right? WTH still plays games on CRT anyway Ha
  • cditty - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    This was a great article as always. Why don't you get your ad department to find a sponsor to buy a box that you can destroy by taking the heatspreader off, so we can get some inside pics and measurement of the core(s).

    Put their ad on that page of the article.... It will get some views.

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