Xbox 360 Slim Noise and Heat
There are a few other aesthetic tweaks to take note of with the Xbox 360 S, such as the new glossy black finish or the fact that the Eject and power button are now touch-sensitive panels rather than physical buttons. The 360 Slim now beeps when you press either of these, while the new glossy case will record when you touch it anywhere else – it’s a real fingerprint magnet!
The really interesting visible change though is the alterations to the Slim’s cooling system. While older Xbox 360s had two smaller fans to provide (some might say inefficient) cooling, the Slim has only a single, larger fan.
The new fan measures 92mm and exhausts accumulated heat through the side of the console, rather than the rear. The immediate good news there is that, because the fans is larger, it doesn’t need to spin as fast – meaning less of the cacophony for which older Xboxes has become known for.
Measuring how the changes to the fan affect the thermal performance is obviously a tricky business, as the new design means that results gathered from any testing won’t be easily comparable. The layout of the motherboard has changed, along with the cooling system and actual hardware. The Slim uses a new 45nm chip which integrates the Xenon processor along with the Xenos GPU and eDRAM. So, it’s not just as simple as shoving a thermal probe in and running a game for five minutes.
The side fan on the new Xbox 360 Slim
Still, eager to gather some sort of data, we recorded the temperature of the exhausted both subjectively and with a temperature probe. In tests the Xbox 360 S seemed to be getting hotter than the old Premium SKU we use for game reviews. In a room with an ambient temperature of 23°C the Xbox 360 S ran at 46°C after ten minutes of playing Crackdown 2
while the older Premium model sat at 42°C.
That might sound like bad news and the immediate instinct is to say that the Slim is therefore more likely to overheat, resulting in the dreaded RROD – but we’re not sure that’s true. The
subjective test (e.g. sticking the back of hands on the consoles in question) revealed that the Slim is generally only hot around the exhaust, while the Premium feels warmer all over the casing. If red rings of death are caused by the Xbox 360’s hardware overheating then the fact that the Slim is exhausting all that heat, rather than retaining it, is a good thing. It means the new fan is doing its job.
Since we were unable to disassemble the Xbox 360 S review sample we had, it’s hard to extrapolate much further in regard to the Slim’s thermal performance. The hastily gathered results don’t, for example, mean that the Slim will never red ring – that’s just not something we can feasibly test.
Looking at the Xbox 360 S in terms of noisiness is, however, a bit easier than assessing how the Slim handles overheating issues though. The method for testing is simple too; we played around with an old Xbox 360 Premium, listen, then compared the experience to playing around with the Xbox 360 Slim.
The first results were incredibly positive. When idle or playing games from the hard drive the Slim was much, much
quieter than the Premium. All previous Xbox 360 models have been known for the volume of their fans, but the Slim is an exception. It’s very quiet.
Well, most of the time anyway. We occasionally found that the disc drive would whirr prohibitively, making quite a racket. The first day we spent with the Xbox 360 Slim it was very noisy, with Antony commenting that it even drowned out the older models. A subsequent re-test failed to replicate those sounds, however. Alas, since we only had only a single Xbox 360 Slim to test with, we couldn’t ascertain for sure if this was a problem common to all models or if it was a temporary problem unique to our unit.