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Bill Gates says Xbox 360 reliability will go from zero to hero

For the current generation of gaming consoles, the Xbox 360 has several reputations. On the positive side, the Xbox 360 is the undisputed leader of online service and multiplayer, but on the negative side, it also holds a track record of being fairly unreliable.

At one point, up to one-third of all Xbox 360 consoles experienced the hardware failure popularly known as the Red Ring of Death, which rendered the console unusable.

In response to the apparent hardware design flaw, Microsoft in June 2007 introduced a revised cooling design with heatpipe and heatsink to cool the GPU. New “Falcon” hardware that would include 65nm chip technology, which was later found to apply only to the CPU, landed in stores last Fall. Hardware to integrate a 65nm GPU, codenamed “Jasper,” isn’t due until this August.

While many from Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division have spoken on the Xbox 360’s reliability record, Bill Gates was mostly removed from commenting on the issue – until now. Speaking in a BBC Video interview, Gates revealed that it’s now Microsoft’s goal to make the Xbox 360 “the most reliable” console on the market.

“Well, we certainly had to apologize to our uses about a number of boxes that had to be replaced,” said Gates. “We did that for free for all of those people, we've gotten a lot of positive feedback about the way we handled it.”

“We've got incredible reliability on the new work we've done,” he continued. “Our commitment is that it will be the most reliable video game box out there. People really love the Xbox because of the content, but we've got to make sure that the hardware never stands in the way of that.”

To cover owners of older Xbox 360 hardware that may still be vulnerable to the Red Ring of Death, Microsoft in July 2007 extended its warranty to cover the specific hardware failure for three years from purchase.

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If they had just got it right in the first place!
By MonkeyPaw on 1/13/2008 10:29:22 AM , Rating: 5
I wonder just how much more successful the 360 would be had it not had a reputation for poor reliability. While MS handled it very well, they still had to lose some customers to the PS3 and Wii because of quality problems. I also wonder if the first round of price cuts would have been better had MS not needed to replace 1/3 of its early models. They probably could have sold the Arcade/Pro/Elite at $250/$325/$400. It would have pulled MS into direct competition with the Wii, and it would have rubbed salt into Sony's wounds. Oh well, I guess it keeps competition alive.

By mmntech on 1/13/2008 10:49:56 AM , Rating: 2
I know the reason I didn't get a 360 was due to the quality issues. Their failure rate is something like 30% where the PS3 is below 1%. I'm sure some Microsoft fanboy will enter in right now and mention places where the 360 is superior (such as game quality, which is true) but we're talking hardware right now. If the 17.7 million units world wide figure is correct, that means roughly 5.3 million 360s are faulty. This is unacceptable for ANY product. The 360's design is flawed. Not enough cooling for a very hot processor and GPU. The PowerPC G5 ran like a space heater. What did they think would happen when they put in three processors similar to it and bumped the clocks up to 3.2ghz? Granted the drop to 65nm will solve a lot of issues but that's a little too late for some people.

How would I solve the issue? Simple. Redesign the case to fit a bigger heatsink and a PS3 style blower to move more air. Combined with the 65nm units, I think this would bring the 360's failure rate in line with the PS3's. I don't think that's an unreasonable idea.

By MrDiSante on 1/13/2008 11:55:44 AM , Rating: 4
Their failure rate is something like 30%

Correction: their failure rate was 30% until they redid their heatsink/pipe design. Then it dropped like a rock. So yes, you are correct, a proper heatsink is a good idea. Just don't think everyone is an idiot: they've thought of it and done it.
I've 15 friends with Xbox 360's. 5 bought the "original" version, 10 bought the "redone" version. Of the 5, three died within a year, had em sent back. None of the ten died, and of the three that received replacements none have died. So yeah, they had a problem, they fixed it.

By BansheeX on 1/13/2008 12:29:50 PM , Rating: 1
I don't think you get to reset the failure rate now that they're selling falcons. Failure rate is an overall thing. In two years, it may go down to 20% as new consoles sold bring down the average.

By MrDiSante on 1/13/2008 1:11:13 PM , Rating: 4
Good try, but no. Zephyr already has a perfectly acceptable failure rate. As I said, I don't have official numbers (then again, neither does anyone), but I haven't heard of problems with it. Zephyr in the Premium + Core versions went mainstream Aug. 2007. We'll assume that every single console sold before then (8.9 million) was of the crap batch, even though starting July some were already Zephyr. 17.7 million 360's sold as of beginning of January. That gives you a failure rate TODAY, of 15-20%, not two years down the road.

And really, if you're thinking of buying an X360 today, you should be looking at today's failure rates. If I'm looking at buying a processor, I'm not going to buy AMD because back in the P4 days Intel was slow and overheated. Same here, they had a problem they fixed it. If you want to buy one, buy one. If you don't then keep ragging on Microsoft, but don't claim there's something unforgivably wrong with the box today.

RE: If they had just got it right in the first place!
By Ard on 1/13/08, Rating: 0
By Zelvek on 1/13/2008 4:18:28 PM , Rating: 2
Actually the RRoD is basically the general error code for any failure of the 360, just like FRAG was on the xbox so even a failed power brick will cause it. The common GPU RRoD is a combination of things and not just a hot GPU, although cooling is the common factor.

1. poor cooling (especially for the GPU)
2. poor quality solder (thank you green peace for making us use environmentally friendly and useless solder)
3. poor quality retention brackets

The poor cooling can warp the PCB this coupled with poor retention of the GPU causes the contacts of the GPU to disconnect from the PCB. The other cause is from the poor temperature threshold of the solder that was used this causes the solder to crack overtime (this is why the towel trick works its sort of like a cold solder)

The new systems have beefed up the cooling replaced the poor quality solder and epoxied the CPU and GPU to the PCB. So it would seem that they have tackled all the issues.

By milomnderbnder21 on 1/13/2008 7:26:35 PM , Rating: 5
You aren't making any sense.

If you buy an Xbox now, then it comes with a failure rate well below 15%, how much lower we still don't know.

That's what someone should be evaluating a piece of hardware on: what it actually is, not what it was.

Claiming that you won't buy a 360 now because of failure rates that were solved is illogical, because those rates do not apply. Don't buy it because you don't like the games or because you're some weird fan-boy. Don't put it down for what it isn't.

RE: If they had just got it right in the first place!
By bgm063 on 1/14/08, Rating: -1
By Nightskyre on 1/14/2008 8:35:26 AM , Rating: 3
Actually, after the holiday rush, all the bad ones are likely sold.

That being said, there is a very easy way to check. If you pick up the 360 box, and it says the system has HDMI, it's using the die shrunk CPU and modified GPU cooling package. They did it all at once.

By wallijonn on 1/14/2008 11:58:55 AM , Rating: 2
If you buy an Xbox now, then it comes with a failure rate well below 15%, how much lower we still don't know.

Seeing as how the revised editions came out last August we'll have to wait until next August to see if there really has been a drop. One site said that there were RRoDs reported even with the newer Elites, so who is to say whether or not all the problems have been fixed?

Me, I keep looking for a FDOU Arcade but still can't find one. I own a PS3 and a Wii, along with an N64 and a PS2 tall boy. I really wanted a 360, but the reliability scared me away. Even my brother used to boast how his original 360 never had a problem. Then eleven months later it died. Now he boasts about the fast turn around time, about two weeks to get a replacement. He loves his 360. Meanwhile I have yet to play a game on the PS3, instead I use it exclusively as a movie player. I will probably buy a 360, but have seen no need to go out and rush to buy it. "Blue Dragon" and "Bioshock" are the only two games I am interested in buying, although I will rent Halo 3.

By Steve Guilliot on 1/14/2008 5:18:33 PM , Rating: 2
But you can't deny that the failure rate of the 360 is still higher than it should be.

If Microsoft now has the 360 within industry standard failure rates with the new design, which is possible, and the old units are out of the retail channel, then I would say the failure rate is now where it should be.

Your assumption that we "can't deny" the 360 is still unreliable is false.

By ajfink on 1/13/2008 6:12:30 PM , Rating: 3
Some of us just got lucky and our two-year-old 360's have never had a problem.

Though, I must admit, I've been considering buying a new Arcade version for the HDMI. My TV does 1080p over component, but HD movies only go at 1080i.

RE: If they had just got it right in the first place!
By oab on 1/13/2008 9:34:25 PM , Rating: 1
Which if you have a good TV, doesn't matter, because the tv can properly "scale" the 1080i to 1080p, because it's half the image delivered twice as quickly, so there is no quality loss if your tv displays everything properly.

By christojojo on 1/13/2008 11:21:08 PM , Rating: 2
Just out of curiosity, how much of a picture difference is their between 1080i and p?

When you say
My TV does 1080p over component, but HD movies only go at 1080i.
I feel so sorry for the poor owners of 1080i Telys.

I feel that someone poor 1080i owner is forced to drive a Ford model "T" while, the 1080p owner gets to drive a Ferrari.

IMHO, I think that the TVs are reaching a point of minimum return for picture quality. Yes, I love the best, biggest, and newest hardware; but sometimes its like why bother?

I really don't want to see the flavor of the day diva's zit in any higher resolution.

By sxr7171 on 1/14/2008 4:33:21 AM , Rating: 1
I hear this all the time. People spend hundreds to thousands on quality outboard scalers and de-interlacers even with TVs that are more high-end than anything you or I likely have. How much simpler is it to be sure you are getting the full benefit of HD when the signal is 1080p start to finish?

By boogle on 1/14/2008 7:49:16 AM , Rating: 3
because it's half the image delivered twice as quickly, so there is no quality loss if your tv displays everything properly.

No, no it's not. Both 1080i and 1080p run at a constant 50 or 60fps. This means the [b]effective[/b] framerate of 1080i is half, ie. 25fps or 30fps. Since you only get half the information each frame. It doesn't suddenly jump into over-drive and hammer out twice the frames, otherwise it would use the same bandwidth as progressive and therefore lose the primary advantage of interlacing.

If you have a fast moving object interlacing can throw up artefacts. Basically between the two frames an object has moved - but you only have HALF of the information each frame. A Deinterlacer has to line everything up between the two frames which isn't an easy task. You can see various potential interlacing artefacts here:

In essence even if the deinterlacer is pretty much perfect, there will always be the odd artefact here and there. It's a lot like 100hz motion on modern tellies, the motion is nice and smooth, but it isn't 100% perfect.

Interlacing is simply a way of conserving bandwidth by chucking information away. Its useful if you have limited bandwidth - but ultimately progressive is the ideal.

By Shoal07 on 1/14/2008 1:29:48 PM , Rating: 2
There are no 1080p 50/60hz (fps) signals - the highest hz 1080p signal is 30hz (fps). 1080i, however, can be 60hz, giving you a final 1080p/30 after deinterlacing. Yes, you can have motion blur/artifacts on any "i" signal, however, the type of TV is also going to determine how easy they are to see. It is almost impossible to see any motion artifacts on a DLP where as they're very easy to see on an LCD, IMHO.

While 1080p/60 is theoretically possible, no 1080p/60 standard exists. Also, the insane bandwidth this would require is part of the reason you're unlikely to ever see it.

By overzealot on 1/15/2008 1:23:07 AM , Rating: 2
Awesome. Now, what's the framerate of movies? 24fps.
Now, consider that progressive will, for for all extents and purposes, just show the same frame twice as long as the interlaced equivalent.
So you might get a slightly better framerate conversion on 1080p, but that's about it. With the natural motion blur of LCD's / Plasmas most wouldn't even notice that.
Those who actually care about these sort of video issues want native 1080p/24hz support.

If you're talking about games, then I'll agree there could be a difference, but we're talking about movies here.

By Steve Guilliot on 1/14/2008 7:05:45 PM , Rating: 2
Same here. I've had my 360 since the day of release, two years ago. Still running strong. To be fair, I have my 360 on an open shelf, so ventilation is not an issue. Also, about 9 months ago I remounted the heatsinks with arctic silver.

I have a few friends who had one RROD, and one friend who has had two RROD's. My guess is the friend with 2 failures had his 360's in an AV cabinet with bad air flow.

By Christopher1 on 1/13/2008 4:51:46 PM , Rating: 2
Add to that, you should really not put it into a 'confined space' like some people who XBox360's died were doing.

Some people were putting it in TV stands with doors, glass and not, that restricted airflow. For a thing that runs as hot as the Xbox360 and in a confined space, would suck up stuff like dust like an SOB..... just not a good idea and some people were just stupid doing that.

Personally, that is why I never bought a PC cabinet with doors or didn't put the doors on after I bought it: I was worried about leaving my computer on overnight and having it overheat and fizzle out.

RE: If they had just got it right in the first place!
By Pryde on 1/13/2008 5:56:59 PM , Rating: 2
PS3, Wii even the PS1,2 and Xbox were all fine in my tv cabinet.

It was just poor design to begin with for the 360, mine failed after 6 days, even with the revised cooling I would not run the 360 in the cabinet that what led me to sell it.

Anyway a bit off topic but PCs are usually fine, if they overheat a good motherboard will power off the PC before any real damage can be caused.

By Christopher1 on 1/14/2008 1:13:49 AM , Rating: 1
Newer motherboard will do that 'power-down' yes..... I am talking about back in the Packard Bell days of 1X CD drives.

I had a fan fail in a Packard Bell computer once, and it MELTED the board because of the heat of the processor going without the fan.

Luckily, nothing else, including for some reason the processor, was damaged and the local Circuit City just popped in a new motherboard and off we went.

After that, I was honestly TERRIFIED of the thought of it getting so hot like that again even though it was not likely that the fan would fail again, that I just wouldn't leave it on when I wasn't in the room with it and wanted to see it at all times. After hearing horror stories with the XBox about people having them overheat and catch fire in TV cabinets... that was it for me, I kept it out in the open where I could watch it.

By sxr7171 on 1/14/2008 4:38:28 AM , Rating: 2
It's a console, if you can't put it in your entertainment center where else are you going to put it? In your refrigerator? People buy consoles to not have to worry about the things they do with computers. When this thing was designed I can't imagine they didn't expect that it would be used in confined spaces - like the demo units they have at Best Buy and others. Those were set up by Microsoft to demo the unit and those are closed off more than any entertainment center.

In any case, I don't really care. I own a 360 and it has been working. If it should break, I expect Microsoft to stand by their word and replace it.

By peternelson on 1/13/2008 1:27:36 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still on my FIRST PS3 ;-) But I will concede that the DVD reading laser in early Sony PS2 was not so reliable.

It's good Microsoft realised there was a problem and made improvements.

Reliability concerns measurements like MTBF (mean time between failure) and MTTR (Mean time to repair).

So if your X360 dies not only can you not play today, but you have to wait while you ship it back and wait for the replacement, not very desirable.

The new model is improved, but I'd say in lifecycle analysis we need to wait longer before saying they are perfect and will not fail prematurely (after warranty).

Many people waited for X360 to improve, now there is a promised future improvement and people may delay purchase to next holiday season.

I'm sure it's Bill Gates intention to make X360 very reliable (it's costing him millions of dollars in returns and repairs, and lost game sales), but then every CEO would likely want their own product to be reliable so that is an unsurprising comment.

By cmdrdredd on 1/18/2008 9:31:54 PM , Rating: 3
mmntech, game quality is subjective and although people claim CoD4 is better on the 360 than the PS3. I find it to be just fine on the PS3 anyway and in no way look or feel inferior.

Not to mention, of all the games people got excited for the past couple of years on the 360 they were mostly shooters. That's fine for American gamers, but Japan and a large portion of the world don't want shooter games. I know I would rather play a game like ratchet & Clank than CoD5

By alifbaa on 1/13/2008 11:12:24 AM , Rating: 4
I know I haven't bought a 360 because of the reliability issues. I'm going to wait until I can get one with 65nm video before I'll even consider it.

It seems to me this generation's consoles have been terribly executed. The Wii is truly revolutionary if you can find one. The 360 may or may not work for you. The PS3 is extremely capable, but to the point that it isn't affordable.

Where is the good option?

By jadedeath on 1/13/2008 8:20:53 PM , Rating: 3
I agree, if you can get lucky enough to find a Wii it's amazing amounts of fun.

But with the price drop of the PS3 it's the same price as the 360 was a little while ago, and with Blu-Ray winning that war it just doubles up as a game player/Blu-Ray player.


By Alexvrb on 1/14/2008 11:38:09 PM , Rating: 2
Do you read anandtech, or just dailytech? Read this article, people.

People keep acting as though somehow the 360 won't play the same games if it doesn't have a 65nm GPU. However, to make you feel all fuzzy inside, here's a fact. All three chips already shrunk. I don't know what node they're produced in, but they're smaller, cooler, and more power efficient.

By captchaos2 on 1/13/2008 4:29:07 PM , Rating: 2
How is the xbox 360 the best console when the Wii is the only one that's sold out?

RE: If they had just got it right in the first place!
By Oobu on 1/13/2008 5:21:05 PM , Rating: 2
Just because it's "sold out" doesn't mean anything. It means it's a great console, but it's also CHEAPER than everything else by a longshot.

By captchaos2 on 1/14/2008 10:31:54 PM , Rating: 2
A lower price always figures in when I look at a console, but the Wii is also more fun. Nintendo has the midas touch.

By cmdrdredd on 1/18/2008 9:37:38 PM , Rating: 3
captchaos2, a lot of gamers would call the Wii a gimmick. I know I do.

I've played most of the games on it at least once and most times the remote doesn't work right, you have to stand a certain way in order to get the movement right. I mean if you're to the side of the tv facing at an angle slightly there are times when the game will not function 100% exactly as you want it to.

By dluther on 1/13/2008 11:26:07 PM , Rating: 2
While MS handled it very well, they still had to lose some customers to the PS3 and Wii because of quality problems.

There are two points made in that sentence, and I disagree with both.

1) They did not handle it well at all. Microsoft had to know something was seriously wrong with their console when the numbers started coming in about irreparable consoles. Then they stonewalled, lied, and obfuscated before eventually having to own up to some manufacturing defects.

2) I don't think Microsoft "lost" any customers to competing platforms. The PS3 is by nearly all accounts a superior console, and built like a tank. And the Wii is vastly inferior to both platforms, but has tapped into something truly astonishing with their wireless motion controllers, a point which will eventually become the stuff of legal legend as they viciously defend that market.

So why am I saying Microsoft didn't lose customers? Because of the games. There are so many great XBox 360 titles that simply aren't available on other platforms: Gears of War, Bio Shock, and Halo 3 are the ones that immediately come to mind. If those titles were available on the PS3, I think we would see a very different console sales picture.

By sxr7171 on 1/14/2008 4:42:28 AM , Rating: 2
Very true. I have all three consoles and seriously the 360 is where gaming is at (apart from the Wii of course). My PS3 literally has been sitting in a closet for the past several months since Blu-Ray movie releases aren't coming out as fast as I'd like.

By Frallan on 1/15/2008 10:00:48 AM , Rating: 2
So far I can report of one sale loss for MS.. I havn't bought one yet. Partly bc of RRoD but also bc I cant play it while my GF sleeps in the same room bc of the bloody Jet-exhaust sound it makes...

By kelmon on 1/14/2008 6:55:59 AM , Rating: 2
I am entirely in agreement with you. The 360 was clearly an attempt to get to market a product that would compete with the PlayStation 3 before the PS3 arrived and that quality just wasn't as important at the time. I'm sorry but the attitude of release then fix does not sit well with me as a consumer and it is for this reason alone that I will never, ever, buy a 360 no matter how good the games are.

While I consider myself a "dyed in the wool" Mac owner I honestly have nothing against Microsoft, particularly when it comes to hardware since it is usually excellent. Microsoft is very welcome to try again with the successor to the 360 (should they decide to make one) and I'll happily consider it without bias. However, I do expect a quality product and not a rush job. I will not buy something that has a high probability of failure combined with an expected long period of time to repair the problem.

Basically, this action is too little, too late...

By just4U on 1/14/2008 12:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
If BIll GATES want's to make promises on the XBOX so be it... Here is what I suggest to Bill. When the next Xbox is ready to launch offer one helluva warranty on it.

One year in my opinion is not enough for a $500 piece of hardware. I'd like to see 3-5. Give that and even I'll buy the next gen Xbox (I don't currently own a console)

If Evga, XfX, and BFG can offer lifetime warranties on their cards then Microsoft can offer a kicker for warranties... I'd then be sold on it and pull the trigger.

By kelmon on 1/15/2008 3:19:33 AM , Rating: 2
...or, for preference, test the damned design before release and get it right!

A good warranty is always welcome, of course, but reports of high volumes of system failures will put me off buying one again regardless. It's nice to know that I can get my system repaired but the point is that it shouldn't have to be repaired in the first place. I've owned many consoles over the years and never once has one failed and that's the way it should be. Testing a design for problems isn't rocket science. It's not as if the 360 suffers from a problem that only impacts a few systems that would make detecting the flaw difficult - it impacted about 33% of systems!

As noted in my earlier post, I take offense to being sold a flawed product. Microsoft MUST have known that these problems existed before they launched the system (either that or they didn't even bother to test it) and that's what really annoys me.

By Frallan on 1/15/2008 10:08:31 AM , Rating: 2
True - Computer parts in a DIY computer are allowed to behave a bit. A readily built system is allowed to be somewhat slower and underperforming but not allowed to have quirks. A Console should just be bought and then work, work and keep on working. If i have to return a console for repair I will be mightily pissed off and seriously concider not buying products from the company again. (Happened with Gigabyte 5 yrs ago and I still havn't concidered buying a Gigabyte product since)

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