Print 59 comment(s) - last by lexluthermiest.. on Feb 20 at 5:48 PM

Majority of all Xbox 360 failures are from Red Ring of Death

The vulnerability of the Xbox 360 to a hardware failure known as the Red Ring of Death is a well publicized matter. Last summer, amidst a flurry of reports from Xbox 360 owners, DailyTech exposed retailers’ estimates that up to 33 percent of Xbox 360 consoles experience hardware failures within the first year of ownership.

Electronics and appliances warranty company SquareTrade now claims that it found a 16.4 percent normal-use failure rate on the Xbox 360. The figure, if true, shows that Microsoft has steadily improved the reliability of its console considerably – though still not up to the level of general acceptability.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates expressed earlier this year his aim for the Xbox 360 to be the most reliable console on the market. “We've got incredible reliability on the new work we've done,” he said. “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.”

According to SquareTrade, 60 percent of all Xbox 360 service calls were about the Red Ring of Death, which Microsoft refers to as “three flashing red lights.” In response to widespread reports of the console’s susceptibility to that particular error, Microsoft extended its warranty to cover the specific hardware failure for three years from purchase.

The remaining 40 percent were composed to hard drive failures, disc drive malfunctions, disc read errors and others. Such defects are, however, are covered only by the console’s current one year warranty (which the original report incorrectly states is 90-days).

In response to SquareTrade’s report, Microsoft spokesman Joe DiMiero told IGN, “Microsoft does not comment on hardware failure rates [emphasis by Microsoft], nor do we comment on speculation. We have not seen the report, and are unfamiliar with the agency that filed it. Based on the enthusiast community's feedback yesterday, the methodology of this report is suspect.”

A supposed anonymous Microsoft insider blamed the Xbox 360’s fragility on the company’s initial negligence on quality assurance, saying that the project was “under resourced” in test, quality, manufacturing, and supplier management. “There just weren't enough people to do the job that needed to be done. The leadership in many of those areas was also lopsided in essential skills and experience. But I hear they are really trying to staff up now based on what has happened, and how cheap staff is compared to a couple of billion in cost of quality,” the source wrote in an email.

Microsoft has gradually introduced new hardware revisions in hopes of solving the Red Ring of Death flaw. June 2007 saw 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. The GPU’s shrink to 65nm GPU, codenamed Jasper, isn’t due until this August.

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RE: Flawed?
By kilkennycat on 2/18/2008 5:54:22 PM , Rating: 4
Hey, Kris

You may be interested in reading my comments posted 824 days ago after you and Anand tore the Xbox360 apart for the article to which you refer.

I have just pulled this from the Anand archives:-

=============== Original comment =========================

Thermal protection needs examination...please.......... by kilkennycat, 824 days ago

Seems as if a fan failure (or blockage of the inlet air passage) could potentially cause catastrophic failure of the critical silicon without effective thermal protection.

Anand, Kris, Tuan:-

Any idea of the nature and effectiveness of the thermal protection -- or wanna carry out a potentially destructive test by blocking up the inlet air on your presumably-rare Xbox360? An important issue for the TYPICAL technically-naive purchaser of the Xbox360, who is likely to be very careless about the Xbox360 ventilation and certainly will forget to regularly clear the inlet air-holes of sticky crud and junk. And what about the close-packed-finned heat-sink on the CPU? Such heat sinks on PC CPUs fill up completely with lint after about 6-9 months in a typical home environment. The Xbox360 is DELIBERATELY built to be non-user accessible for cleaning or any other purpose. A very big mistake. The internal air-duct should have been built on to a user-removable cover to expose the heat-sinks and fans for routine cleaning. I have had my share of cleaning out PCs that have become completely blocked up with crud, the first obvious symptom being erratic shut-down of the CPU by the motherboard thermal protection. The Xbox360 dissipates a lot of power in the core silicon --- much more than the old Xbox.

At present, I highly recommend taking a 2-year extended replacement warranty on the Xbox360, so that WHEN ( not IF) the heat-sinks fill up with junk (or the fans fail) and the box begins to function erratically, the owner can get a brand-new one :-) :-) :-)

================ end of original comment============

In a later comment, I pointed out the close proximity of the DVD drive to the (super-hot) CPU and GPU heat-sinks. The electro-mechanics of a DVD drive are just as thermally critical as the electro-mechanics of a hard-disk. The overall electronic packaging and thermal design of the Xbox360 is just plain lousy. And the additional GPU heat-sink is a joke, as it does not attempt to deal with the fundamentals of the problem.

I do have some qualifications as a professional hardware design engineer with extensive exposure to reliability testing. I suppose I should have offered my consultancy services to Microsoft with regard to cleaning up the Xbox360 design. A small fraction of that $1 billion dollars write-off would have given me some security in my retirement :-) :-)

I would be quite happy to consult with Microsoft on any future redesign of the Xbox360. No doubt the Xbox720 with an integrated Blu-ray drive and a re-hashed graphics (Dx9/Dx10) graphics engine cannot be too far away.

With regard to your current comments on the reliability of your present units:- Are they in a typical home environment, where lint, dog/cat-hair and non-ideal ventilation are likely to occur? Certainly all the fan-ventilated electronic equipment in my home - our various PCs - need a thorough heat-sink clean every nine months or so, otherwise the BIOS alarms (set reasonably conservatively) start wailing - and those high-density heat-sinks on the CPU and GPU are indeed found to be choked full of junk.

RE: Flawed?
By KristopherKubicki on 2/18/2008 6:08:05 PM , Rating: 2
Haha -- I remember that comment. I thought I wrote you an email back.

I'm not sure if we ever ran an article on it, but we sent a few RROD 360s to electric diagnostic labs. Most confirmed the rupture of the traces from the GPU to the CPU, or somewhere in that vicinity.

I don't think we ever saw mechanical failure of the DVD drive due to overheating. But yeah, as you pointed out, most of those other failures were pretty obvious :)

Good work!

RE: Flawed?
By pomaikai on 2/19/2008 9:56:08 AM , Rating: 2
I won a 360 shortly after launch and it failed after about 1 year. I am actually thinking about picking up another one. The warranty process was so smooth that the failure rate will not deter me from picking up another one. When my 360 went out I went online and filled out a form. 2 days later a box came with a return box, tape, padding, prefilled out/prepaid shipping label, instructions. Within 5 minutes I had the 360 in the box taped up and ready to be dropped of at UPS. 3 weeks later I ended up with a new 360. Some people cant go 3 weeks without playing a game. Those people need to get a life.

RE: Flawed?
By jonrem on 2/19/2008 12:13:57 PM , Rating: 2
I commend Microsoft for how fast, easy and convenient it was getting my Xbox fixed, but I got some crappy refurb back that sounded like a jet engine. It is too distracting to even use. I can crank my speakers and still hear it. I've stopped playing 360 because of the noise, and I have 20 something games for it. It's not a RROD issue, so there is no recourse for me.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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