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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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