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The new "Falcon" motherboard with revised CPU cooler  (Source: JWSpeed, Xbox Forums)

Old 90nm CPU cooler as found on most Xbox 360 "Zephyr" motherboards

The new "Falcon" CPU after removal of heatsink  (Source: JWSpeed, Xbox Forums)

The new "Falcon" heatsink after removal from motherboard  (Source: JWSpeed, Xbox Forums)
65nm "Falcon" CPUs and revised heatsinks found in latest Xbox 360 "Halo 3" hardware

When it comes to computer processors, the advantages of a die-shrink are undeniable. For chip makers – and overclockers – a processor manufactured at a smaller process can open up more headroom for faster clock speeds, or decrease power consumption and cooling requirements. A die-shrink is a much-lauded happening in the computer world. For consoles, however, a die-shrink usually occurs without much fanfare – except in the case of the Xbox 360. Gamers have been waiting for months for the arrival of 65nm Xbox 360 chips, with the hope that the cooler-running processor would mean more stable hardware.

Microsoft’s latest console may be home to some of the best software, but in terms of hardware, the Xbox 360 is commonly thought to be unreliable. DailyTech uncovered in July a defect rate as high as 33 percent for all Xbox 360 consoles. Just days after the report’s release, Microsoft extended its warranty coverage of the Red Ring of Death defect to three years.

Although Microsoft refuses to tell the public what the main cause is of the failing hardware, but most point to inadequate cooling of the 90nm graphics processor. Evidence of this came when users reported of receiving both new and repaired machines that featured a new heatsink design intended to better cool the GPU.

Aside from introducing improved cooling, Microsoft was also in the process of moving its 90nm chips to the 65nm process. The first hardware revision to implement a 65nm chip was codenamed “Falcon,” and consoles featuring the new design are hitting store shelves now, according to consumer discussion on the official Xbox forums.

A brave individual with the Gamertag “JWSpeed” dissected his new Halo 3 Special Edition console to discover inside a new, simplified heatsink design. Upon further inspection and the removal of the heatsink, a new CPU branded with a “CANADA” label rests on the motherboard.

The new heatsink design does away with the heatpipe, indicating that the cooling requirements of the new chip are less intense than of the old design. For reference, the console examined to have the new hardware was built on August 24, 2007 from team “FDOU” and lot number 734. Those interested in learning how to tell if an Xbox 360 console features the new chip without voiding the warranty should refer to a guide from the Xbox forums.

Strangely, the chip that makes the move to 65nm in “Falcon” affects only the CPU, rather than the trouble-causing GPU. Of course, making the CPU at 65nm is also a cost-cutting measure for Microsoft, as the chip will be smaller and 50 percent less expensive to manufacture. Without moving the GPU to 65nm, however, it is impossible to know if the new “Falcon” models are still at risk of the Red Ring of Death.



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RE: Question
By ImmortalZ on 10/1/2007 8:26:11 AM , Rating: 3
True. 90nm -> 65nm is not an optical shrink. It's a chip redesign as well. The core might not be 50% smaller.


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