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
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
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.