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Xbox 360 Hardware Disassembled and Analyzed

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the right-down-to-it's-creamy-caramel-center dept.

XBox (Games) 285

Hack Jandy writes "Here is the first article I've seen about the Xbox 360 hardware internals. The article details everything from the storage devices to the CPU and GPU core."

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I W1n iT!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043598)

Frist Post!

Re:I W1n iT!!! (-1, Offtopic)

CPUGuy (676781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043890)

Good job.

Wrong Link (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043600)

The article should point here [] .

Printer Friendly (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043713) e.aspx?i=2610 []

The site seems to be weakening (the images aren't loading)
and networkmirror & mirrordot have yet to get working link up

Re:Printer Friendly (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043886)

mirrordot has a working link but first page only, network mirror doesn't seem to have anything yet.

Re:Printer Friendly (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043916)

Thank you. At least I now have something to read while waiting for the images to load...

Re:Printer Friendly (2, Informative)

TheReckoning (638253) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043983) doesn't resolve for me, so I'm using this: 090/printarticle.aspx?i=2610 []

Re:Printer Friendly (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044116)
wow... that works.
never heard of it before now.
Did you actually read the coral cache FAQ?

Re:Printer Friendly (5, Informative)

TheReckoning (638253) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044303)

I'm not sure if you're insulting me or not.

I got that URL by doing a DNS lookup for since never resolves at all for me. I then appended the :8090/... stuff to the end and got it.

Until today, I had no idea what "CoralCache" was because "CoralCache" doen't come up on Google with any non-cryptic answer. I just assumed it was some poorly-implemented thing that I couldn't get to.

Thanks to WikiPedia's article on Slashdotting, I found that CoralCache isn't "CoralCache" but actually the Coral CDN, whose web page is here [] , and whose FAQ is here [] . So all this time I could've been reading Coralized links if people had just bothered to call it something that actually resembled its name.

Re:Printer Friendly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044051)

you know, those links have not worked for me for a very long time.

Mod parent down! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043815)

His link is the same as the one already given, could the moderators please try out links before giving them +5 informative?

Re:Mod parent down! (0)

tgrimley (585067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043870)

He posted it before the link was corrected..

Re:Wrong Link (-1, Offtopic)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043817)

This article would be even cooler if the pictures would load.

Is this or is there not something to see? (2, Funny)

nsasch (827844) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043601)

First you say there's something to see, the details of the XBox 360, now you say "Nothing for you to see here." Make up your mind!

Re:Is this or is there not something to see? (1)

tuxnduke (665112) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043626)

The uri is here. []

Vapourware? (1, Funny)

jonoton (804262) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043611)

Nothing behind the link

Bad Link? (-1, Redundant)

SafteyMan (860733) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043612)

The link to the article isn't working... Sending me to the main page.

Turns out, the Xbox... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043614)

Runs on Debian

Wrong link (3, Informative)

GrAfFiT (802657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043616)

Correct link : here []

link doesnt work (-1, Redundant)

Tontoman (737489) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043618)

The link doesn't seem to work.

Breaking new toys (-1, Offtopic)

Langley (1015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043620)

Sure wish I had an XBox 360 to "Disassemble" (1)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043845)

Yeah, well I will on Saturday. I got my confirmation from Pepsi that the 360 I won in the contest will be shipped overnight to arrive at my door on Saturday. My only question: Is it the core system or the "real" system? There isn't anything in the game rules about which one I'm getting. The other bummer is that there won't be any 360 hardware (e.g. different av cables, extra controllers) available until Tuesday, when the console officially launches, so all I can do is play Madden 2K6 with a single control until then. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043902)

Sounds like you don't want it, I'll gladly take the $400 console you got for free off your hands... (1)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043946)

Thanks, but I think I'll test it extensively, just to make sure that the platform is worthy before the official launch next Tuesday... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044173)

The accessories are already available.

LGN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043623)

How about this one? []

AC to prevent karma whoring.

And so (-1, Troll)

XFilesFMDS1013 (830724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043627)

Eveyone finally realizes that the best thing about the Xbox 360 is taking it apart.

But seriously, I think that thing has more power then my 3-year-old computer. But it'll still BSOD when you try to turn it on.

In Other News (-1, Troll)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043988)

Apparently the Xbox360 will have a Black Screen of Death instead of the traditional MS blue. Picture here: []

In Other News: Microsoft announces today that their upcoming Windows Vista release will no longer default to a blue screen as the result of catastrohpic operating system errors. In what was a closely guarded decision, Mircrosoft insiders changed the color to Mauve.

Our anonymous source credits this decision to an overhead conversation in which Steve Ballmer allegedly said "I'll throw a f*cking chair at the son of a b*tch programmers if I see a news article saying that Vista suffers from the Blue Screen of Death. I'll f*cking bury them."

/That was offtopic, but reading about BSOD's got my creative juices flowing.

Re:In Other News (1)

Prophet of Nixon (842081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044045)

Eh, so did the original... try putting the first Hunter: The Reckoning game in, get a second player, then go find one of the permanent stat increase glyphs. If you hit it at the same time, it doesn't deactivate, and you can run your stat bars well off the screen. Then go shoot/hit a zombie (depending upon the glyph having been dex/str). BSOD! Only game I've been able to cause something like that in, probably some sort of unexpected math exception involving the off-screen stats.

Great! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043633)

Where do I stick my dick?

Errr... (3, Informative)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043638)

The link doesn't work...

Try here: 10 []

But isn't this old news? I know I've read about all of this AT LEAST a month ago...

Re:Errr... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043722)

Old News? Where did you go reading how to take apart the xbox360? this is the first article i've seen of its kind. You must be mistaken.

Re:Errr... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043791)

I dunno, he probably read it the first time it was on Slashdot [] .

Re:Errr... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043995)

Did you read your own link before posting, jackass?

It's just cool (5, Interesting)

cybrthng (22291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043639)

Thats all i can say. I'm no big microsoft fan. I'm an open source, open idea and freedom of information zealot however the xbox 360 is just cool.

Been plenty of stories on it here but i have to agree with what others have said. The entire package of the 360, the games, the service (xbox live) and the experience is going to make for one hell of a system.

Marked for inflation the 360 costs less than what i spent on an atari years ago, and that is pretty amazing.

I'll be buying it at day one.

I've got 30-45 mins a day at max i can play, and the experience, ease of use and integration of the xbox and xbox live service is what makes it for me.

Game on!

Re:It's just cool (4, Insightful)

Spit (23158) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043691)

I'm an open source, open idea and freedom of information zealot however the xbox 360 is just cool.

Zealot doesn't appear to mean what you think it means. It certainly doesn't mean dropping your ideals when the opposing ideals are "just cool".

Re:It's just cool (4, Insightful)

freshman_a (136603) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043939)

Seeing as how there are no "open" game consoles, I guess us open source people are SOL when it comes to console gaming then, huh?

Re:It's just cool (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044100)

Only if you're a zealot.

Re:It's just cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044196)

Ah right. But if I'm in the MS Windows camp and I say something like "XYZ for Linux is just cool" that would be ok by you, right? Be honest.

Re:It's just cool (0, Troll)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044207)

Agreed. Grandparent reads like an astroturfing MS shill, to me.

Re:It's just cool (5, Insightful)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044265)

Zealot doesn't mean that you stop living. Every one of us depends on Microsoft products in some way, every day. My bank runs on Windows. So does the software that coordinates bus schedules for the transit district here. So does much of the software that handles credit card transactions.

You cannot escape the fact that we live in a world of proprietary technology. Your BIOS is proprietary software. The software in your vehicle is proprietary technology. Your CPU is proprietary technology.

Re:It's just cool (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044321)

Does being an "Open source zealot" mean you can't enjoy the xbox just because it was made by microsoft?

Re:It's just cool (1)

batknight23 (929214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043695)

The real kickers are the development tools MS has provided and the way MS had a vision for a unified infrastructure (read: Live). Simple things like common interfaces in each game, a well thoughout voice system, and stable matchmaking servers add up. They aren't flashy, but you really start to notice them over time.

I think Sony's going to really regret leaving everything up to developers (ad hoc).

Re:It's just cool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043720)

Thanks for the astroturfing, but I really can't take any more. I just had a big helping of bullshit, so I'm stuffed. Maybe I'll have some in a couple hours, after a nap.

Re:It's just cool (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043723)

You sound JUST like a grass roots marketer!

Re:It's just cool (1)

thesnarky1 (846799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043794)

"I'll be buying it at day one."

Only if you put your order in now. Remember this [] article [] about [] shortages [] ?

Re:It's just cool (2, Insightful)

hugzz (712021) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043826)

Marked for inflation the 360 costs less than what i spent on an atari years ago, and that is pretty amazing.

Not really. Basically all technology improves while reducing in price over time. That's like saying that, amazingly, your new mobile phone has more features than the first mobile phones available, and yet it costs less.

It's just boring (2, Interesting)

pubjames (468013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043961)

Well, I think it all looks pretty boring - just new versions of old games with prettier graphics. It's not the massive leap in performance I was hoping for.

I'm waiting for the PS3 to come out, then I'll decide.

Re:It's just boring (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044347)

Why does everybody seem to ignore the Nintendo Revolution? People talk about how the XBox 360 and PS3 only offer performance and graphics enhancements, but no new gameplay styles. Machine power no longer equals new styles of gameplay (although it used to). The Nintendo Revolution is THE system to have if you're looking for something new, something that truly makes console gaming a unique experience (rather than just playing on a PC with a controller).

Re:It's just cool (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043969)

I'll be buying it at day one.

I've got 30-45 mins a day at max i can play, and the experience, ease of use and integration of the xbox and xbox live service is what makes it for me.

You play less than an hours worth of games a day, yet you want to splash out on a new console system the moment it comes out?

I'm finding it hard to believe you've finished all the games you own on your current system, so whay the rush to buy a new one? Prudence would dictate that you take the time to expierience the top quality titles of the current generation, before moving onto the next.

I usually don't buy a system unless I can pinpoint at least three games on it that I simply must have. I've yet to see a console released on day one that offered even two "must have" titles for me.

Save your money and buy some of the quality titles that you haven't played on your current system. The 360 will still be there in 12 months time, at a cheaper price, and with better games, so why pay more now for less?

Know what you mean (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043990)

I'm not interested in games but as soon as the facist TCPA crud is defeated and the 360 is booting linux, I may just purchase one. Then again the PS3 hardware is even more interesting and if Sony learn anything from their DRM rootkit, we may be able to boot whatever from the get-go.

please type the word in this image: satanic
For fear of the lord, no 360 for me. Slashdot knows everything.

Re:It's just cool (1)

koi88 (640490) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044068)

the experience is going to make for one hell of a system.

You bet. I'm using one hell of a system made by MS here at work, too.

Re:It's just cool (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044091)

What a fucking retard.

Let me guess, you were stupid enough to buy a Dreamcast and Xbox 'day one'

Too bad for the dimwits up in Redmond that there just aren't enough dorks like you to sustain a console without billions in cash to keep the turd of a console artificially alive in the marketplace.

Re:It's just cool (0, Troll)

|/|/||| (179020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044280)

The entire package of the 360, the games, the service (xbox live) and the experience is going to make for one hell of a system.
Yeah, so wake me up when somebody besides Microsoft makes one. Owning a hell of a system is not worth having them expand their monopoly to include the console market.

Actual Lnk (3, Informative)

shamowfski (808477) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043640)

Real Link.. []

That's nice (5, Funny)

Peregr1n (904456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043646)

It's all very well taking it apart and all, but have you installed Linux on it yet? Get your priorities right!

Re:That's nice (1, Funny)

clonmult (586283) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043683)

Linux? We want OS/X running on platforms other than Macs and Dells ...

Who needs a 360? (3, Funny)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043698)

My Sega Genesis still works great!

Re:Who needs a 360? (3, Funny)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043719)

I would've bought one of those but my Master System never died on me so I just couldn't justify the purchase.

It does what Nintendon't! Erm, 15 years ago. (1)

Heffenfeffer (888559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044342)

Man, I wish I could upgrade to the Master System. Adventure used to be my favorite game until I went over to my friend's house and he showed me Alex Kidd in Miracle World. It was the coolest RPG I've ever seen!

Re:Who needs a 360? (0, Redundant)

SillySnake (727102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044115)

Yeah, but does it run Linux?

A more pressing question: (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044247)

More like,

"Yeah, but does it run MAME?

Re:Who needs a 360? (1)

ozamosi (615254) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044309)

Actually, I just got of playing some Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on a Sega Mega Drive 2. Good stuff, however, a bit slow. I will not buy a bloody X-Box when I have sonic, and a NES with duckhunt and zelda. What more could there be to get for me?

!!!!!!GEEK PR0N ACTION!!!!!! (4, Funny)

apexdawn (915478) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043725)

Very appropriate for the, "hey here's a hot toy, lets take it apart!" With all the power that the next gen systems are reported to have I was expecting to see a glowing corona of pure energy (maybe like some blue and orangey colors) not a aluminum heatsink. When will manufacturers and designers make it look powerful as well as "be" powerful. *sniff* this is ruining a fantasy! :P --Reed

Re:!!!!!!GEEK PR0N ACTION!!!!!! (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043777)

With all the power that the next gen systems are reported to have I was expecting to see a glowing corona of pure energy (maybe like some blue and orangey colors) not a aluminum heatsink.

Well, there was that arcade box Namco once built, which ran off fissile decay, needed a fearsome cooling system based on liquid sodium, and lived in a lead-lined cabinet... That, once opened, I'm sure would glow something amazing.

Unfortunately, when the first arcade opened in Japan with one of these things, the sheer power awoke a zilla, and the whole place got stomped flat. Wonderful system, but really wasn't practical in the real world.

Yawn (-1, Troll)

Shaddup (615685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043742)

A PowerPC CPU and an ATI GPU? Yawn... it's been done before. Wake me up when the PS3 is out.

OMG! (1)

Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043788)

that power supply really is huge!

the age of power supplies doubling as heaters/cookers has truely dawned.

Huge Power Supply (4, Informative)

raygundan (16760) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043940)

No kidding. I realize they wanted to make the console smaller, since people griped about the size of the original-- but this is like making my car smaller by putting the back seat and the trunk in a trailer I have to pull around all the time.

Re:Huge Power Supply (2, Insightful)

Prophet of Nixon (842081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044011)

Actually, I really like the externalized power supply. Putting those awful things internal in devices which don't have much cooling is just asking for heat problems.

Re:Huge Power Supply (1)

Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044083)

I agree it should be external, but the size is ridiculous. I don't like the plug->wire->brick->wire->device design as the lengths of the wires inevitably makes brick placement awkward. I prefer the brick to be integrated into the plug but this clearly isn't possible here.

I don't know anything about power supply design. is increase in size inevitable or can we see smaller, better supplies in the future? how many console generations until the power supply is bigger than the actual console?

Re:Huge Power Supply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044124)

Every now and then some improvement is made to the design, but generally, heavier = better. I used to have 2 electric shavers, identical look except for the colour, the cheap one weighted less than half of the expensive (and good) one. It also depends on the requirements, my cellphone has a tiny and lightweight 'brick', it's actually smaller and lighter than the phone (ok, the phone is not the latest, but still damn light).

Re:Huge Power Supply (1)

Prophet of Nixon (842081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044193)

Well, the one nice thing about not having the brick at the end of the wire is not having the brick block other plugs on your outlet/line filter/etc, or fall off the wall. This also allows multiple bricks to not be concentrated in one place (making another potential heat problem).

Agreed that the device-wire-brick-wire-plug is sometimes bad for placement (and I haven't looked at the wire lengths on the 360), but as long as the device-brick wire is long it usually works out OK.

OS X (1)

LoSLapPy (865798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043795)

Am I smelling OS X on an XBOX 360 in the future???

Re:OS X (1)

bjoeg (629707) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043878)

Since Apple is changing to standard Intel x86 CPUs, no.

Re:OS X (1)

LoSLapPy (865798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044005)

10.4 is compiled for powerPC... yes. Since they are still selling PowerPC's... will 10.5 be compiled for PowerPC... yes... OS X will be on PowerPC for at least the next two years.

CPU, GPU (1, Funny)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043812)

for those who are too lazy:

CPU: 3 PowerPC CPUs, each with 2 threads. that gives maximum 6 threads.
GPU: some special dial core ATI card (one core smaller one bigger)

ATI GPU not dual core (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044054)

The ATI GPU is not dual core, but dual die. A single core GPU and a 10MB die of edram. The new GPU features a unified shader arch with 48 shaders.

Re:CPU, GPU (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044163)

some special dial core

Dial core? Does it go to 11?

Re:CPU, GPU (1)

ds_job (896062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044317)

some special dial core

Dial core? Does it go to 11?

To be honest I am more concerned that they reckon that having two cores each on a separate die makes them two dice instead of two dies.
When they said
Once both X plates have been removed, you can turn the motherboard over and simply pull the heatsinks off to reveal the GPUs (two dice on the chip) and CPUs (single die, 3 cores on the chip).
I looked at the damn photo to see if there was a picture of a pair of d6 dice. It honestly took over a minute to figure out what the heck they meant.

I was prepared later for this quote:
The 332 million transistor GPU is split into two separate dice, the larger of which looks like a conventional GPU, and then a smaller die
I did not look for a d20 and a d6. I might send them a link to [] in the hope that if they must use jargon they might at least use sensible jargon.

Another hardware site bites the dust (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043818)

I've got to remember to get these links before they show up on the main page. These hardware sites always collapse under the weight of the Slashdot crowd. The link was even broken on this article for some people and it still collapsed.

ALTQ + Anandtech (1)

SpinJaunt (847897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043858)

Coincidence, I am not sure if Anantech is /.ed or my ALTQ config is up the duff..

Slashdottings and mirrors... (2, Informative)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043862)

Hmm. I know /.ings occur with regular frequency, but usually not to AnandTech. The force is unusually strong today.

Mirror of the first page for people who can't access port 8090 [] . Additional pages not guaranteed as Mirrordot doesn't work that way.

Re:Slashdottings and mirrors... (0)

mldkfa (689415) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043965)

IT was the top news item in my google sidebar. I think the whole internet knows about it now;-)

Re:Slashdottings and mirrors... (1, Funny)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043977)

There is a great disturbance in the force, as if a million browsers cried out in frustration and recieved dead air.

Re:Slashdottings and mirrors... (1)

cK-Gunslinger (443452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044301)

The Anandtech site (and forums) have been experiencing lots of network issues as of late, ranging from DDOS attacks to up-stream ISP problems. The sudden onslaught of /. viewers may have caused someone to panic and hit the 'choke' button, or it may simple be that this is the first real exercise the network has received since its recovery and updates.

its slow (0, Redundant)

in-tech (912144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043898)

the page directed is slow but comes out after a long time. the other pages is not loading. might be because of the slashdot click overcomes the traffic of the website.

Does anyone remember ... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043899)

When Anandtech did this for the original XBox and (after months of XBox fanboys saying 'it's a Pentium 3 processor, not a Celeron') they removed the heat sink to display 'Celeron' on the top of the processor.

The moral of the story is that Fanboys are dumb and uninformend.

Re:Does anyone remember ... (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044109)

i'm sure it was some comprimise between a p3 and a celeron or at least thats what ms said it was at the time.

Slashdoted (-1, Redundant)

Devir (671031) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043927)

Slashdot... Bringing down the internet, one page at a time

This explains it (1, Offtopic)

casualsax3 (875131) | more than 8 years ago | (#14043955)

I was wondering why AnandTech's forums were going so slow. Curse you /.!

Website running on an Xbox 360 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14043974)

Must be, right? I can smell the plastic melting from here!

lemme guess (4, Funny)

Smallest (26153) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044006)

there are a bunch of black plastic rectangles, a couple of fans, some ribbon cable, a hard drive and a few stray capacitors all soldered to a green circuit board.

No disassemble (5, Funny)

eXoXe (157466) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044059)

Number 5 alive!

wrong link +5 Informative? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044105)

How many "Wrong Link" +5 Informatives can one slashdot article have? Shheesssh!

The real question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044197)

Does it run Linux?

Article Text (5, Informative)

SirLestat (452396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14044271)

Inside Microsoft's Xbox 360
Date: Nov 16, 2005
Type: System
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Author: Anand Lal Shimpi, Kristopher Kubicki & Tuan Nguyen
Page 1
Microsoft's first try at a gaming console amounted to essentially a very affordable PC. It used standard PC components, including a mobile Intel processor (a hybrid Pentium 3/Celeron), a desktop NVIDIA chipset, a Western Digital hard drive and relatively standard PC DVD-ROM. The original Xbox was such a PC in fact that there were quite a few users that wanted to mod it simply to have a cheap PC, not even for gaming - including ourselves.

Before the Xbox was launched, Microsoft was very concerned with users thinking of the Xbox as nothing more than a PC branded as a gaming console, so it went to great lengths to reduce the association. For example, the strict ban on keyboard and mouse support, despite the fact that the console implemented the standard USB interface.

With the Xbox 360, Microsoft gained some benefits of the original Xbox success. Xbox didn't win the sales battle against Sony's PlayStation 2, but the first Xbox was strong enough to cement Microsoft's name in the world of console gaming manufacturers. For their second time around, there is less worry of the Xbox 360 being viewed as a just a PC, so Microsoft took a bolder approach.

Honestly, with the Xbox 360, Microsoft could have put forth another PC in a black box and it probably would have done fine. But with their second gaming console, the target was growth -- and Sony. With an established name and fanbase, it was time to take the market seriously and start to exert some dominance and thus the Xbox went from being a clunky black box of a PC, to a stylish consumer electronics device.

The Xbox 360 is smaller than the original Xbox, and its wireless nature makes it a natural fit in the living room - marking a thankful change from standard gaming consoles of the past. Despite looking like the offspring of an iPod and a DVD player, the Xbox 360 is still very much a PC on the inside. As such, it's got all of the components we're used to.

With less than a week to go before the retail availability of Xbox 360 consoles, we got our hands on one to give it the usual AnandTech once-over. And take it apart of course.

What's in the Box?
Our Xbox 360 system was the $399 unit, which comes with the following:

- Xbox 360 console
- 20GB Removable Hard Drive
- Wireless Controller
- Headset
- DVD Remote
- Ethernet Cable
- Component AV Cables
- External Power Supply

The $299 core system gives you the same console (with a white DVD tray cover), a wired controller, and standard composite AV cables; there's no hard drive, headset or remote.

By now you have undoubtedly heard about the massive external power supply that comes with the Xbox 360 and you can see it in the lower left hand corner of the picture above. Remember that in the original Xbox, the power supply was internal. But with the power requirements of the Xbox 360 being significantly higher than its predecessor, while featuring a noticeably smaller case, the only solution was to take the power supply out of the Xbox 360.

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What's in the Box, in the Box? (Taking it Apart)
Microsoft has shown the world that it's very swift when it comes to recovering from errors that it has made. With the original Xbox design, Microsoft was definitely testing new ground and thus had little experience when it came to protecting its intellectual property and hardware. The original Xbox was largely easy to open by most people with the most common of tools and was quickly adopted by the modding community as the ultimate "utility" console.

In an attempt to circumvent those with modified Xboxes, Microsoft added security and authentication features to its Xbox Live service that would detect whether an Xbox was in its original form or not. But the mod community did not sit idle and not long after, mod chips were introduced that were able to switch on and off between original BIOS mode and "modified" BIOS mode.

Microsoft has clearly announced to the public that it has designed the Xbox 360 from the ground up to thwart those who want to crack open the case -- even simply for a look inside. They have stated that the unit will be screwless (partially true) and be extremely difficult to disassemble -- unfortunately only partially true.

With a few simple tools we were able to disassemble the entire unit, removing every component from the system without any damage. If you plan to take apart your Xbox 360 -- and we must warn that doing so will void your warranty immediately -- the following tools are needed:

Three torx screw drivers in the following sizes: T6, T7 and T12
One small flat head screw driver or small and thin wedge
A 2 inch long and thin (roughly 1.5mm thick) metal stick
A 2 inch long and flat (less than 1mm thick) plastic or metal stick
A pair of thin pliers
With those tools in hand, we're ready to disassemble the Xbox 360.

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Removing the Outer Shell
The first step is to remove the outer plastic shell that conceals the innards of the system. To do this, you must start by removing the face plate. Take a look at the front of the Xbox 360 and insert your thumb into the door that covers the two USB ports on the right of the unit. With your other hand squeezing the upper and lower sides of the face plate, pull out the face plate with your thumb. With not much force, the face plate should pop right off.

After the face plate has been pulled off you will see a silver Microsoft sticker covering a gap; remove this. You will also see four small clips locking the top half of the plastic shell to the bottom half. Do not attempt to wedge the clips out at this point.

With some care, gently bend outwards, the right gray ventilation shield on the right side of the unit so that you can see a bit inside. You will notice that the gray side piece attaches to both the bottom and top white chassis. Now look through the holes on top of the unit to locate the areas where the gray side pieces attaches to the white body. What you need to do is take the long but thin metal stick and push down, through the white holes (located on both the top and bottom of the Xbox 360) where the clips of the gray side pieces connect. Slowly pull out the gray pieces away from the unit while unlocking the clips and eventually the gray piece will release itself.

To remove the left gray piece, you must first remove the hard drive unit by pressing the button located on the unit itself. Then apply the same procedure used to remove the right gray ventilation piece -- except when you reach the bottom clip of the piece, you most remove the rubber feet located directly below, to reveal a hole where you can insert the metal stick.

Once you have both side gray pieces removed, you have essentially removed the main locking mechanism that holds the top and bottom shells together. At this point, return to the front of the unit and turn the entire unit upside down. Using a flat head screw driver or wedge, gently pry up the 4 clips holding the top shell to the bottom. Once the clips are unlatched, slowly lift up the front of the bottom shell about an inch.

The last step to removing the bottom shell cover is to insert a thin and small plastic stick into the thin rectangular holes on the rear. The reason the front of the bottom shell needs to be lifted is to prevent the rear latches from reattaching themselves. Slowly insert the stick into each rectangular opening. You should hear a click sound for each clamp you unlatch. Once complete, you may lift off the bottom shell covering.

Looking inside the unit, you will notice that there are 14 silver screws (6 of which are long) and 8 black screws. Using your start bit screw drivers, remove the silver screws using a size T12 screw driver and the black ones using a size T7. Once you have all the screws removed, flip the Xbox 360 right side up and lift up the top plastic shell. You should now be greeted with the internals of the Xbox 360.

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Disassembling the Internals of the Xbox 360
To continue further, you will need to first remove the DVD drive. Simply hold the drive and lift up. You will notice that the Xbox 360's DVD drive uses a Serial ATA interface which keeps things very tidy compared to the original Xbox. At this point, remove both the power supply cable and Serial ATA cable from the DVD drive and then from the motherboard.

The fan shroud can now be removed by simply twisting the cover until it pops off. The shroud is held in place by one clamp that attaches to the actual fans. Just be careful at this point not to break the clamp.

Next, remove the RF unit at the front of the Xbox 360 by removing the small black torx screws using a T6 screwdriver. Then you must remove the plastic cover on the front of the RF unit by unlatching the top and bottom of the plastic cover. Once you have done this, you will reveal the third screw holding the RF unit to the chassis. Remove the last screw and pull out the RF unit. Lastly, remove the power connections for the fans. You can now lift the motherboard out of the metal chassis.

As a reminder, the Xbox 360 is a delicate equipment and must be treated with care at all times. Ensure that you frequently ground yourself to discharge any build up static which can severely harm your Xbox 360.

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Removing the Heatsinks from the Motherboard
Removing the heatsinks from the GPU and the CPU will require a great deal of patience as to avoid damaging the motherboard. Flip over the Xbox 360's motherboard. You will see two X clamps grasping the ends of the screws that hold the heatsinks into place. Without removing the X clamps, you cannot remove the heatsinks. Microsoft has done a clever job in terms of securing the unit from prying eyes and removing the heatsinks from the Xbox 360 can be a trick for a lot of people.

Take a pair of small pliers and gently pry off each corner of the clamps. After two corners have been lifted, the rest of the clamp springs loose and can easily be removed by hand. Once both X plates have been removed, you can turn the motherboard over and simply pull the heatsinks off to reveal the GPUs (two dice on the chip) and CPUs (single die, 3 cores on the chip).

You now have a fully disassembled Xbox 360.

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The Xbox 360 CPU
The original Xbox used a hybrid mobile Pentium III/Celeron processor, but for the 360 Microsoft went to IBM and got the rights to a PowerPC core. The move to the PowerPC instruction set meant that there would be no direct binary compatibility with older Xbox titles, but the sacrifice was obviously deemed necessary by Microsoft.

The CPU itself features three of these PowerPC cores and is currently manufactured on a 90nm process, however Microsoft will most likely be transitioning to 65nm as soon as possible in order to reduce the die size and thus manufacturing costs. Remember that a die shrink from 90nm down to 65nm will cut the size of the CPU in half, and should be possible for Microsoft sometime before the end of next year.

All three cores are identical and feature a 2-issue pipeline and can only execute instructions in-order; we've already discussed the reasoning behind this decision here. The impact of the in-order execution cores is generally a negative one on current game code, but by going with a much simpler core Microsoft was able to stick three of them on a die with hopes of making up for lost performance by enabling some pretty serious multithreading.

Not only does the Xbox 360's CPU feature 3 cores, but each core is capable of executing two threads at the same time, making the CPU capable of simultaneously executing 6 threads. Unfortunately, most titles appear to be only using one or two threads, with the remaining threads being used for things like audio encoding/decoding, real-time decompression of game data off of the DVD-ROM and video decoding.

Microsoft has their own license to use and manufacture the CPU used in the Xbox 360, and thus we see their logo on the chip itself. Microsoft cools the 3-core CPU using a fairly beefy heatsink outfitted with heatpipes (pictured below):

Airflow is supplied by the two rear fans in the Xbox 360; the air is channeled over the GPU and CPU heatsinks using a duct. The larger heatsink on the right is atop the CPU, the smaller heatsink is for the GPU:

We have previously discussed the Xbox 360's CPU in much greater detail, which you can read about here.

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The Xbox 360 GPU
While Microsoft's focus on the CPU was efficiency, with the Xbox 360's GPU, it pulled out all the stops. Designed by ATI, Microsoft controls the IP of the GPU; meaning, Microsoft can manufacture and do what it wishes with Xenos (although we're assuming that they can't stick it on graphics cards and start selling it to the public).

The GPU also acts as a North Bridge in the system, but we'll get to that role a little later. Like the Xbox 360 CPU, we've talked about the GPU in great detail in the past, but we'll briefly go over the highlights here.

The buzzword that was around the Xbox 360 GPU's announcement was of course, its use of a Unified Shader Architecture. Modern day PC GPUs feature separate pixel and vertex shader units, which are collections of execution units and associated logic to handle pixel shader and vertex shader instructions. The Xbox 360's GPU features a single set of execution units and logic that can execute both pixel and vertex shader instructions. The benefit of a unified shader architecture is greater efficiency, as we mentioned in our original piece on it: "The unified shader architecture that ATI chose to use in their Xbox 360 GPU allows them to pack more functionality onto fewer transistors as less hardware needs to be duplicated for use in different parts of the chip and will run both vertex and shader programs on the same hardware."

There are 48 shader units in the Xbox 360 GPU, but given that we're dealing with a unified shader architecture, you can't compare that number directly to the 24 shader pipelines of the GeForce 7800 GTX for example. We roughly estimated the power of the Xbox 360 GPU to be similar to that of a 24-pipeline ATI R420 GPU.

The other big feature of the Xbox 360 GPU is its dual die construction. The 332 million transistor GPU is split into two separate dice, the larger of which looks like a conventional GPU, and then a smaller die (aka daughter die) that is a 10MB block of embedded DRAM (eDRAM) combined with the hardware necessary for z and stencil operations, color and alpha processing, and anti aliasing. The daughter die connects to the larger die via a 32GB/s on-package interconnect.

The logic and embedded DRAM on the daughter die is what allows the Xbox 360 GPU to essentially offer "free" anti-aliasing, which Microsoft enforces through requiring developers to support a minimum of 2X AA in all Xbox 360 titles. Although we were originally told back at E3 that all Xbox 360 titles would support 4X AA, it seems that the statement has since been revised to 2X or 4X AA. We're not certain why the change was made, as 2X and 4X are both effectively "free" on the GPU, but there may be something we're missing.

On a smaller manufacturing process, the dice could be unified, as they are only separated right now in order to improve yields. Impressively enough, the GPU is cooled by a fairly low profile heatsink, with the two rear case fans in the Xbox 360 providing all the airflow over the heatsink's fins.

For a more in-depth look at the Xbox 360's GPU, head over to our original coverage of the architecture back at E3.

Backwards Compatibility
With a completely different CPU ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) and a GPU from a different manufacturer the Xbox 360 is a very different beast than the original Xbox, thus backwards compatibility had to be done via software emulation.

Microsoft recently announced the 212 original Xbox titles that would be backwards compatible on the Xbox 360 at launch, you can view the entire list here. In order to take advantage of the backwards compatibility you need to have the removable hard drive attached to the Xbox, as a software patch will have to be downloaded from Microsoft's servers. The download process will happen automatically and you will be alerted if the title you're attempting to play does not yet have a patch available for it.

HDTV Support
With the Xbox 360, Microsoft hopes to usher in the era of HD gaming, first and foremost by requiring all Xbox 360 games to support 720p (1280 x 720). Unfortunately, we have yet to hear from Microsoft if this means that all games must be internally rendered at 1280 x 720 or if they can be rendered at a lower resolution and upscaled later on. There have been discussions involving at least one Xbox 360 game (Project Gotham Racing 3), rendering internally at a lower resolution and having the Xbox 360's TV encoder upscale it to 720p.

You don't have to have a HDTV, but obviously owning one will give you better overall image quality. The Xbox 360 supports all of the most popular video formats: 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i.

There is no out of box DVI or HDMI support, nor is there any Microsoft support for either of those video interface standards at this time, although Microsoft has indicated that they may offer HDMI support when it makes sense to. There is, however, an optical output, but the cable is not included.

If you don't have a HDTV but you have a VGA monitor that you'd like to use, Microsoft does offer a VGA cable that will allow you to connect your Xbox 360 to a VGA monitor. If you don't have a HDTV or a monitor but still want a higher quality output, Microsoft also offers a S-Video AV cable.

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The Xbox 360 Chipset
As we mentioned before, the Xbox 360's North Bridge is integrated into the GPU, similar to most PC chipsets with integrated graphics. The North Bridge is on the main die of the GPU and shares the same 128-bit GDDR3 memory controller that the graphics core uses to access the Xbox 360's 512MB of memory. This bus runs at 1.4GHz offering just over 22GB/s of bandwidth to main memory.

On the other side of the North Bridge there's the CPU's FSB interface, which offers 10.8GB/s of bandwidth in each direction (21.6GB/s total). You can see the serial FSB laid out in the image below:

The North Bridge also features a 500MB/s interface to the Xbox 360's South Bridge, which was designed by SiS (pictured below).

Once again, you don't see any non-Microsoft logos on any of these chips. It's clear this time around who the IP belongs to. The South Bridge is responsible for communication with the audio codec, storage devices, USB ports, controllers, and any other I/O devices.

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The Wireless Controllers
Microsoft implemented a proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol for use with wireless controllers and the Xbox 360. The $399 Xbox 360 comes with a single wireless controller, while the $299 core system features a wired controller; regardless of what it comes with, all Xbox 360 units feature support for up to four wireless controllers.

Amazingly enough, even loaded with a battery pack, the wireless Xbox 360 controllers are lighter than the smaller Xbox S controllers. The new controllers are extremely well designed and mark a true evolution from the original gargantuan Xbox controllers that debuted 4 years ago.

The RF transmitter and receiver antennae are located at the front of the Xbox 360, behind the power button:

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Storage Devices
The Xbox 360 ships with a standard dual layer DVD-ROM drive, our unit had a drive manufactured by Hitachi-LG.

The drive features a standard SATA interface, but like the DVD-ROM drive in the original Xbox, the 360's DVD drive also features a proprietary power connector as you can see from the picture below:

Since we're still dealing with a dual layer DVD drive, disc capacity hasn't grown since the release of the original Xbox, which may serve as a limitation for future games (potentially forcing them to multi-disc releases). Generally speaking, original Xbox titles used less than half of the 9GB DL-DVD capacity, leaving some room for growth for Xbox 360 games.

Microsoft has also reduced the size of the data that is required to be on each disc by a few hundred megabytes, combine that with the fact that larger game data can be compressed further thanks to more powerful hardware and game developers shouldn't run into capacity limitations on Xbox 360 discs anytime soon.

The $399 Xbox 360 system ships with a removable hard drive by default, which can be used by game developers to enable disk caching to reduce subsequent load times, as well as for content to be downloaded onto from Xbox Live. If you wish to play any original Xbox games, you will need to have a hard drive present, as that is where the emulation data is stored since original Xbox games are not directly compatible with the Xbox 360's hardware.

Final Words
And there you have it, four years since the original Xbox launch, Microsoft is back with part 2 (or 360 if you prefer). While many doubted that they would last beyond the first installment, Microsoft has proven its worth and credibility in the console gaming industry.

While we do have tons of long term questions about the architecture and platform of the Xbox 360, only time will answer them. Until then, the Xbox 360 launch is less than a week away so if you're eagerly awaiting one to be delivered, at least now you don't have to worry about taking yours apart - happy gaming!

Re:Article Text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14044302)

you know I think it's against the law to copy content in this manner? correct me if i'm wrong.
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