In a departure from past video game consoles, the Xbox Series X stands upright instead of laying horizontally. Microsoft says that design choice was part of an effort to make the hardware’s fan as big and efficient as possible.
The company laid out its thinking in a recent interview with Digital Foundry over on Eurogamer. The console’s unusual form factor is a product of two things: the need for an optical drive that can read discs and the need to optimize the volume of the heat sink to deal with big power requirements. The result is something that people immediately likened to a kitchen appliance following its initial reveal at the 2019 Game Awards.
“Jim [Wahl] mentioned how the ODD [optical disc drive] sets one dimension, the volume of the heat sink sets the other dimension, the height is set by airflow and throughout this kind of complex negotiation of figuring out how this stuff comes together, we landed on a square form factor which we love,” Chris Kujawski, principal designer at Microsoft, told Digital Foundry.
In addition to being shaped like a fridge, the Xbox Series X’s vent sits on top and has even bigger holes than previous consoles so the hot air it generates can get out as quickly as possible. “You have exhaust out the top and we have large venting holes, but the the net effect of putting all of this together, having parallel paths, having this really powerful quiet fan at the top, is that we get 70 per cent more airflow through this console than the past generation and we get 20 per cent more airflow through our heatsink alone than in the past generation,” said Jim Wahl, director of mechanical engineering for the project.
While the Xbox Series X might look like a fridge, it essentially functions like giant cooling tower for the custom Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU housed inside. Hopefully it’s still quieter than my PS4.