Thermal considerations in Microsoft’s Xbox Series X design

April 28, 2020 //By Tom Gregory
Tom Gregory looks at the thermal challenges of the design of Microsoft's latest game console, the Xbox Series X
Simulation expert Tom Gregory looks at the thermal challenges of the design of Microsoft's latest game console, the Xbox Series X.

In just shy of three years, Microsoft has sold over 51m units of its Xbox console as of February 2020. An updated version of console, the Xbox One X, was released 2017 with 40 per cent more power than any other gaming system at the time of release. Despite its popularity, the console has had its fair share of stumbling blocks, like the device suddenly shutting off.  Overheating has also been an issue that’s kept cropping up over time with the Xbox One being the main perpetrator.

In December of 2019, Microsoft announced the Xbox Series X, a console promising to be the fastest and most powerful one yet. We’ve seen evidence within the current prototype that suggests thermal engineering has played a role in the design of the console.

We’ve taken a look at recent insights provided to Eurogamer by Jim Wahl, director of mechanical engineering for Xbox Hardware and Chris Kujawski, Principal Designer at Microsoft to shape our conclusions on the thermal design of the new console.

The prototype is bulkier, and a noticeable design evolution from the Xbox One X. The shape is completely different – a horizontal, heavier, and more solid feel to previous designs. First impressions clearly show the air gets pumped into the machine through the bottom of the device, and the design is packed with components while maintaining airtight . 

The earliest requirements of the new console design needed technical aspects that parallel and improve on the existing performance of the Xbox One X, such as acoustic performance. The device also had to have twice the graphics performance, +4x the CPU and a 350w power supply. Additionally, this power supply needed to be internal to the device itself and have regulators have a power density of 100W/in 2. These demanding requirements all require vast performance power, airflow, and effective cooling mechanisms. The engineers therefore must have had to split motherboard either side of its

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