Creating the Xbox Series X Why Microsoft has redefined the console shape factor

The Xbox Series X and also the Xbox Series S (collectively, the Xbox Series X/S) are residence video clip game gaming consoles developed by Microsoft. They were both released on November 10, 2020 as the 4th generation of the Xbox console family members, being successful the Xbox One household. Together with Sony s PlayStation 5, additionally launched in November 2020, the Xbox Series X as well as Series S are part of the nine generation of computer game consoles.Rumors concerning the gaming consoles first arised in very early 2019, with the line all at once codenamed Scarlett , and containing high-end and also lower-end models codenamed Anaconda and also Lockhart respectively. Inside, Microsoft had been satisfied with the two-console strategy for the Xbox One, and also intended a similar method for the fourth generation Xbox, with the target for the premium design to at the very least double the performance of the Xbox One X. The high-end model was initial teased throughout E3 2019 under the title Project Scarlett , while its name and also design as Xbox Series X was revealed throughout The Video game Awards later on in December. In September 2020, Microsoft introduced the lower-end design as the Xbox Series S.
The Xbox Series X has higher end hardware, as well as sustains higher display screen resolutions (as much as 8K resolution) in addition to greater structure rates and real-time ray mapping; it likewise has a high-speed solid-state drive to reduce filling times. The cheaper Xbox Series S uses the very same CPU, however has a less powerful GPU, has less memory as well as interior storage space, as well as lacks an optical drive. Both consoles are developed to sustain almost all Xbox One video games, controllers, and devices, including those games from older Xbox consoles supported by Xbox One s backwards compatibility. At launch, Microsoft placed their first-party games as well as numerous third-party video games to be offered for both Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One to aid transition between generations, supplying the Smart Distribution circulation framework to freely supply further optimizations of an Xbox One game for either the Xbox Series X or Series S. The gaming consoles are additionally compatible with the pc gaming subscription solution Xbox Game Pass, in addition to the cloud game-streaming system Xbox Cloud Video gaming.

The story behind the box.

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Undoubtedly, the greatest surprise of the Game Awards in December 2019 was the decision of Microsoft to reveal Xbox Series X: the name, branding – and above all the form factor. It was a console that was very different than everything we had seen before, possibly the most original design of the home console since Nintendos GameCube in 2001. During our last visit to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA, we had the opportunity Important members of the hardware team, which has developed this remarkably looking device – and we have gained a much better understanding Warum for the Xbox series X had to be revised from top to bottom.

When we thought about how we were designed, everything was theoretical, says Chris Kujawski, main designer at Microsoft. We had no things we could test, we had no measurements we could do, we knew it would be more powerful and we knew that it would require a completely different kind of thinking about the design of a console.

The main problem of the designer was the performance and the desired performance. The Xbox system architects decided from the start that next-generation console must provide at least twice the total graphics performance of the Xbox One X, which means 12 Teraflops GPU computing besides the Zen 2 cores that would provide a 4x Improvement of CPU performance. At the same time, the mandate was determined that the machine must also achieve the acoustic performance of the Xbox One X – a major challenge if system performance would increase significantly.

The challenge stepped into focus when the oversized electricity requirement of the new hardware came into focus. Based on the prototype of the hardware we have seen, the Xbox Series X is delivered with a 315 W power supply. In accordance with all console designs from Microsoft since the Xbox Series S, it is delivered im internal . With the bare amount of electrical energy pumped through the processor, the controllers pump up to 100 W per square inch and deliver up to 190a. What all this has brought together to today s form factor is the crucial decision for a split motherboard design: on a board are the high-performance components such as the processor of the X, GDDR6 and the power regulators. The other is the Southbridge Board, which mainly manages I / O. The boards sit on both sides of a massive chassis block – an aluminum casting.

I like to think that our past generations have a bit like an exoskeleton. So they have a mechanical structure with electric shielding on the outside and then all the guts on the inside , explains Jim Choice, head of mechanical engineering with Xbox hardware. And so we did it in this generation that we have put it completely upside down … and so this middle chassis essentially forms the spine, the foundation of this system, and then we build things from there.

This is actually my favorite part of the console inside, adds Chris Kujawski. It s like it s the coolest part that everyone who actually buys the console will never see. It is also important to keep the thermal requirements of the hottest components in chess. It creates a so-called parallel cooling architecture, so that cool air penetrates – and cool air flows through separate zones of the console , adds choice. The second thing it does is that the heat sources in the console actually spread a bit different – so these two things are really effective to cool a console. And the third thing it does is … We play this kind of 3D Tetris game in which you want to find out where the components should go and which arrangement is best – and then some of the dimensional aspects are set.

While all this happens, Chris Kujawski literally builds an Xbox Series X right in front of us – an exercise that we would do the next day when it comes to producing the video content above this page. The two motherboards are largely equal and raced on both sides of the housing. I prefer to remember the old Apple Mac Pro design as any console I had seen before. So you can already see how these larger components are collected, says Kujawski. Already one can say that it is a very different shaped product than ever before.

Together with the optical 4K UHD-Blu-Ray drive and the 315 W power supply, the construction is added to the construction of an electrical shield. That s a real balancing act. Essentially, electromagnetic radiation must be included in the machine, at the same time the Xbox Series X must dissipate a lot of heat. It s interesting that we, if you are looking for earlier generations, always have a very nice piece of metal around [the installations], like a Faraday cage, says Andres Hernandez, Head of Electrical Engineering at Xbox. This time we had to think a little bit beyond the box. We have shields on board plane. We have localized shielding, rather than this huge piece of metal shielding.


| Xbox Series X. | Xbox One X. | Xbox One S. | Dimensions | 15.1 Cm x 15.1 cm x 30.1 cm | 30cm x 24 cm x 6 cm | 29.5 cm x 23 cm x 6.5 cm
— | — | — |-
Full volume | 6.86 liters | 4.32 liters | 4.41 liters
Weight | 4.45 kg | 3.69 kg / 8.14 kg | 2.90 kg
Häfen: | HDMI 2.1 output, 3x USB 3.2, network connection, extended memory slot, current input | HDMI 2.0B output, HDMI 1.4 input, 3x USB 3.2, Toslink audio, IR output, Gigabit Ethernet, current input. | HDMI 2.0A output, HDMI 1.4 input, 3x USB 3.2, Toslink audio, IR output, Gigabit Ethernet, current input.
Optical drive: | 4K UHD Blu-ray | 4K UHD Blu-ray | 4K UHD Blu-ray

Then we take a look at the solid state storage drive – a custom module for the Xbox Series X, which has its own thermal challenges. What is really impressive is that this is an internal 1-TB module and is operated at 2.4 GB / s and up to 3.8 W. This is a big challenge for us, says Hernandez. If you have a 22x30mm [SSD] form factor, that s really tiny … How can you pay all this heat? So this is one of the things we had to reconsider much of our thermal strategy because that s a lot of bandwidth to get into such a small form factor.

PC-NVME SSDs often lose power, just because they become too hot – and this required an innovative engineering for the new Xbox. We have these competing springs, which we call as thermal bias springs, says Jim election. This means that the card is actually biased against this upper thick heat sink so that the card transmits heat through your connection into the housing to the cooling air as it flows through the system somehow the pencil and makes it right.

Chris Kujawski continues to build the series X and it s time to bring out one of the largest individual components throughout the design – the heat sink. Relatively seen, it is a fairly large copper vapor chamber with a lightweight aluminum cooling body. It s big enough to cover most of the SOC board – but it not only redirects the heat from the main processor. We have these very powerful regulators. One of the challenges is how we can actually cool so much power density. So we actually used the steam chamber for a few things, says Andres Hernandez. The first is that we also cool our GDDR6 memory into the steam chamber. This made great sense, because if you push a lot of bandwidth, these chips are thermally high. And then the second piece is as I mentioned it is one of the most powerful parts of our box.

To achieve the same acoustic performance as on Xbox One X, a number of components are required, but starting with the hardware integrated in the processor itself. The measured values ​​of 64 diodes on the SOC are continuously monitored, wherein a fan algorithm is fed into the system firmware, which keeps the system so quietly as possible and supplies cooling performance if necessary. With all this power you have to move a lot of air and wants to move softly, says Jim election. We have studied many different types of air movement in a product and a single axial fan was the most efficient and quietest air motion apparatus for our system. Here we take a number of adjustments here, ie the number of wings, especially the wing geometry, is highly optimized to work within the limits of our system.

There are a number of things under the hood, such as the storage areas and the storage types to keep them very quietly and make sure that this powerful fan stays quiet throughout its lifetime, adds choice. And then there are things that are more subtle, like the curvature of the cover band up to the corners. Even these little details improve the efficiency of the air movement through the box and upwards.

In addition to the Xbox Series X construction that takes shape, the main housing is in which all these parts are packed. However, what is immediately obvious is that this device is dicht . Once the components are placed therein, only very little free space will be present. It is a complete contrast to the concept of air flow, as we know it for example in a PC housing. We also have to have good air in the housing so you have certain ventilation openings and large holes, explains Jim Choice. They have great ventilation holes, but the net effect, but the net effect, if you have all this, have parallel ways and have this really strong quiet fan above, is that we are 70 percent more airflow let this console than the past generation and we Get 20 percent more air flow alone through our heat sink than in the last generation.

And on the most basic level, there is a very basic set of rules , which define the form factor of the Xbox Series X beyond the unprecedented performance requirements of the processor, as Chris Kujawski explains: Jim mentioned, as the ODD [Optical Drive] Sets a Dimension Determension, the volume of the heat sink sets the other dimension, the height is determined by the air stream, and during this complex negotiation to find out how this stuff comes together, we landed on a square form factor we love.

Certain thermal realities have also helped to define the appearance of the box. The large holes on the top of the machine are available because a good amount of hot air has to be ejected. We have decided to really focus on it as this is the characteristic surface of the product, explains Kujawski. First of all, we have created an extra depth by making them deep about a centimeter. If we have cut out this surface, the look changes when you approach your – and if you lift your line of sight and lower, you will see more or more less in it. Then we have reinforced it by adding this green layer below, and that has its own variable depth, so that it is thicker in the middle and is thinner at the edges.

Thus, the internal structure is essentially complete. Kujawski grabs the construction on the heat sink and puts them in the outer housing. And the plastic setting must certainly be one of the simpler aspects of the design, right? After all, it s a rectangular piece of housing. In fact, the dimensions of the shell have created a whole series of new challenges, especially due to their depth. Robots Construct the Xbox Series X in the production line, with the tools in the housing and move out – and at a point there was simply no giving in design – the tools could not leave the suitcase, what another EUREKA moment Required the serial factor X can be made in mass production.


It is fair to say that the hardware team did not quite expect to see some of the memes emerged from the Game Awards, but it was fun to see how Microsoft with humor on some of the amusing form factor comparisons Responds – to the point where the infamous series X against refrigerator head to head in Microsoft s own social media. However, it remains the fact that it is a fundamentally different, challenging design, and in this sense it was sent to concentrate testers on their thoughts.

We presented it to you and said, What do you think works for you? Take off your Xbox, plug it. Does it fit in your cabinet? Would you like to show it to your friends? And we were relieved and pleased that the vast majority of people have totally loved it, says Chris Kujawski. The space requirement is very low. If you compare him with a traditional shaped console that is pretty deep, you actually have a very small footprint. So if you connect all the cables, you can actually put it in a much flat shelf or set it it was pretty magical for us to get this feedback so early in the program and get the confidence that this would work that people are doing well be reacted.

With the constructed series X, the focus shifts to the revised Xbox controller. For our briefing, the design team has put together a presentation board, on which all Joypads from the past few years from the original vintage 2001 Duke to current devices such as Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 and the Adaptive Controller recognized by Microsoft. At the top right of the board is the new pad for the Xbox Series X. There is obviously a journey of gradual development, although the Adaptive Controller obviously represents a radical departure.

What was really cool is that accessibility and integrative design today are an integral part of each product we design, says Chris Kujawski. Just as we would talk about performance, specifications and reliability, the accessibility is part of this conversation about our entire hardware and packaging. That was really cool, just in terms of the process, and I think it has helped many of us to grow and simply become better product manufacturers, it was really great to be a part of it.

At first glance, the new Xbox controller does not look much different than the pads we have seen before, with the obvious exception of the Share button and a new D-PAD, which is apparently a lot with the design shown on the Controllers of the Elite series. The most important feedback that Microsoft has received from its most dedicated players is that you are satisfied with the existing design. The key was to extend this satisfaction to more users. Some of the topics that appeared were ergonomics, explains Ryan Whitaker, Senior Designer at Microsoft. Can you make this thing more comfortable? I have little hands. Can you better fit in my hands? Connectivity – I have all these new devices, I want to play Xbox games on all these devices, you can make it easier to make couple? Sharing – Capturing and parts has become a really big part of the gaming lifestyle.


Microsoft kept the same basic design and made sure existing peripherals such as the chat pad with the new controller function properly. However, the design was redesigned. It turned out that small changes could make the use of the pad for many, much more users much more comfortable. The existing controller is designed so that it fits comfortably into the hand sizes of the fifth to 95th percentile. However, small changes can make a big contribution in terms of accessibility. One of the things we found is that if we can actually reduce the percentiles at the bottom of the end, if we target the third percentile to the 95th percentile, these two percentile points actually represent hundreds of millions of people, says Whitaker. Through simple easy reduction of some areas of the controller, we have found that we actually achieve much more people and at the same time can make it more comfortable.

But this is the Xbox of the next generation. So why not continue with a radical design? A look at the presentation board in front of us, which shows the development of the controller, shows that the basics have not really changed. Behind us on a flipboard are photos of how users interact with the existing pad – and let s just say that there are some strange formations of fingers and hands. According to Microsoft, the decision to further develop the existing design is essentially based on the fact that users like the current setup. They are used to it and happy with it.

You have a lot of muscle memory there, summarizes Whitaker. We have found that we can improve accessibility by rounding off these corners of the bumper. We have taken the opening by a few millimeters and the angle of attack there has gradually changed. There are things that we knew we did not want to change, that includes things like thumb stalk heights, we want to make sure that people s muscle memories are still there.

There are other simple changes that can also help more than you can imagine. You can see the bumper and trigger now have a matt finish instead of shining, says Ryan Whitaker. And that helps us: whether they have dry hands or are very intense and their fingers sweat, it actually helps to maintain the same attitude, the same grip and the same friction, so that their performance does not change over time , Again, hundreds of thousands of test hours will be performed for new control designs. All these angles, heights, textures are finally tuned – we talk of 0.1 mm and people notice the difference, says Whitaker. You can actually measure the performance and see how things rise or fall, depending on how they set these surfaces.

An interesting discussion point is the fact that the Xbox controller is still supplied with AA batteries, in contrast to the built-in rechargeable cells we find in the Dual Shock pad – and this tradition also extends to the Series X-Pad . The Tech Influencer Austin Evans (who also participates in this event) asks if it is time to continue, while John Linneman from Digital Foundry indicates how his son must come back into play immediately when the batteries are empty, and argues That AA batteries are supported means that the controller works flawlessly in many years, while internal cells fade and die.

Jason Ronald, partner director for program management at Xbox – also known as Xbox Beard Guy from the Scarlett trailer of the E3 2019 – says that the difference in question between 50 and 50 in the room the customer feedback almost perfectly reflects: What matters is when If you talk to players, this is a kind of polarization and there is a strong camp that really wants AAS. To give only flexibility, is the way to satisfy both [groups of] people satisfy … You can use a rechargeable battery and it works as it works on the elite, [but] it is a separate thing.

We had the opportunity to use the pad, and basically it returns exactly what the Xbox team says. It is known and still easier to hold. The release button enables easy access to game clips and screenshots, while the additional clicking D-PAD feels like a great improvement over the existing pad. Under the hood, the latest Bluetooth radio is integrated to simplify the connection to non-Xbox hardware, while the existing wireless interface is refined for lower latency. At least this is a software-based revision of the pad, so that the ALS of the Xbox team, reducing the input delay is retrofitted in existing controllers, while the new model is also coupled to Xbox One.

The first Game Awards of Microsoft ended with a look at the Series X console, where the new controller rests – and this one picture effectively summarizes the contrasts in the approach to the next-generation design design. On the one hand, there is a revolution in the form of the console itself, its revised form factor, the double-board design and the amazing airflow. And then there is still the controller – perhaps an overall more careful design, but with rewarding new features and an approach to accessibility, which opens the controller for more users and makes it more comfortable for those who are already accustomed to it.

However, there are still many unanswered questions. How much electricity does the console actually pull out of the wall? Will the final sales series X under load really be so discreet as the Xbox One X? We have already shown the form factor against the X, but how about actual integration into a media housing? And finally – the biggest question of all. If an additional Xbox console is available in addition to the X series, which? DAS will look like? We can not wait to find it out.

Digital Foundry was invited to Microsoft in early March, WA, to report on the technical data of the Xbox Series X. Microsoft has paid for travel and accommodation.

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