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Microsoft hazy about the Xbox 360 Falcon

by on28 August 2007


What does this mean?

The Xbox 360
that is known as the “Falcon.” If you read the blogs about Microsoft’s newly “revised” Xbox 360 there is a disconnect with Xbox 360 enthusiasts and Microsoft. Microsoft has been silent as to whether it has created and released a new version of its popular Xbox 360, even though the modified Xbox was reported at E3 and is probably already on its way to the U.S. to be reassembled into consoles by Microsoft contractor vendors. Microsoft has code named the board inside the revised Xbox 360 “Falcon.” Its claim to fame is that it contains the first Microsoft 65-nanometer chip for the Xbox 360. Why all the secrecy by Microsoft, and why should consumers care about this?

The 65-nanometer IBM chip for the Xbox 360 means that the board will likely run much cooler and help reduce the overheating problems that earlier versions of the Xbox 360 consoles have. The overheating problem is so widespread that Microsoft is offering free replacements of the original Xbox 360 for a three-year period. That’s good. However, the Falcon board reportedly does not include a 65-nanometer version of the ATI graphics chip for the Xbox 360. That version of the graphics chip is rumored to be coming “later.” Here is where consumers should ask, “Why not with the Falcon?” The graphics chip certainly produces a great amount of heat. Wouldn’t it make sense to replace the graphics chip at the same time? Here is where things get complicated and more interesting.

While moving to smaller circuitry delivers a lot of the benefits, console architecture has not used smaller circuits to increase the chipset speed.  Instead, console manufacturers have reduced costs by taking the same number of transistors on earlier chipset versions but reducing the physical size of the chip.  Smaller chips generate less heat. Microsoft released an earlier revised version of its motherboard for the Xbox 360 that was codenamed “Zephyr.” Zephyr was launched at the time of Microsoft’s release of the Xbox 360 Elite, its newest console that sported a 120-Gigabyte hard disk and an HDMI port. While the motherboard inside the Xbox 360 Elite has an HDMI connector, this version uses the older 90-nanometer chips.

Rumors have been circulating that Microsoft has diverted its engineering team to address the overheating problems of previous Xbox 360 consoles to attempt to stave off the hemorrhaging from warranty claims on defective models, which has contributed to the delay of the launch of the Falcon motherboard.

Interestingly, Falcon motherboards with the new 65-nanometer chipsets will supposedly only be placed in the consoles that contain the HDMI ports, reportedly only available on Xbox 360 Elite consoles, Halo 3 special edition consoles and Xbox 360 Premium consoles. And Microsoft is stuck with a huge number of 90-nm console inventory that they must clear out before they start retailing consoles with the Falcon motherboard units. Unfortunately for consumers, the older inventory does not have the HDMI ports and some of the Xbox 360 Elite consoles will still be made with Zephyr motherboards and 90-nm chipsets. Consumers won’t know whether they are getting the new Falcon motherboard unless their Xbox has the HDMI ports, and even then it still might contain the Zephyr motherboard.

For consumers in the market for a new or an improved Xbox 360 it might be worth a wait until Microsoft can sell off much of its old 90-nm inventory. With the new Falcon motherboards arriving for retail sales in the U.S. by this Christmas (that automatic retailing unveiling time when all things magical are ready to sell) we wouldn’t recommend buying one this holiday season.

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Last modified on 28 August 2007
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