Testing a new 65nm Xbox 360 in a laptop configuration

For the last year or so talk of the new, fabled 65nm Xbox 360′s have circulated the interwebs. Now – in this brave year 2008 – I have installed one of these newer  360′s in a laptop-type enviroment, to replace a Zephyr Elite I had been using.


What will Ben find? And at what temperature?

For a temperate-difference breakdown – done in an incredibly scientific manner as usual – see the rest of this article.

My interest in this subject stems from the fact I was having overheat issues with the newest Xbox 360 laptop, which is based on a 2007 model Elite with what is called the “Zephyr” motherboard. Even with the new heatpipe-laden GPU and my “one pound of copper CPU ‘sink” it would get too hot after about 15 minutes. Part of this is of course my fault, case design, but I figured newer, cooler chips couldn’t hurt. (I could always turn the old Elite MB into a planter or something)

After reading up on the subject of how to locate a 65nm Xbox 360 “Falcon” (which I won’t get into here since I’m sure you all have Google access) I purchased one and promptly tore it apart. There is definately a parts reduction going on, mostly in the power supply side of things, both on the motherboard and the PSU itself. The PSU is now rated 175 watts (down from 203) and is a bit lighter, with a thinner, non-shielded power cord. Which is nice, considering the old cord was similar in girth to the Trans Atlantic Cable.

Legend:

Xenon: Original style Xbox 360 motherboard. Launch, and up until early 2007.
Zephyr: The newer board that came with the Elite and has HDMI. Usually has the new GPU heatsink as well.
Falcon: The newest Xbox 360 MB. Has a 65nm CPU with a much simpler aluminum heatsink on it. (Versus the old copper-steel-heatpipe model)

OK down to business. With the Falcon MB modded to fit in the case and all the crap attached I fired the puppy up… After about 30 minutes of shooting grubs in “Gears” and hearing Bender say “Niiceee…” here’s what I found:


Using a device like this makes me feel like a cross between Spock and the Terminator. Which is fine.

The hottest visible spot on these heatsinks is an area I like to call the “crotch” – where the heatpipe emerges from the base of the ‘sink. (There is doubtlessly a technical term for this location but I don’t care) Anyway, word on the street is that the GPU remains 90nm, and this seems to be the case. At peak it was reading about 140 degrees, which is in line with the Elite Zephyr MB. So in this laptop I think I’d like to shore up the cooling for the GPU more than the CPU because…


“It’s a Class M planet sir… as usual.”

…the CPU runs a lot cooler than it used to.  Even after 30 minutes the crotch of my “super copper heatsink” only got to about 110 degrees. This is in contrast to the Zephyr which easily got up to the 150′s at this same spot, with the same heatsink, and then of course shut itself down. (2 red lights error). Going by my “biological” test, which is of course to touch it, it only feels warm to the touch, whereas before it was pretty hot. Granted the stock CPU heatsink never felt all that warm in the old models (probably because it didn’t have much surface area) but in this test, same heatsink, different boards, it’s a huge difference.


The motherboard area of the new Xbox 360 laptop.

So that’s pretty much what I’ve found thus far. The newest Xbox 360′s have a large heat reduction from the older models, but it is all in the CPU as far as I can tell. Once the GPU goes 65nm (hopefully this year) the thing will be so cool it will no longer double as a space heater. Still, as-is, it’s a great step forward. Hopefully this is further proof that the Xbox 360 is improving and those of you on the fence should just buy one already! Discuss how to find the newest models below… (I’ll let you slueth it out)

Here’s also hoping I can finish up this laptop and show it on the site. Everything is done but the heat issue, and it’s quite the looker.

28 thoughts on “Testing a new 65nm Xbox 360 in a laptop configuration”

  1. Hmmm… I own a July ’07 Elite. It gets pretty toasty, but I’ve been lucky enough not to have much of a problem. Also, I love to see another Trekkie strut his stuff. Qapla’!

  2. Nicely detailed. Does the Falcon have those X-Shaped clamps on the back of the motherboard, under the heatsinks? I was just wondering if M$ decided to do something different for mounting them.

    I wrote a Instructable on removing the clamps and replacing them with screws and washers (utilizing the metal case as support), as a way to alleviate the Red Ring of Death:

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Fix-the-Red-Ring-of-Deathwithout-towels/

    It’s worked for a near month.

    PS: I don’t take credit for the concept in that fix, it’s a compilation of tips and tutorials I’ve read online.

  3. I’ve heard of some Falcons not having X-clamps, but this unit did, same old same old.

    In my opinion, an X-clamp, working correctly at least, are better than screws. With screws you’d have to be sure they’re all equally torqued. The X-Clamp leverages the pressure of the pulled tabs against a point which is centered on the processor die. So as long as the metal isn’t warped all to hell you have a very even pressure.

    I’ve “expanded” the GPU heatsink, and will test it tomorrow.

  4. Can’t you guys just use the metric system?

    The imperial system is so uncool and gay and pointless.. 300 million people on earth use that crap… A dwindling minority compared to the 6 billion using the metric one.

    And now get that lappie done!

  5. So i’ve actually seen this awhil ago and forgot about till like 10 mins ago. but anyways, what do you do?
    do you just buy a new console and tranform it into a laptop? because shit you probably heard this enough to make you kick a childs ass but i want one so bad!. if walmart had them i would be in line right now

  6. “Can’t you guys just use the metric system?”

    Only Commies use the metric system.

    Nice to see that Microsoft is actually improving the design rather then just blowing alot of PR smoke.

    Now how hot does that Harddrive get? I know on a normal 360 its on the outside but what about in your laptop?

  7. The hard drive in mine can definetely get toasty if it’s under heavy activity, but not worryingly hot. Hdds handle heat much better than say, the 360s GPU. Ben, I’ve been wondering since I read your tutorial for the MK2 laptop, what are you using to transfer heat from the copper plate to the copper fins on the CPU heatsink? Thermal compound? I just used an extra GPU heatsink that I cut into a square to fit. Unfortunately, it still needs a decent amount of airflow to keep it cool (even though it’s a falcon). A good 40mm fan running on 12v blowing air straight down into the heatsink did the trick.

  8. Wow! Nice work Ben, keep up the good work and please keep us posted, I really hope Microsoft get rid of the overheating issue as soon as possible, I really love the Xbox360, it has so many nice games to play, Thanks man, more power to you.

  9. After working all day I visited this website and guess what? I sound this source and I don’t feel tired any more! It’s the best entertaining source!

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