More about the Xbox 360 Elite

Seems like the Xbox 360 Elite article has gotten a lot of attention of late so I decided to talk about it a little more.

I guess you could, in theory, jump all those connections manually
Just blowtorch your 360 and you too can look under the GPU.

In this “addendum” I’ll talk about the heat sinks, wicks in the heat pipes, and the DVD drive, since the scratched discs thing is also a concern.

I’ll start by answering some of the questions from the Comments of the previous article.

Q: Is there anyway to use the video connector on a normal 360 and convert it to HDMI? If so could you show us?

A: I’m sure somebody makes some sort of adapter but what’s the point – it’s not going to improve the signal. From what I’ve seen 1080i from the 360 via component HD looks pretty good anyway, and a lot of TV’s will automatically de-interlace it to display a 30 FPS progressive scan picture.

Q: What was the date this elite was produce? I know the launch elites did not have that added heatsink. So some of us are trying to figure out when MS started adding them.

A: I bought this one on July 5th or 6th… Believe it was the same week I saw Transformers (which I thought was about 45 minutes too long) so yes, beginning of June.

I believe the stamping on the plastic case said May… The DVD drive said November of 2005, however. Since the Elite has been in fairly short supply and thus is often replenished, if you buy one now or have recently it has a very good chance of being the updated model.

Q: Benheck seems to be just an xbox 360 fanboy, what a shame coming from someone who should understand how the things work. Besides, this article is pretty informative.

A: You bet I am! This is my site, nobody pays me to write here so I can be as biased as I like. It’s the system I prefer this generation, despite the flaws. I am also a Ford / Sony electronics / Miller Brewing Company / Pepsi / Hormel / Culver’s fanboy, in case you were wondering.

Q: Oh, and call me crazy, but if you stood the system up on it’s side wouldn’t that render the additional heat sink useless? Heat rises and that puts the additional heat sink BELOW the heat source.

A: That’s a very good question and something that confused me when I first looked inside a 360. Because the U-shaped heat sink on the GPU seems to contradict that as well.

See? If set on-end, the liquid at the base of the heat pipe would have to travel down and back up the reach the end. However I have since learned that heat pipes also employ wicks, which help transfer the heat / gas / whatever between the ends. Wanting to see this, I hacked open a 360’s CPU heat sink.

I, Ben, will hack and destroy ANYTHING
Slicing open a heat pipe. Note: this heatsink is from a Premium 360, circa 2006. But I doubt the Elite is much different.

The copper pipe is lined with some sort of crystaline substance that I can only assume acts as the wick. Also I didn’t find any liquid inside the pipe. Either it’s extremely thick and didn’t pour out the bottom or, more likely, is something that instantly becomes a gas at normal pressures. Though when I punctured the pipe I didn’t notice any “opening the well of the souls” type gaseous releases. Who knows?

Whatever’s in the tube, wick or no, it’d still be best to lay your console flat since you’d then have the benefit of rising gas and falling condensation for both heat sinks. In theory at least.

Q: Hey are they still using the X clamp on there consoles?

A: Yes, those were exactly the same as always.

Alright let’s move on to another topic – the DVD drive. The other problem reported with the 360 is that it scratches discs. In my nefarious experiments I have gotten a drive to scratch a disc. It occured when I ran the drive open (always a brilliant move) and the plastic “disc clamp” wasn’t center perfectly on the drive. To explain this I have taken some photos:

This is the inside of an Xbox 360 DVD drive. Again, it’s not the one from the Elite but I can’t imagine it being much different. On the right you see the lid of the drive which contains what I call the “disc clamp”. This has a magnetic ring which is attracted to the metal on the top of the disc motor and thus “locks” the disc in place.

Here is how the disc clamp would look in an Xbox 360 that’s sitting on end. As you can see the clamp can move around a bit in its holder, I would call this a “margin of error” zone. Thus, because of that damn pesky gravity we have it sits at the bottom when the tray is ejected. Therefore it is possible that it might not get a dead-center bull’s-eye grip on the disc which means, once again, your Xbox 360, any version, is better off laying down that standing up. I have mine standing up but I don’t wear a bike helmet either so what do I know?

Let’s do a run-through of the disc insertion cycle to better explain things. Keep in mind a PS2’s disc drive works exactly the same way, so perhaps the disc scratching is caused by other factors as well.

Here’s the tray open and ready for a game. The motor assembly is hinged at the rear and is in the lower position at this point.

As the tray slides in the motor assembly is still down. A slide latch (seen in the center) pulls it up once the tray is in far enough.

Now that the tray is in, the motor can rise.

The final position. Once the motor rises the magnetic disc clamp reacts to the metal on the spindle and locks the disc into place…

…which would look just like this if the lid of the drive were somehow invisible. The 360 can run with the drive like this but as I’ve mentioned before it spins so incredibly fast it’s scary.

So use this to draw your own conclusions about the disc issue, but that doesn’t seem as widespread – or at least reported – as the Ring of Light thing. My recommendations in a nutshell:

  1. If you want a 360 and are worried about the ROL, get an Elite. Remember they’re expected to drop to $450 in mid-August.
  2. I can’t say for sure but it stands to reason newly manufactured Premiums probably have improved heat sinks as well. I recently bought a Core in late June – for personal use since I had an extra hard drive – so maybe if I get really brave I’ll take a look inside that. If even THAT has a new heat sink we can rest assured about other recent models.
  3. Whichever model 360 you have, lay it down rather than set it on end.
  4. The PS3 still has better cooling than any Xbox 360 model, but it also has no good exclusives as yet so screw it. I’m predicting now that Final Fantasy 13 will go multi-platform.

24 thoughts on “More about the Xbox 360 Elite”

  1. Good article. And Yes Heat pipes work in any direction. They do not need to be orientated a certain way. Most CD/DVD drives are built with that plastic disc there. So I don’t think its the plastic discs fault. If it was then even computer games would be scratched to hell. I personally think its people opening the dam disc drive while the CD is still spinning. I have seen my brother open it up and the disc was still spinning a bit. The Xbox just gets a bad rap for the disc scratching because people are stupid.

    Did you hear that you can fix your Red Light problem by hitting the side of the Xbox really hard? I wonder if the Red Light issue is just a mis seated heat sink which causes it to over heat on boot up and Red Light. When hit it jumbles the heat sink around to fit better? I don’t know as my brothers Xbox hasn’t Red Lighted yet.

    Pepsi!? Are you mad!! Dr. Pepper is far superior to Pepsi in taste and has better graphics as well! 😉

    Anyways great read.

  2. indeed excellent writing and information.

    im curious about the red light also. some wacky fixes are around on the interwebz, the more famous of which is wrapping a towel around it for a bit then taking it off, this would increase the heat inside a great deal so im not too sure its a heat issue…

  3. I have a question for Mr Heck. One thing I have noticed about the 360 is that in the event of a crash the dvd spins down and just dumps the disc on to the disc tray. The disc is still spinning pretty quickly at this point, so is only slowed by the friction of the tray against the disc. This unfortunately leaves slight surface scratching across the disc, which while not interfering with the playing of games, does not help its resell value.

    So my question is, can you think of any cheap and effective way to stop the 360 scratching discs this way?

    Cheers, love the site and your work.

  4. Hey Ben,

    Just a heads up. One the back of the console above the eithernet port you can find the manufacture date. It seems like you might of over looked that because you mentioned pulling off the faceplate.

    Anyway if you get a chance can you read the exact date your system was made on? I just recently bought a Elite made on 6-14-2007. I am pretty sure I can see the added heatsink, but I don’t have a camera to take a photo and get a good look with the flash.

  5. Also, maybe for your next article, can you possibly go more in depth about the added heatsink. For instance

    1. Your opinion on if this is enough to really help the cooling
    2. Possibly some temperature comparisons directly over the GPU between a older (no extra heatsink model) and a newer model with the extra heatsink.

    I guess what I’m asking, is this a quick cheap fix MS did or is this a answer to all our problems. Does the extra heatsink really make a difference, will it work, and is it a more permanent solution?

    Also another thing I have been wondering is the placement of this heatsink. It’s right next to the Air Intake vents on the side of the console. This is supposed to be a place where cool air comes into the console and this cool air is then sucked through the “air duct” enclosing the CPU/GPU heatsinks. Wouldn’t this added heatsink get hot? Therefore when cool air is sucked in from the side of the system, wouldn’t this heatsink heat up that cool air, thus sucking hot air through the CPU/GPU heatsinks?

  6. This is a general comment to everyone about the new heatsink. I’ll answer some of the questions I have seen to the best of my knowledge. Let me first say that there have been many, many ongoing discussions about this new heatsink since it came into existance on the Xbox 360 Hardware forums on Everyone should come and take a look!

    1. Here is a link to a long explanation I have done (multiple times) about whether or not the heatsink actually solves the issues. Bottom line is that it does. So if you do have the new heatsink, don’t worry about getting the RoD anytime soon. (Yes, I do make a rude comment about this website – sorry Ben.)

    2. The new heatsink is coming in ALL new consoles. MS began putting the heatsink in new consoles right after the launch Elites were manufactured in the begining of March. April (manufactured) onwards will have the new heatsink. Also, the 65nm consoles started rolling off the line in early July. Some have already made their way to stores. (Ben – you missed it by about 2 weeks. You should have bought an Elite in 2 weeks and done this.)

  7. the Dutch programme ‘Kassa’ found absence of foam pads on lens. that could be the reason, or does yours have these foam pads that shields the lens from the disc?

  8. whats your take on the whole Hd dvd/blue ray war. not that it pertains to gaming, i just see that you never bring it up. that is a PS3 exclusive. i read recently blockbuster video wont buy hd dvds..if playstation has native blue ray support, and can play games..thats kind of a big + for someone shopping a game console……….as long as one has a 1080p capable hdtv.

  9. Well then maybe Ben should buy another Elite with a manufacturer date after July. If he’s the first to slice open a Elite with the 65nm processors and confirm it, then his server will literally self destruct from all the traffic he gets.

    Note to Ben. You can actually see the manufactor Date on the Box. On the back of the box their is a small tab that says “lift here for serial number”. When you lift the tab you can see what date it was made on. This way you don’t have to worry about buying the wrong Elite.

  10. greetings from greece

    i was wondering about “fixing” the xbox drive my self to rid it from any scratch producing effects on my discs (gears of war became unplayable while the console was standing vertically, used nail polish and while the disc looks like a pizza gone bad underneath, it plays perfectly). I saw the whole deal about the foam pads missing from certain drives at the llamma website and the kassa video and i was wondering about the thickness of the pads, as well as the material that should be used including the proper type of glue. do you have any ideas?

    thnx in advance

  11. Pingback: Grischa
  12. Hmmm,
    I can see only 2 ways to scratch a disk…
    spiral scratches are probably caused by a QUICK removal of the disk…The motor DROPS the disk onto the plastic carrier and its still MOVING..
    Straight scratches are probably from the Ejection of the disk, and finding something OUT of sequence, and dragging the disk OVER something. The Laser housing would leave a LONG scratch from the center or close to that…

  13. I would take you advice on setting my 360 flat but the last time I did that my cat jumped on it and ruined my Oblivion worse than it would have standing up, then again the disk I replaced from it getting ruined was in turn ruined when the cat knocked my 360 over while it was standing.

    But hey I’m not worried about my 360 games because I live very close to a Hastings (the best damn store in existence by the way) and with or w/o a receipt I can replace my ruined disks free of charge.

    Great article, I love to see the inside of the systems without voiding my own warranty.

  14. Sounds like less of a MonkeyMishap and more of a problematic feline to me :p

    You’re still better off laying the 360 flat though… We’ve got a demo 360 standing up in my store and it kills discs all the time. My guess is since kids play on it and shake/rattle/roll the controllers and cabinet around, that’s what’s killing the discs, which could be the problem for other people.

  15. “The PS3 still has better cooling than any Xbox 360 model, but it also has no good exclusives as yet so screw it. I’m predicting now that Final Fantasy 13 will go multi-platform. ”

    You were right

  16. Fantastic stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too awesome. I appreciate what youve got here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and also you nonetheless manage to maintain it smart. I cant wait to read additional from you. This is truly an excellent blog.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.