The Xbox One can crank up its fan and even enter a low power state to cope with with misuse.
Once upon a time, the Xbox 360 was known for chronic over-heating issues that fell into the "red ring of death" category. Much of those issues can be drawn back to design changes made to the Xbox 360 in the months prior to its release. Even forgiving the console's design issues, there have been plenty of users who used the product without allowing for the necessary breathing room. That is why, in contrast, the Xbox One is being positioned as a low power, always-on device built in part on the lessons of the Xbox 360.
If Xbox's General Manager of Console Development Leo del Castillo is to be believed, the Xbox One can not only handle normal operating conditions without missing a beat, for instance by not suddenly shutting down, but can even handle some extreme misuse. "We can’t prevent misuse of the product, but we can certainly anticipate it. The way we designed the box, we don’t actually intend it to ever have to go to maximum speed under normal environmental conditions. But there is overhead. So we’ll allow the fan to go all the way up to its maximum speed and if that solves the condition without the user having to do anything."
That means that the Xbox One can modulate its own fan, a feature that is expected by users for sure, but the Xbox One goes even further. "One thing that we have more flexibility with... With the architecture of the Xbox One, is that we can dial back the power of the box considerably. We had a little less flexibility with the 360. And so basically, if we couldn’t dissipate the heat, there wasn’t a whole lot of leverage we could pull to keep the heat from being generated, so we had a limited amount of time before it just shut down. Xbox One can actually dial it back to a lower power state, so low in fact that it can in a mode that uses virtually no air flow."
So the Xbox One can ramp its fan all the way up, and then if necessary can start dropping frames. If neither of those solutions cause the user to take notice that the Xbox One may be running hot due to current conditions there is one more fail-safe. "I don’t know the exact details of how it’ll show up to the user. But we try to be as transparent to the user as possible. We’ll allow the fan to go all the way up to maximum speed. They might notice the extra noise, and that will help to self-correct the condition.
"If we get to the point where that is no longer enough, we have the mechanism, the interface, to deal with that." That mechanism may mean a direct message followed by a suspension of play. Ultimately, it looks like the Xbox One will be a bit more adept than its predecessor at handling heat under various conditions.
Author: Brian Hoss