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Reverend Slim

Reverend Slim Reverend Slim

Niner since 2007

  • Nick Baker: XBox 360 Architecture

    As an interesting aside, my 8th 360 since launch arrived from Microsoft today.  Hooked it up, all was well... and then the screen went black and the 360 logo came up again (almost like it rebooted itself for no reason).  When it came back up, however, the power light in the middle of the ring was blinking constantly... and on the dashboard, you could see the tray indicator say "Opening" then "Closing" repeatedly, but the disc tray wouldn't open.  I unplugged it, plugged it back in, and it went through all that again.  Called Microsoft and after an hour long phone call...

    That's right, you guessed it:  The refurb that arrived today has to be sent back.  I have to wait YET AGAIN for the coffin to arrive, send it in, then wait for yet another refurb that may or may not work.  The last time I went through this, Microsoft promised me a new 360 instead of a refurb, lost my returned console for 2 months, then sent me another refurb anyway.

    So let's run the numbers.  So far, I've had:
    4 units with the red ring of death, secondary error code 0102.
    2 refurbs arrive dead out of the box (1 bad GPU, 1 disc tray/reboot).
    1 refurb killed by the Fall update as soon as I hooked it up.

    This makes the third time I've had to call Microsoft for a return the day that a refurb arrived.  If we include the Core system I still have (that I bought as a backup), that means the next refurb they send me will be my 9th 360 since launch.

    Let me say that again:  NINTH.

    If it weren't for my experience remaining calm from my years at a law firm, I would be livid.  As it is, I'm just glad my Core system still works so I can continue gaming with my friends while I await #9.
  • Nick Baker: XBox 360 Architecture

    Shamrock, no one at Microsoft can own up to the problems causing the red rings of death, primarily for business reasons.  If they admit the problem exists, not only are they legally on the hook to repair every system manufactured to date for free regardless of warranty coverage, they would also be required by law to refund repair/replacement costs to every 360 owner who has returned one out of warranty lest they get sued the way Sony was for the faulty drives in the PS2.

    If, however, they quietly phase out the problem over time, they reduce their liability and don't create a huge PR stir against their product.  You can certainly understand why they don't want to do that.

    I think we all know where the issue lies:  Microsoft used the Ball Grid Array method of attaching the CPU and GPU to the mainboard.  Doing so greatly reduces production costs and increases manufacturing output (i.e. units per hour), but once the mainboard warps even slightly from built-up heat, those tenuous connections can break.  This points to one of two problems:  Either the BGA mounting was improperly done (i.e. not baked long enough for the solder to flow well, causing cold solder joints), or the cooling design of the system is inadequate to prevent disconnection of the chips caused by heat-related issues. 

    We know this because of the methods people are using to repair red-ringed systems, specifically systems with the 0102 error code.  You've heard of the "towel trick".  This likely works because it heats the internal components enough to re-flow the solder in the BGA joints, effectively reconnecting the CPU and GPU to the mainboard.  You've also seen the heatgun trick, where the CPU and GPU mounts are heated up to re-flow the solder in the same manner.  The X-bracket replacement trick that is becoming common now does something similar - you replace the tension-mounted bracket with screws and nylon washers, allow the system to heat up enough to re-flow the solder, then tighten the heatsinks down while still hot to re-seat the chip pins into the solder.  The added benefit of this method is that the resulting pressure of the heatsink on the CPU/GPU should prevent future disconnection from the mainboard.  It also allows you to use better thermal transfer material on the heatsinks, reducing the chance of future heat-related disconnections.

    The added epoxy on the Elite's chips (as noted by Lllama.com) is likely Microsoft's slapdash way of alleviating these issues.  Whether it will prove to be reliable over time remains to be seen, but it is at least an indication that someone there knows where the problem lies.  Let's hope they correct their manufacturing problems soon.  I'm hoping that some measures are being taken with their refurbs and repairs, and I'm interested to see how long my eighth 360 since launch lasts once it arrives next week.
  • Nick Baker: XBox 360 Architecture

    I've had 6 dead 360s thus far.  That's not FUD, because I refuse to own a PS3 or Wii... and I love the 360 when it works.  The problem is that I've had 4 systems red ring on me, 1 killed by the Fall update, and 1 refurb that arrived with a bad GPU out of the box.  And the last time I sent one in for warranty repair, Microsoft lost the thing and took over two months to finally send me one that worked, during which time I bought a Core system... which died 5 weeks later.

    So while I know the people who find it hard to believe that the red rings are a real and widespread problem, I can honestly say that I have had 4 systems since launch red ring on me... in a 74 degree year round home theater, regularly cleaned, with the system on a hard flat surface in an area with open ventilation and its own dedicated circuit.  If someone like me, who has worked on computers and electronic gear since I was 12, can't keep one of these things going for more than 4 months, how can the average consumer be expected to?

    Microsoft knows the problem - the chips disconnect from the board because the motherboard warps slightly from heat.  The modding community has shown them the problem by people fixing their own out-of-warranty systems with a simple replacement of the heatsink mounting to better hold the chips in place.  Microsoft's attempted fix with the Elite, which is basically an additional amount of epoxy, may or may not alleviate the problem.  But it is a very real problem, and something that Microsoft is going to have to deal with, whether some people believe it is a rare problem or not.  In my experience, there are few people on my friends list still using a launch console.  This early in the 360's life, that's unacceptable.