The trouble with the Xbox 360

Today’s big news: Microsoft Unveils Xbox 360 Elite03-27xboxElite

Shiny black finish? Check.

HDMI support? Check.

120GB hard drive? Check.

But the one question that this press release doesn’t address is the one that matters most to me: How much noise does it make? I’ve got two Xbox 360s here, purchased almost exclusively for their Media Center Extender capabilities. The one that was installed in the master bedroom has now been banished because of the godawful noise, which made TV viewing unpleasant. The one in the living room is still in service, but the noise level, while tolerable in the larger room, is still noticeable, especially when watching a quiet movie on DVD or streamed from the Media Center PC in the other room.

I really hope that the engineers who work on the Xbox 360 pay some heed to the many complaints about this issue. Read the comments on this thread, for instance, to see that I’m not alone: the fan noise is “pretty distracting, actually”; “annoying and the wife acceptance factor just isn’t there”; “makes the 360 useless as a media player”; “for bedroom purposes, useable only if you want to drown the fan noise with louder audio”; and so on.

Spousal acceptance factor is the key metric. These comments from the same thread are identical to my experience:

Vista works flawlessly with the new XBOX 360 as an extender. The graphics are great, HD, recording, etc. everything works as it should through the XBOX. The only problem is the fan noise on the XBOX 360, unbelievable. It’s unrivaled as appliances go, and my wife is not too pleased with it.


In the bedroom we have a Linksys extender and there is NO noise from the box. It is a very [quiet] unit, BUT it will not stream HD. The wife likes this box as an extender and uses it every day. Please wake up to the fact that any audible fan noise is NOT acceptable if Microsoft want the xBox 360 to be a true set top box.

As much as I love Vista’s Media Center capabilities, I can’t use them, at least not today. I’ve pulled the old first-generation Linksys Media Center Extender out of mothballs and put it back in the bedroom, and XP Media Center 2005 is running the show.

10 thoughts on “The trouble with the Xbox 360

  1. Thanks for bringing this up Ed!!!

    I had high hopes the noise issue would be addressed in rev2, but alas, nothing. It’s especially surprising because the target of the Elite is fairly obvious, but yet that “other” black console is apparently very quite.

    I hear that there are new PowerPC chips manufactured with 65nm technology coming. Do you think these will alleviate the problem?

  2. Ed: The press release URL needs correcting.

    Ross: I don’t think we can assume it’s not quieter because the press release doesn’t say it is, though that’s most likely the case.

    Is there no aftermarket mod for this problem? I would have expected fan kits become available, or at least detailed guidelines, which would have allowed people to open the box and substitute in silent fans. I don’t really follow the Xbox, however, and am not sure if you can even access its insides without destroying it.

  3. Rick, URL fixed, thanks.

    I’ve looked high and low for aftermarket mods. There are some, but none that seem to be worth the price and (as you guessed) voiding the warranty. The problem is this box runs hot and needs serious cooling. I had it in a closed (but ventilated) cabinet for a day. When it ran, it generated so much heat that it shut down the DirecTivo box in the same cabinet.

  4. Ed: Is the Xbox noticeably louder than the DirecTivo? If so, it must be really obnoxious. I always thought the DirecTivo box was quiet, until I moved one into our bedroom. Although we’ve had more than a year to get used to it, it’s still annoying. It almost makes me want to revert to the Tivo-less, noiseless DirecTV receiver that it replaced. Either that, or we need to make more noise in the bedroom. But that’s a topic for a different blog.

  5. Carl, the DirecTivo is nowhere near as loud as the Xbox 360. In our case, we’re able to keep it in a cabinet in the living room so we don’t notice the noise.

  6. If anyone is REALLY REALLY interested in quieting the beast, then there is a way:

    There are probably a lot more ideas there, I don’t know. I found that thread in the following Xbox 360 thread, on a forum that normally sticks to quieting the PC:

     [Edited to make links clickable – Ed]

  7. This is a very good point. The newer 360’s are definitely quieter than the original machines, but as you point out they’re still noticeably noisy.

    I’m also really disappointed that this machine doesn’t have built in WiFi. This is something that would cost around $5 to add to the hardware, but instead consumers have to pay $100 for an accessory.

  8. Finally in Black! All they need to do is fix the noise issue and I might consider getting one now. I still don’t like the controller.

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