I have a love-hate relationship with the Xbox 360. I love it as a Media Center Extender and for its movie and video marketplace. But I hate the noise and the heat.
In fact, that noise level has gotten the 360 banned from the living room and especially from the bedroom in the Bott household. Not to mention that my wife thinks the console is “butt ugly” and “looks like a mini-fridge.”
We’re reasonably happy with the Media Center Extender alternatives, but they’re rapidly disappearing from the market and offer only a fraction of what the Xbox 360 can do.
So imagine my cautious delight when I read about the HeatSync 360, a “heavy duty [replacement] chassis constructed from heat-treated aircraft quality aluminum.” It has natural convection cooling, HeatSync cooling for the CPU and GPU, and a “DVD Drive Isolation system to eliminate noise from vibration.”
And the best part of all: “Thermally controlled exhaust fan -normally OFF”
Photo courtesy A-Tech Fabrication
I asked Glenn Lirhus, owner of A-Tech Fabrication, for more details about this product. Here’s what I learned.
The company has been around since 1989, Lirhus tells me, and started selling computer cases in 2001. “We were the first to sell a home theater case, although the market is now flooded with cheap stuff from Taiwan.”
The idea behind the HeatSync Three-Sixty is grounded in that PC-based home theater sensibility, Lirhus told me:
It’s a chassis that is designed around Xbox electronics. The design is similar to products we already have for computer systems. We just wanted to build a silent version of the Xbox—or at least one that would be silent when using it as a video extender or playing DVD movies. We did what we could to lower noise on the DVD drive, which has some really soft isolation.
It’s also for people with high end systems that don’t want some cheap looking white plastic box in with their high-end rack mounted equipment.
A-Tech plans to offer DIY cases, with the caveat that this product is designed for a very new Xbox 360. (Lirhus couldn’t remember the name, but I’m pretty certain he meant the Jasper console, introduced in November 2008.) That means your older Xbox isn’t eligible for a transplant. It won’t fit, and it puts out too much heat, Lirhus says. “We only tested with the newest version.”
How difficult is the install? “It’s kind of complicated,” Lirhus tells me. “More complicated than building a computer system.” This picture of the guts suggests that getting everything together just right could be more than a casual tinkerer wants to tackle.
The company will also sell units with the Xbox components preinstalled. In that case, the cost would include the console, the case, and the cost of labor.
No word on price yet. A-Tech is still crunching numbers to see what the right price should be. But as soon as they have a price, they’ll start taking orders, Lirhus says. That will probably be next week.
There’s a fair amount of work in cranking up to build these units. Lirhus predicts it could take two weeks to do the machining, anodizing, and assembly for a system.
Of course, your Microsoft warranty is voided the instant you even start thinking about this sort of mod. Lirhus says they plan to offer a warranty but isn’t ready to provide details yet.
This isn’t the first Xbox 360 replacement case. I’ve seen the Lian Li XB01, for example, which is strictly a DIY project with some very daunting instructions. A detailed review at Bit-Tech concluded:
[W]ithout a game in the drive the Xbox is finally, truly silent. It’s incredible. Drop a DVD in and it’s also very quiet. As soon as you drop a game in the DVD drive though then it spins up and the whole thing deafens you again. Until Microsoft allow games to be played off the hard drive, there seems to be little cure for the inherent DVD issue.
So a quiet Xbox 360 is certainly possible, and maybe A-Tech can solve that pesky DVD problem. I’ll be in line early to order one of these and put it through its paces and will let you know when it arrives.
12 thoughts on “Finally, a quiet Xbox 360?”
The DVD drive is the biggest noisemaker on the 360, and it’s primarily on older generation models. My DVD drive finally went kaput (bringing about the ‘free fix’ of the RRoD) and once they replaced it, the system is considerably quieter, even when the disc is spinning at full blast for loading a game.
Also, games can be played off the HDD now with the NXE update. The disc still needs to be in the system to confirm ownership, but the disc drive spins down once the game starts. You of course, need plenty of HDD space , so 20GB HDDs probably won’t do.
The case also has the problem of taking away the 360’s HDD portability…I’ve taken my HDD to a friend’s house quite a few times for Rock Band parties, so there’s another buyer beware issue for ya.
Looks like Bit-Tech don’t realise you can play games off the hard disk already, you still need the disc in the tray to be able to do it, but the drive is only spun up once to verify you have the disc, after that no drive noise.
You can install games to the hard drive now. You need to put the DVD in the drive, but it doesn’t spin past a disc check.
My main objection to this sort of silencing project is that Xboxes break a lot (I’m on my… eighth?), so giving up the warranty is kind of a big deal.
It looks like the fan will be loud when it’s activated just like a laptop fan noise. I’ll be happy to have your old xbox 360 if you no longer need it.
Make me an offer, TJ…
What you’ll notice the second you get this is how loud the the 360’s PSU is. Luckily you can use a ATX PSU with a $15 power adapter, but still can’t believe A-Tech didn’t think of this.
Ben, you mean the power brick? I asked about the PSU and he said it will continue to use the external brick.
The only offer i could make is probably pay for the shipping
So perhaps this is the other piece of the puzzle? Coupled with Ben’s idea of a Windows Home Server acting as a headless server off in the closet with one coax plugged into it, these quiet 360s along with full computers will act as extenders around the house. Perhaps Ben’s Dream of the ZuneHD acting as a wireless extender will come true.
Two dreams of mine: Zune store on the extenders providing streaming audio for the family and video rentals, and a ZuneHD dock on these XBox360s to provide both HD playback from the ZuneHD and the ability to transfer recorded TV to the ZuneHD.
Does Microsoft realize they are on the cusp of completely dominating the video market? They just need to connect the pieces. I remember Charlie Owen promising some completely incredible stuff coming later this year when he was on Ian Dixon’s roundtable. So far ZuneHD and Zune Marketplace on the 360 don’t quite meet up to what he was implying, but they are definitely building blocks leading to something great.
Ben, Ed, anyone?? have any idea why Apple announced a massive data center to be housed in “rural North Carolina” this week? Other than MobileMe, what data is Apple concerned with? I’m wondering if they are doing something with video, too.
Hey guys thought I’d chime in with some answers.
Ed is correct; it was the Jasper version of the system board we are using.
I don’t think the power brick on the new units even has a fan inside. I have not heard any sounds from mine even on a hot day.
We only added the fan on our case as a back up. Since we cannot control the environment the case is used in, the thermal switch on the CPU is a way of monitoring it for you. In normal 78F room temps the fan will never come on. The ambient temp has to rise above 31C or 88F before the fan kicks in. It is a medium speed 3300RPM and can barely be heard, I had to wire a LED to it to know when it came on.
Would like to hear more about how to run games off the HDD. Being an off-road racer I mainly play Baja Edge of Control. If this is something easy, we can add a FAQ to our site for tips like this.
The standard HDD in the new Xbox 360 is 60GB, the Elite comes with 120GB.
You can just copy the DVD to the HDD from the Xbox Dashboard. When you play the game it only checks if you have the original disc in the drive and plays the game grom HDD.
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