Xbox Series X has been touted by Microsoft as the most powerful console in history for good reason. The looming monolith houses hardware specifications fit enough to run resource-chugging next-generation games at higher resolutions and in higher frames than ever. Such a feat would naturally generate a significant amount of heat and which has suddenly birthed concerns that there may possibly be an Xbox Series X overheating problem to watch out for.
The hardware specifications
Before evaluating the alleged Xbox Series X overheating problem, it perhaps should be noted what exactly is generating all of that heat.
Xbox Series X features a custom AMD Zen 2 eight-core processor clocked at 3.8GHz per core, and a custom AMD RDNA 2 graphics card clocked at 1.82GHz with nearly 12 teraflops of computing strength. The next-generation flagship console further features 16GB GDDR6 RAM and a custom 1TB NVMe SSD.
Microsoft has stated that the aforementioned Xbox Series X hardware specifications will target 60 frames per second at 4K resolution. Depending on the games, the frame-rate may even be increased to reach up to 120 frames per second. Though that may require reducing the supported resolution.
While an official Xbox Series X teardown remains to happen, the beefy hardware specifications—all stuffed inside a roughly 6 by 12-inch casing—should give a fair idea of why overheating concerns have been expressed by consumers.
The cooling systems
Sony Interactive Entertainment recently did a PlayStation 5 teardown that revealed a liquid metal cooling mechanism. Microsoft has not done any similar Xbox Series X teardown but did confirm a while back what cooling solutions are in place to counter overheating problems.
The Xbox Series X cooling systems are divided between three phases: the airflow channels, the vapor chamber, and finally, the ventilation fan.
Unlike the recently confirmed PS5 liquid metal cooling system, Xbox Series X has three airflow channels that pull hot air from the bottom and out through the large ventilation fan on top. The vapor chamber ensures an even spread of temperatures within the core, leaving it on the airflow channels to keep the hot air moving and the console components cool.
It should be noted that Xbox One X also had a vapor chamber. Microsoft has fairly used vapor chamber as more of a buzzword for Xbox Series X but the fact is that the cooling solution gets used often in electronics and hardware these days. Graphics cards, for example, do use vapor chamber cooling.
The job of a vapor chamber is basically to move the hot air away from internal components to be cooled by an airflow. The process is also much less strenuous on the ventilation fan since hot air naturally rises.
The overheating claims
Xbox Series X was initially hailed for being super quiet when a number of publications, online influencers and content creators were allowed hands-on with the next-generation console. Despite running games like Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 for hours, the noise levels of the ventilation fan were barely audible, signifying a well-cooled console design.
However, the situation took a bizarre turn a few days ago when reports about a possible Xbox Series X overheating problem began surfacing online.
It began with esports commentator Yoann “Ken Bogard” Verdier claiming in a Twitch video that the Xbox Series X was “really hot.” He added that while the console made no noise, it was “emitting heat like crazy, almost like a fireplace shaft.” He went on to joke that the console could be used to “heat up your flat” if the need be. Strangely enough, upon hitting mainstream news, Verdier removed the video without any explanation and even responded that the Xbox Series X overheating claims were “Fake News.”
— Ken Bogard (@KenBogard) October 6, 2020
The next was CBS Interactive editor Jeff Bakalar who while co-hosting an episode of The Giant Beastcast noted that his pre-release Xbox Series X console was “a little toasty” because a significant amount of heat was being emitted even when on standby. He later came forward to clarify that his statement was being misquoted and he would “disagree” with any assumption about there being an Xbox Series X overheating issue.
If you are concerned with a story you read saying the 1TB expansion drive "appeared to burn my hand!!" you are of course perfectly welcome to watch the full Beastcast sequence starting here: https://t.co/p5dJUV0T5Y
Hot to the touch, yes, but clearly did not *burn my hand*[2/3]
— Jeff Bakalar (@jeffbakalar) October 6, 2020
A similar sentiment was apparently claimed by Windows Central editor Jez Corden as well where he stated that Xbox Series X could “heat up a room.” He clarified that his analogy was put forward out of context and he was simply pointing out how a high-end PC could make rooms warm without air conditioning.
People are using something I said on the podcast, clipped and out of context, where I said it was enough heat to warm up a room… except I go on to say that's like a high-end PC, Xbox One X, PS4 Pro, etc. Electronics make rooms warm unless you have AC.
— Jez 🥃 (@JezCorden) October 6, 2020
The overheating assurances
While being under an embargo, The Verge editor Tom Warren tried to ease concerns by stating that Microsoft would never have sent pre-release Xbox Series X consoles to hundreds of reviewers if there were heating issues. “They just would not let people touch the console at all,” he surmised.
lots of people keep asking me about Xbox Series X heat. I’m under embargo. Just consider this, Microsoft wouldn’t send these consoles to 100s of journalists, streamers, and youtubers if they had heat issues. They just wouldn’t let people touch the console at all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) October 6, 2020
As another assurance, voice actor Yong Yea too stated that Xbox Series X being prone to overheating should be dealt as a rumor. He brought to attention that the exhaust system will naturally feel hot to the touch since it is designed to push out hot air. That only means the cooling system is working.
Many are asking about rumors that Xbox Series X is prone to overheating. In my experience so far, no issues there. You'll obviously feel some hot air if you put your hand in front of the vent & some parts of the console will feel warmer, but nothing extreme or out of the norm.
— YongYea (@YongYea) October 8, 2020
Twitch streamer and partner Stallion took notice of “a lot of misinformation” about the next-generation console as well. He revealed that he has been running Destiny 2 on both Xbox Series X and Xbox One X and the latter felt “noticeably hotter and louder” than the former.
A lot of misinformation about Xbox Series X heat out there.
Currently testing Destiny 2 on both Xbox One & Xbox Series X. Both consoles have been on for the same amount of time.
I physically put my hand on both vents & the Xbox One is noticeably hotter and louder.
There you go pic.twitter.com/hlbwW6f5p6
— Stallion (@Stallion83) October 8, 2020
Aaron Greenberg, general manager of Xbox marketing, jumped into the ring as well to quell any concerns. Responding to a worried consumer, he stated that the Microsoft engineering team confirmed Xbox Series X to have a heat dissipation system similar to Xbox One X. “The console will output system heat out of the exhaust just as any other console will,” he pointed out.
The console will output system heat out of the exhaust, just as any other console will. Our engineering team confirmed the heat leaving the console is not significantly different than Xbox One X. This matches my experience at home quiet, fast & impressive power for the size.
— Aaron Greenberg 🙅🏼♂️❎ (@aarongreenberg) October 8, 2020
It does appear that the alleged issue of Xbox Series X overheating within a few hours has been greatly exaggerated over the past week. Consoles, and even gaming PCs, will always emit heat. Just because the ventilation fans are pushing out hot air or the ventilation grills themselves are hot to the touch does not mean that there is any sort of heating issue. There is a clear difference between overheating and the system releasing heat.
To put it another way, everyone has unanimously agreed that Xbox Series X runs pretty quiet. That means its ventilation fan is not running at maximum speed, which in turn means that the console is not hot enough.
Should next-generation games force the Xbox Series X cooling system to work overtime, players will be able to hear a louder than average fan noise. Even that will be fine and should not cause any alarms. Concerns will be valid if Xbox Series X begins to automatically shut down due to overheating, a failsafe that has been there in all previous consoles.
Xbox Series X launches worldwide for $500 on November 10, 2020.