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Thursday, 12 July 2007

EX-Box 360

Last Friday my replacement MP3 player arrived from Germany and while I was ripping a large pile of CDs back onto it, I thought I’d have a quick game on my Xbox 360. However, instead of booting up as usual I was greeted by the now famous ‘Ring of Death’ (or RoD for short).


Basically the RoD is when three of the four red lights that surround the power switch on the front of the unit come on. This indicates that the unit has a general hardware failure. This is serious and means that it has to be returned to Microsoft for repair.

After much Googling on the subject, it became clear that this is a very common failure of Xbox 360’s. With the exception of Chunky, most people that I know On-Line have had this fault. Some of them more than once. Coincidently, last Thursday Microsoft finally announced publicly that they are having to repair more units than they would like. They stopped short of giving away any figures, but it’s believed that it could be as high as 15% of all Xbox 360’s sold. Microsoft are currently investing $1.15 Billion to solve the problem and have decided to extend the current 1 year warrantee to 3 years. They even plan to refund people who have had to payout for the repairs because their machines were outside the 1 year warrantee period. In my book this action is commendable and they could have just ignored the issue.

Microsoft wont tell us what the fault is, but the favourite on the net is that the graphics processor (GPU) runs so hot that it is softening the solder around it and the PCB is then warping due to the heat this in turn makes the solder joints crack causing the circuits to be disconnected. Some brave souls have decided to open up their repaired consoles, thus invalidating their warranties, to see what’s going on. It would appear that Microsoft have fitted an extra heat sink to the GPU in an attempt to improve cooling. However, none of the heat sinks inside are fitted with cooling fans, which I would suggest is a mistake. Have you ever tried to run a modern PC without a fan on the processor? Don’t try it as you’ll fry it with in a couple of minutes.

After my experience with On-Line based returns with Creative, (see previous article) I decided to use Microsoft’s telephone service instead. I rang them on Saturday and after the usual ‘Please try it this & that’, they agreed to have it back at their service centre. They E-mailed me a prepaid address label, I packaged it up and called UPS to arrange collection.

It was collected today (Thursday 12th) and my Wife had quite a chat with the driver. He had already guessed what it was by the address on the label and told her that he had already picked up two more today. He said that he gets a lot of them to collect and his weekly average is about four. That’s just one driver from one depot. I hate to think how many that equates to nationwide!

All I can do now is wait and see how long it takes to be repaired or replaced. A recorded message on Microsoft’s customer services line informed me that they were experiencing a high level of work at their service centres and couldn’t guarantee their usual turn-around time of 15 days. It could be 25 days! Only time will tell.


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