Since they have been slashdotted, I'll just quote what the text says from there. Pics arent coming up...
MS's first try at a gaming console amounted to essentially a very affordable PC. It used standard PC components, including a mobile Intel processor (a hybrid Pentium 3/Celeron), a desktop NVIDIA chipset, a Western Digital hard drive and relatively standard PC DVD-ROM. The original Xbox was such a PC in fact that there were quite a few users that wanted to mod it simply to have a cheap PC, not even for gaming - including ourselves.
Before the Xbox was launched, MS was very concerned with users thinking of the Xbox as nothing more than a PC branded as a gaming console, so it went to great lengths to reduce the association. For example, the strict ban on keyboard and mouse support, despite the fact that the console implemented the standard USB interface.
With the Xbox 360, MS gained some benefits of the original Xbox success. Xbox didn't win the sales battle against Sony's PlayStation 2, but the first Xbox was strong enough to cement MS's name in the world of console gaming manufacturers. For their second time around, there is less worry of the Xbox 360 being viewed as a just a PC, so MS took a bolder approach.
Honestly, with the Xbox 360, MS could have put forth another PC in a black box and it probably would have done fine.Â But with their second gaming console, the target was growth -- and Sony.Â With an established name and fanbase, it was time to take the market seriously and start to exert some dominance and thus the Xbox went from being a clunky black box of a PC, to a stylish consumer electronics device.
The Xbox 360 is smaller than the original Xbox, and its wireless nature makes it a natural fit in the living room - marking a thankful change from standard gaming consoles of the past. Despite looking like the offspring of an iPod and a DVD player, the Xbox 360 is still very much a PC on the inside.Â As such, it's got all of the components we're used to.
With less than a week to go before the retail availability of Xbox 360 consoles, we got our hands on one to give it the usual AnandTech once-over. And take it apart of course.
What's in the Box?
Our Xbox 360 system was the $399 unit, which comes with the following:
- Xbox 360 console
- 20GB Removable Hard Drive
- Wireless Controller
- DVD Remote
- Ethernet Cable
- Component AV Cables
- External Power Supply
The $299 core system gives you the same console (with a white DVD tray cover), a wired controller, and standard composite AV cables; there's no hard drive, headset or remote.
By now you have undoubtedly heard about the massive external power supply that comes with the Xbox 360 and you can see it in the lower left hand corner of the picture above. Remember that in the original Xbox, the power supply was internal.Â But with the power requirements of the Xbox 360 being significantly higher than its predecessor, while featuring a noticeably smaller case, the only solution was to take the power supply out of the Xbox 360.
Removing the Outer Shell
The first step is to remove the outer plastic shell that conceals the innards of the system. To do this, you must start by removing the face plate. Take a look at the front of the Xbox 360 and insert your thumb into the door that covers the two USB ports on the right of the unit. With your other hand squeezing the upper and lower sides of the face plate, pull out the face plate with your thumb. With not much force, the face plate should pop right off.
After the face plate has been pulled off you will see a silver MS sticker covering a gap; remove this. You will also see four small clips locking the top half of the plastic shell to the bottom half. Do not attempt to wedge the clips out at this point.
With some care, gently bend outwards, the right gray ventilation shield on the right side of the unit so that you can see a bit inside. You will notice that the gray side piece attaches to both the bottom and top white chassis. Now look through the holes on top of the unit to locate the areas where the gray side pieces attaches to the white body. What you need to do is take the long but thin metal stick and push down, through the white holes (located on both the top and bottom of the Xbox 360) where the clips of the gray side pieces connect. Slowly pull out the gray pieces away from the unit while unlocking the clips and eventually the gray piece will release itself.
To remove the left gray piece, you must first remove the hard drive unit by pressing the button located on the unit itself. Then apply the same procedure used to remove the right gray ventilation piece -- except when you reach the bottom clip of the piece, you most remove the rubber feet located directly below, to reveal a hole where you can insert the metal stick.
Once you have both side gray pieces removed, you have essentially removed the main locking mechanism that holds the top and bottom shells together. At this point, return to the front of the unit and turn the entire unit upside down. Using a flat head screw driver or wedge, gently pry up the 4 clips holding the top shell to the bottom. Once the clips are unlatched, slowly lift up the front of the bottom shell about an inch.
The last step to removing the bottom shell cover is to insert a thin and small plastic stick into the thin rectangular holes on the rear. The reason the front of the bottom shell needs to be lifted is to prevent the rear latches from reattaching themselves. Slowly insert the stick into each rectangular opening. You should hear a click sound for each clamp you unlatch. Once complete, you may lift off the bottom shell covering.
Looking inside the unit, you will notice that there are 14 silver screws (6 of which are long) and 8 black screws. Using your start bit screw drivers, remove the silver screws using a size T12 screw driver and the black ones using a size T7. Once you have all the screws removed, flip the Xbox 360 right side up and lift up the top plastic shell. You should now be greeted with the internals of the Xbox 360.
Disassembling the Internals of the Xbox 360
To continue further, you will need to first remove the DVD drive. Simply hold the drive and lift up. You will notice that the Xbox 360's DVD drive uses a Serial ATA interface which keeps things very tidy compared to the original Xbox. At this point, remove both the power supply cable and Serial ATA cable from the DVD drive and then from the motherboard.
The fan shroud can now be removed by simply twisting the cover until it pops off. The shroud is held in place by one clamp that attaches to the actual fans. Just be careful at this point not to break the clamp.
Next, remove the RF unit at the front of the Xbox 360 by removing the small black torx screws using a T6 screwdriver. Then you must remove the plastic cover on the front of the RF unit by unlatching the top and bottom of the plastic cover. Once you have done this, you will reveal the third screw holding the RF unit to the chassis. Remove the last screw and pull out the RF unit. Lastly, remove the power connections for the fans. You can now lift the motherboard out of the metal chassis.
As a reminder, the Xbox 360 is a delicate equipment and must be treated with care at all times. Ensure that you frequently ground yourself to discharge any build up static which can severely harm your Xbox 360.
Removing the Heatsinks from the Motherboard
Removing the heatsinks from the GPU and the CPU will require a great deal of patience as to avoid damaging the motherboard. Flip over the Xbox 360's motherboard. You will see two X clamps grasping the ends of the screws that hold the heatsinks into place. Without removing the X clamps, you cannot remove the heatsinks. MS has done a clever job in terms of securing the unit from prying eyes and removing the heatsinks from the Xbox 360 can be a trick for a lot of people.
Take a pair of small pliers and gently pry off each corner of the clamps. After two corners have been lifted, the rest of the clamp springs loose and can easily be removed by hand. Once both X plates have been removed, you can turn the motherboard over and simply pull the heatsinks off to reveal the GPUs (two dice on the chip) and CPUs (single die, 3 cores on the chip).
The Xbox 360 CPU
The original Xbox used a hybrid mobile Pentium III/Celeron processor, but for the 360 MS went to IBM and got the rights to a PowerPC core. The move to the PowerPC instruction set meant that there would be no direct binary compatibility with older Xbox titles, but the sacrifice was obviously deemed necessary by MS.
The CPU itself features three of these PowerPC cores and is currently manufactured on a 90nm process, however MS will most likely be transitioning to 65nm as soon as possible in order to reduce the die size and thus manufacturing costs. Remember that a die shrink from 90nm down to 65nm will cut the size of the CPU in half, and should be possible for MS sometime before the end of next year.
All three cores are identical and feature a 2-issue pipeline and can only execute instructions in-order; we've already discussed the reasoning behind this decision here. The impact of the in-order execution cores is generally a negative one on current game code, but by going with a much simpler core MS was able to stick three of them on a die with hopes of making up for lost performance by enabling some pretty serious multithreading.
Not only does the Xbox 360's CPU feature 3 cores, but each core is capable of executing two threads at the same time, making the CPU capable of simultaneously executing 6 threads. Unfortunately, most titles appear to be only using one or two threads, with the remaining threads being used for things like audio encoding/decoding, real-time decompression of game data off of the DVD-ROM and video decoding.
MS has their own license to use and manufacture the CPU used in the Xbox 360, and thus we see their logo on the chip itself. MS cools the 3-core CPU using a fairly beefy heatsink outfitted with heatpipes (pictured below):
Airflow is supplied by the two rear fans in the Xbox 360; the air is channeled over the GPU and CPU heatsinks using a duct. The larger heatsink on the right is atop the CPU, the smaller heatsink is for the GPU:
We have previously discussed the Xbox 360's CPU in much greater detail, which you can read about here.