Throughout gaming history, most consoles have kept to the same basic rectangular shape (with some notable exceptions). Now, Microsoft is throwing a new form factor in the game with the distinctly fridge-shaped Xbox Series X. In an interview with Eurogamer, key members of the design team revealed why the new Xbox is so different.
To give the shortest answer to this question–it’s all about performance, creating an over-powered console without it ending up the size of a regular PC. From the beginning the team knew it would require a different design mindset than any other console. “We knew it was going to be powerful and we knew it was going to require a totally different way of thinking about how to design a console,” principle designer Chris Kujawski said.
The goal for the new console was to double the system’s graphical performance, while keeping it just as quiet as the Xbox One. This technical challenge meant completely rethinking the structure of the machine.
“I like to think about our past generations as having a bit of an exoskeleton, so you have a mechanical structure with electrical shielding all on the outside then you have all the guts in the inside,” said Jim Wahl, Xbox’s director of mechanical engineering. “And so what we did in this generation is that we turned that completely inside out… and so this centre chassis essentially forms the spine, the foundation of this system and then we build things out from there.”
The inside of the console is quite densely packed, but the way the Xbox Series X is designed means this isn’t an impediment to airflow. “It creates what we call a parallel cooling architecture, so you get cool air in – and cool air streams through separate zones of the console,” Wahl said. “You have exhaust out the top and we have large venting holes, but the the net effect of putting all of this together, having parallel paths, having this really powerful quiet fan at the top, is that we get 70 per cent more airflow through this console than the past generation and we get 20 per cent more airflow through our heatsink alone than in the past generation.”
The physical form of the console is then very much defined by the most vital parts within it, and how they fit together. “The ODD [optical disc drive] sets one dimension, the volume of the heat sink sets the other dimension, the height is set by airflow and throughout this kind of complex negotiation of figuring out how this stuff comes together, we landed on a square form factor which we love,” Kujawski explained.
Once this was all put together, it was sent out to focus testers to see how it worked with people’s TV setups, whether it would fit in their existing cabinets. Because the console isn’t quite as flat as previous versions, it can fit on smaller shelves despite being a good deal more chunky. While the console has been dramatically changed, some things still stay the same–like the controller’s reliance on AA batteries.
Have a look at the full interview for more in-depth information on the technical aspects of the Xbox Series X’s construction.
Check out our roundup on everything we know so far about the Xbox Series X, including release date, games, hardware, and price.