Xbox 360 tests = FAIL

UPDATED: A consumer group has found that the XBox 360 has five times
the normal use failure rate as its competitors in the home videogame market.
SquareTrade, an independent warranty provider, ran a test of more than 1,000
units and found a failure rate of 16.4 percent. By contrast, the PlayStation 3
is at around the three percent range.

The 360 has been plagued with a lot of problems, the most
widely reported being the “Red Ring of Death” or “Three Red
Lights” error. If three of the four lights surrounding the power button
turned red, it was game over, literally. SquareTrade said the three flashing
red lights represented 60 percent of all service calls.

“This further confirms what many long suspected, giving
tangible evidence to the Xbox 360 reliability issues. The “red ring of
death” failure rates we are seeing are also significantly greater than
what Microsoft reported (3-5%) last year,” said SquareTrade CEO Steve
Abernethy in a statement to

Microsoft last year allocated up to $1 billion for XBox 360
replacements and extended all warrantees from the traditional 90 days to three

The other 40 percent of errors included disk read errors, about half
of all non-red light claims, fried video cards, hardware freezes, on/off
failures and, disc tray malfunctions that also caused damage to game discs.

The XBox 360 was introduced in 2005 and has been plagued
with hardware problems almost from the start. One of the theories was that
there was inadequate cooling of the internals and that the solder used on the
GPU fan was coming loose. AnandTech dug around inside one and found the cooling
was indeed lacking. Abernathy found that almost all failures involved systems with the original motherboards.

The company has since redesigned the internals, using a 65nm
CPU instead of a 90nm and added a second fan. Reportedly the latest generation
runs cooler and quieter, which would be a relief. Older ones are as loud as a
blade server.

Here’s a little anecdote for you: my 360 died last year, and
after a brief chat with Microsoft, they sent me the shipping box to send it in
for repair. It came with a prepaid, prestamped UPS label. While coming into
work one morning I stopped at the local UPS Store and left it on the counter,
saying not to worry, it was prepaid and pre-stamped.

Without even looking at the box, the counter worker said
‘Sorry about your XBox.’ How’d you know, I asked. He informed me he sees five
to ten daily, with the same box and prepaid label, and that was a relatively small
store. I can’t imagine what a busy UPS store was getting.

(Update clarifies that the failure rate was among first-generation motherboards.)

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