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Jasper: The Friendly Xbox?

4914 Views 0 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  halifax1
Streamlining a console's manufacturing process has been a part of the videogame industry since its earliest days. Efficiencies are maximized, costs are cut, and quality improves. But it's been especially important for Microsoft in this generation as they try to rid themselves of the public black eye endured by the ongoing "Red Ring of Death" problem, which resulted in an abnormally high rate of hardware failure on the Xbox 360.

In late 2007 Microsoft released a new motherboard, codenamed "Falcon," to replace the launch design, called "Xenon." It wasn't the first hardware revision, but it was the most significant to that date because it shrunk the CPU from a 90-nanometer die size to 65nm, meaning the smaller chip would draw less power and generate less heat - the latter being the alleged primary culprit for most RROD failures.
While the Falcons have certainly seemed to be an improvement (time will tell, since the earliest versions only recently turned a year old), it's the latest revision we've really been waiting for. Dubbed "Jasper," the new motherboard tackles the primary culprit for the excess heat - the GPU - head-on by shrinking it approximately 30 percent to 65nm, while also packing Falcon's 65nm CPU.

So is this The One? Are the days of coffins, repair centers, and frustration finally over? Read on - we're going to run some tests, then completely disassemble both a Xenon and a Jasper to discover the truth.

By the time you read this, the 2008 holiday season will have likely wiped away most of the old Xbox 360 stock, leaving Jaspers as the majority of what you'll see in stores. But at press time we still had a tough time tracking down a Jasper, and when we did it was only an Arcade SKU; we couldn't find any Pros or Elites. Here's how to make sure your next 360 is a more-reliable Jasper:

(1) Check the Lot Number

On the right side of the box, look above the UPC bar code. If the Lot No. is 0844 or above, the odds are good that it's a Jasper. The earliest documented Jaspers are from Lot No. 0843.

(2) Check the Build Date

Peek in the cardboard-cutout window on the top of the box. If the console was manufactured in November 2008 or later, you likely have a Jasper. Ours was built on 10/14, and due to its 175W power supply (see below) and sticker on the motherboard labeled "Jasper 1weeks run," we believe it was one of the earliest systems. So it's possible to get an October-built Jasper, but November or later is a surer bet.

(3) Check the Power Brick

Near the top of the sticker on the underside of the power brick, you'll see a listing for "Output DC." 203W indicates Xenon, 175W means Falcon, and 150W signals Jasper. The 150W bricks fit only the Jaspers, so it's an excellent indicator, but of course you'd have to open the box to check for this.

(4) The Guaranteed Way

You can also ignore everything above and go with this surefire method: Look in the cutout window on the top of the box. On the far-right edge (or left, if you've flipped the box around because you can't read upside-down) - you may have to use your finger to, uh, make the window a little larger - you'll see a line above the words "Made in China" that reads "12V - xx,xA; 5V - 1A." If the "xx,xA" is 12,1A, you're guaranteed a Jasper. If it's 14,2A, it's a Falcon. 16,5A is Xenon.

The Verdict:

Interestingly, both the amperage and thermal tests yielded their lowest results when a DVD movie was being played - not when the system sat idle at the NXE Dashboard, as we had expected. We can only hypothesize that one or more of the Xbox 360 CPU's three cores shuts down during DVD playback, whereas on the Dashboard it stands with all three cores fired-up and ready to go in case you decide to launch a game.

Overall thermal testing showed Jasper temperatures that were 10 to 20 percent cooler than their Xenon counterparts. It's reasonable to assume that these discrepancies would've been even greater had our Xenon unit not already been upgraded by the repair center, but by now most 2005-built systems have probably already been to the repair center anyway, making the real-world implications moot.

Also worth noting is that the air exhausted from a Jasper under full load (i.e., in the middle of an extended gaming session) is noticeably cooler even with a simple, very unscientific hand test. While the shrunken chip sizes are certainly large contributors to this, it's important to point out that, as you can see from the photos, Microsoft has pulled out all of the stops with Jasper. The heatsinks are larger, and the GPU has its own dedicated heatpipe that is channeled up and away from the confined space underneath the DVD drive. The company is clearly taking steps to end this problem.

Adding it all up - the cooler temperatures, smaller chips, and harder-core cooling solutions - we believe it's safe to use the Jasper with confidence. It appears to finally be the reliable Xbox 360 we've been waiting three years for.

This is basically word-for-word from an article on OXM. I wanted it posted here as a thread instead of a news article so that it can be here in the Xbox forum and be easy to find and easy to read and understand. The original article was about four pages, and was better off posting it as one thread on here to make it much easier for everyone on here.
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