There is one constant reality when it comes to home computing devices, and that is heat generation. Every laptop, every video game console, every desktop PC, and, well, basically any electronic device emits heat. The more power, the more heat, and the more cooling you'll need to keep things nice and frosty.
Microsoft's Xbox brand took a bit of a hit during the Xbox 360 days, when the earlier batches of the console started to "RROD," or Red Ring of Death, caused by overheating. Subsequent hardware revisions fixed the issue, but a question of heat dissipation has hung over Xbox consoles ever since. The Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X do not suffer from widespread heating problems, thankfully, but they can get a little bit noisy under load, not to mention a bit toasty.
How hot and noisy does the far more powerful Xbox Series X get? Let's take a look, Predator style.
The Xbox Series X is quite cool
Using a thermal imaging camera, we can get some insights into how warm the Xbox Series X gets under load. This is running Monster Hunter World in resolution mode, from our main Xbox Series X preview. In resolution mode, Monster Hunter World achieves around 1800p resolution locked, pushing frames per second (FPS) into the mid-50s. No matter where we scanned the box, we couldn't find a heat signature that went above 35C (95F), which is impressive.
In standby mode, we found that the Xbox Series X runs at around 25C (77F), which is roughly the same as my Amazon Echo pictured just behind the Xbox Series X here.
Where the Xbox Series X began to get a bit warmer, and more in-line with the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, was in games designed to take a bigger advantage of the hardware. Up until now, we only had access to backward compatible titles like Monster Hunter World, which are locked to 1800p and do not take full advantage of the system. Running the Xbox Series X-optimized Gears Tactics reveals a different story.
Running Gears Tactics, the Xbox Series X got a fair bit warmer than when it is running previous-gen titles, topping out at around 53C (126F). The front panel's warmest spots approached around 45C (113F).
The temperature will naturally vary based on a wide array of factors. Right now, it's pretty damn cold in the UK, for example. I expect the Xbox Series X would generate more heat in the summer months, or in a climate that is generally warmer, particularly where air conditioning isn't present. Right now, these tests are being done in average room temperature conditions of around 18C (64.4F).
How does the Xbox Series X compare to other devices, though?
Xbox Series X heat vs. other devices
One appliance that got a lot hotter than I expected during usage was, in fact, my Samsung Q80T TV, which I use to game with. The electronics across the bottom of the panel managed to reach anywhere up to 40C (104F) in the hottest spots, which came as a bit of a surprise. But hey, that's what all this thermal imaging fun is all about.
Running World of Warcraft on Ultra settings with light ray tracing, my Razer Blade 17 Pro (RTX 2070) air vents were emitting quite warm head too, anywhere up to 40C (104F). There's no temperature monitoring tool for Xbox consoles, but the Razer Blade 17 Pro vent temperate roughly matches the readouts on the HWMonitor app for PC. This gives us at least a fairly accurate picture of how hot these devices are running.
Next to a good old Xbox One X, also running Monster Hunter World in resolution mode, we see a more dramatic story. The Xbox Series X runs far cooler than the Xbox One X running equivalent software, while achieving higher frame rates. Monster Hunter World achieves around 1800p resolution on the Xbox One X, while struggling to maintain a 40FPS. The air temp coming from the Xbox One X vents hit anywhere up to 56C (133F).
Comparing the Xbox Series X to the PlayStation 4 (PS4) base model is also a similar story to the Xbox One X. Running Bloodborne, the PlayStation 4 air vents around the back reached up to 59C (140F).
Xbox Series X is adequately cooled
The Xbox Series X is a surprisingly cool device given the power it's packing, as far as we can tell overall anyway. This is far from a scientific study, but it's useful to get an overview of how warm the device gets when compared to other systems. The large vent at the top of the console may emit a larger volume of warm air than a smaller device, but, ultimately, you want that warm air outside of your electronics, not inside.
If the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X are to chase PC-like specs and performance, it stands to reason that they'll also grab some PC-like form factors in the process. The Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 are two of the largest video game consoles ever made, as the laws of thermodynamics catch up to our expectations.
At the very least, it looks like we won't be getting screwed over by widespread cooling problems next-gen.
The Xbox Series X should launch on November 10, 2020, and is compatible with your best Xbox One headset as well as all your best Xbox One accessories, alongside over 4,000 games from the Xbox One and Xbox 360 libraries.