Hackit: Xbox 360 hardware failures on the rise?


Joystiq has been tracking the new starlet of Xbox 360 failures: the E74 error. It appears as the lower right light on the console turning red and an on-screen message telling the user to contact support with the error E74. The number of reported E74 errors seems to have risen since August 2008 and people are wondering if the more recent increase in errors are related to the release of the New Xbox Experience (NXE) Dashboard update. Did Microsoft reclass Red Ring of Death (RROD) failures as E74 to avoid warranty replacements?

From day one, the Xbox 360 has been plagued by hardware failures. So many failures that Microsoft ended up pushing the 90 day warranty up to a full year. Less than a year later they acknowledge the systemic RROD problem and extended replacement for affected consoles to three years. The RROD is named because of the three red lights displayed when the console failed. The culprit appears to be poor cooling of the console’s components. Components like the GPU would overheat causing solder joints to fail. People were able to repair their own consoles by reflowing with a heatgun. Microsoft has never officially disclosed why these systems fail. Our console purchased on launch day RROD’d, but [bunnie]’s solder joint inspection of it proved inconclusive. Every Xbox owner on Joystiq’s staff has had an RROD.

The E74 error is apparently not new. While Microsoft officially calls it a “general hardware failure“, users have been calling it a general video error since launch. It can occur when you have a bad video cable attached to the console. Users are blaming the HANA video scaler chip for the latest issues. There have been five different motherboard versions of the Xbox 360 so far. Each version upgraded the cooling and/or the size of the GPU and CPU. The HANA chip was introduced when the consoles started supporting HDMI. The original ANA video scaler on the Xenon board was a quad-in-line style SMD package with pins around the perimeter. The HANA chip on newer board designs is a ball grid array (BGA) package, which means it can fail the same way the GPU does for an RROD.

Did Microsoft change the error reporting on the Xbox 360 so they’d replace fewer consoles? No, we don’t think so. Is this a similar hardware failure? Most certainly. Unfortunately, E74 errors are only covered under a one year warranty instead of the RROD’s three year despite it being the same failure mode. Why are so many E74s happening now? There aren’t any hard numbers on how many failures there have been or how it compares to the RROD. We think that it’s just a result of more people having Xbox 360s with HDMI support now. A large portion of the Xenon 360s have been replaced with more reliable HDMI consoles, but that just means a larger install base of E74 prone consoles. More consoles means more possible failures.

Related: Xbox 360 Hacks, Xbox Hacks

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