Is my Xbox Series X really on?
That’s the first question I asked myself when first powering up Microsoft’s new console. Why? Because it was so quiet!
And I mean, I could have heard a mouse scampering across the floor next door, whisper quiet.
This made me think that a water cooling system, like the type you’d find pumping away in a high-end gaming PC, was responsible for keeping the Xbox frosty.
Being the “curiosity killed the cat” type that I am, I decided to dig out my Time to TamperTM console screwdrivers and opened up my Xbox Series X to see for myself.
This is what I found:
Is the Xbox Series X Water cooled? No, the Xbox Series X is not water-cooled. The Xbox Series X uses a vapor chamber cooling solution in tandem with a single fan active cooling method. The Xbox Series X’s Vapor chamber does use a small amount of liquid to transfer heat. But, this is not the same as a PC water-cooling system which uses a large amount of distilled water, along with a pump and fans, to remove large amounts of heat from a system.
Ok, now you know the Xbox Series X isn’t water-cooled. In the next few sections, I’ll explore in more detail what keeps your Xbox Series X so cool and quiet, why it’s not water-cooled, and if there’s any way to mod your Xbox Series X to use water-cooling.
What currently keeps the Xbox Series X cool?
The Xbox Series X is sadly not water-cooled. But something must be cooling it, right?
Well, yes of course there is. A large amount of the volume of the Xbox Series X monolithic design is actually dedicated to cooling.
The Xbox Series X makes use of one large 130mm fan placed at the very top of the console. This fan is designed to pull cool fresh air through the system from the bottom and to spit hot air out from the top.
But there must be more to it than just 1 fan?
The Xbox Series X makes use of what is called a vapor chamber. For a full in-depth look at what a vapor chamber does, I recommend heading over to Advanced Cooling Technologies’ Vapor Chambers Explained article here.
The Xbox Series X makes use of this vapor chamber design. One side of the console is dedicated to holding the massive fin-covered cooling block that sit’s atop the vapor chamber block.
Air can also move through two other routes through the console. But the vast amount of cooling is done by the large fin cooling block and heatsink.
Take a look at the image below to get an idea how cooling is done inside the Xbox Series X:
As you can see from the above X-ray image, half of the Xbox is dedicated to keeping it cool.
Why isn’t the Xbox Series X water cooled?
One of the questions that wagged on the tip of my tongue after realizing that Xbox wasn’t water-cooled was, why isn’t it?
After all, water cooling is the single best way to cool a gaming PC. Well, without resorting to extremes like liquid nitrogen, anyway.
There are a number of reasons why water-cooling was viewed as a washout by Microsoft. Let’s take a look at few of them:
The number one reason why the Xbox Series X doesn’t have a water-cooling system is cost. It would have simply not been possible to build a $500 dollar console and include a water-cooling solution.
Water coolers are far more expensive than traditional air coolers. For example a water cooler kit from renowned PC hardware designer Corsair will set you back around $530! That’s $30 more than the Xbox Series X!
Fancy taking a look at this, admittedly awesome, water cooling kit? Then head over to the Corsair Hydro X Series XH305i sales page.
The fact is, consoles are not PCs. A PC is essentially a bunch of electronic components housed in heavy-duty steel armored boxes. These are often extremely large and heavy, making them hard to move. So, any water cooling solution is safe within the confines of the PC chassis.
This is not the case with the Xbox Series X. Though console is big, by console standards, it’s tiny compared to the vast majority of gaming PCs. This makes Xbox easy to accidentally kick over, nudge, and fall over. This would not be good for a water-cooling system. Any sudden jolt could cause a leak which would mean instant death for Xbox Series X and its delicate components.
It would be overkill
Microsoft didn’t include a water cooler in the Xbox Series X because it would be overkill. The machine is already superbly cooled by the cheap and readily available cooling part in the console. They have just been used in very creative ways. This would make adding a water cooler to the Xbox a completely needless expense. Especially given the mid-level components stuffed inside the Xbox Series X.
What benefits would water cooling ad to the Xbox Series X?
The main benefit of a water cooler is it dissipates far more heat than other cooling solutions. This gives you more headroom to run your components at higher clock frequencies, which generates more heat. As a rule the higher the clock rate of your components the more heat they will generate.
If the Xbox Series X did have a water cooler, Microsoft could have probably increased the clock speed of the Zen CPU to close to 5Gz, and the GPU to over 2.5Gz.
If Microsoft had done this it would have increased the GPU power from 12 Terflops to 16.5 Teraflops. A massive bump in computational power. That’s a roughly 35% increase in graphical power! But it would have come at the huge costs of including a water-cooler mentioned above.
Will there be a water cooled Xbox Series X equivalent in the future?
No console has ever been water-cooled. That includes the “pro” consoles such as the Xbox One X and a PlayStation 4 Pro.
And I personally think we will never see a water-cooled console. Well, at least not in the next decade or so. There’s just no need.
Even when Microsoft inevitably brings out its mid-gen Xbox Series X upgrade (The Xbox Series Z?) that console, though it will house more graphical power, will still be air-cooled.
For consoles that use off-the-shelf mid-range PC parts such as the Xbox Series X and PS5, there is simply no need to use water cooling. So don’t expect the next consoles to use water-cooling.
Can you buy after market water cooling kits for the Xbox Series X?
Unfortunately, no you can’t. However, that hasn’t stopped some DIY enthusiasts from trying to tear down the Xbox Series X and rebuilding it with a PC water cooling solution bubbling away inside it.
I’ll leave you with this video I found on YouTube by “Project Blog”. The water-cooled Series X does look bulky, but still, you gotta hand it to this fella, it looks fantastic! Take a look for yourself: