Why Is the Xbox Series X Shaped Like a Fridge? Microsoft Explains

It's a good question, to be perfectly honest.

There is no bones about it, the Xbox Series X is beyond powerful, further bridging the gap between PC and consoles alongside the PlayStation 5. That being said, Microsoft sure did pick an interesting design to go with it, with many attributing it to an aesthetic choice due to the PC comparisons while others joke it’s just a mini fridge. But what is the method to the madness? Is the Xbox Series X design purely aesthetic or is there more going on behind the scenes? Microsoft explains. 

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“The ODD [optical disc drive] sets one dimension, the volume of the heat sink sets the other dimension,” explained principal designer Chris Kujawski in a recent interview with Eurogamer. “The height is set by airflow and throughout this kind of complex negotiation of figuring out how this stuff comes together, we landed on a square form factor which we love.”

So much more than just a look, it’s fully functional as well, which is pretty easy to see when looking at simple decisions such as fan placement. “When we started thinking about how we would design this, everything was theoretical,” says Chris Kujawski, principal designer at Microsoft. “We didn’t have stuff we could test, we didn’t have measurements we could take, we knew it was going to be powerful and we knew it was going to require a totally different way of thinking about how to design a console.”

The performance was the name of the game when it came to designing the next generation of Xbox, something that presented a unique challenge when looking at the teraflops the new generation has to offer in addition to the two Zen 2 cores that are meant to deliver up to 4x the amount of CPU power. 

“I like to think about our past generations as having a bit of an exoskeleton, so you have a mechanical structure with electrical shielding all on the outside then you have all the guts in the inside,” Jim Wahl, director of mechanical engineering for Xbox hardware, told the site. “And so what we did in this generation is that we turned that completely inside out… and so this center chassis essentially forms the spine, the foundation of this system and then we build things out from there.”

“This is actually my favorite part of the console on the inside,” adds Chris Kujawski. “It’s like it’s the coolest part that anybody who actually buys the console will never actually see.” It’s also essential in keeping the thermal demands of the hottest components in check. “It creates what we call a parallel cooling architecture, so you get cool air in – and cool air streams through separate zones of the console,” adds Wahl. “The second thing it does is that it actually distributes the heat sources a bit differently in the console – so those two things together are really effective at cooling a console. And then the third thing it does is… we play this sort of 3D Tetris game, where you’re trying to figure out where the components should go and what’s the best arrangement – and then that starts to establish some of the dimensional aspects.”

The design, at the end of the day, is meant to maximize performance while minimizing the potential for overheating. Aside from that, there is also no denying that it looks completely separate from past generations, truly taking the Xbox name to new heights as the core team focuses on returning to exclusives and expanding their RPG market. 

You can learn more about the next generation with the Xbox Series X with our tech hub here to learn more! 

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Liana Ruppert
With an arguably unhealthy obsession with Dragon Age and Mass Effect, Liana is wildly passionate about all things in the gaming community. From shooters, to RPGs, if it's out - she's playing it. A medically retired US Sailor and now full-time hoarder of gaming collectibles, Liana's passion for everything in the gaming industry is palpable. Also, if you lose her in a crowd, just casually mention any BioWare game and the crazy pterodactyl screech will without a doubt follow. You can follow her on Twitter @DirtyEffinHippy or email her for editorial inquiries at [email protected]!