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Here's a Brief Look At How Microsoft Made the Xbox One X So Small

Rolling Stone logo Rolling Stone 10/5/2017 Blake Hester
© Microsoft

Just a month from its launch, Microsoft recently posted a behind-the-scenes look at how it made the Xbox One X, which, it claims, will be the most powerful console yet released.

The very first challenge the engineering and design team tackled, Microsoft says, was making sure the X was a "True 4K Gaming” machine – something the company's put up from and center of its marketing campaign around the machine. This, as the company says, was the driving force behind how the machine was designed and created.

"The Scorpio Engine is designed, at its core, to be the most powerful system-on-a-chip for game consoles that has ever been created," the company said. "And to make that happen, it was clear that nearly every component that was to be housed in the system was going to have to be custom built. That left the team with a lot of freedom of how it could design the system around things like optical drives, hard drives, and memory components."

It was, as Leonardo Del Castillo, the general manager of Xbox services console development, puts it, like starting with a bag of parts and trying to turn that into a product. "We needed a direction, and floor planning directions, to lead the architecture around what the motherboard will look like, what will the chassis look like. And for that you lean on the design team," he said.

According to Microsoft, all the disparate parts needed to come together into a "cohesive unit."

“We envisioned this monolith [ like from 2001: A Space Odyssey]," Bryan Sparks, senior designer at Microsoft's device design team says. "Whenever you see it in the film, it was a signal to the audience that it was the next phase of advancement. So, we kept that as a design goal: Xbox One X is the next point of advancement.”

The Xbox One was a big machine, weighing 7 pounds and measuring more than 13 inches wide and 10 inches long. But rather than make the Xbox One X a bigger machine than the original, the company went for subtlety – despite the 40-percent power increase. As Sparks puts it, the company wanted the X to be no bigger than the Xbox One S – a smaller version of the original machine, released in 2016.

The two teams worked together to build a machine that worked within the compact design it envisioned. The teams "found it would make the most sense to have the motherboard fit on the 'ceiling' of the console, and placing the optical drive and hard drive on top of one other to create the optimum stacking height of the system. … To continue with the efficient design (getting these parts into a small form factor) they placed the power right behind the optical drive. In turn, this allowed them to keep all the ports on the back of the system in nearly same place as Xbox One S so that when you’re upgrading to Xbox One X, set up would be as simple, yet familiar, as possible."

The Xbox One X is expected to be released on November 7th. It'll be the third Xbox One model released. 

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