Because they're both big, expensive pieces of consumer electronics and they're competing against one another, we're in for a lot of technical analysis bordering on nitpicking when the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 come out. This isn't to dismiss all analysis-to the contrary, if either console ships with major issues, it's important that we find out as soon as possible. But at this point, with preview embargos still in place and PS5 units not in the hands of reviews, people are quibbling a lot about the Series X and how hot it gets (or doesn't).
Now, the scuttlebutt over Series X temperatures has gotten to the point where Xbox's Aaron Greenberg, General Manager of Games Marketing, has entered the fray. Greenberg says that Microsoft's new top-end console is "not significantly different" in terms of heat from an Xbox One X. To put his comment in context, it's worth going over how we got to this point.
Remember, folks with Xbox Series X preview units have only had them for a few weeks now. We don't have one to test, but several other outlets (including our friends at Digital Foundry, the best in the tech-breakdown biz) have been able to try the new console out. Microsoft has made outlets with access to these preview units abide by certain guidelines—in the first round of coverage that went up, journalists were only allowed to test backward compatible titles and comment on a limited range of matters like the Quick Resume feature and load times.
Still, even though nobody with a preview unit on-hand has performed any quantitative temperature tests (or if they have, they've not published them yet), a few people outside of Microsoft have made observations about the Series X's temperature. Sam Machkovech of Ars Technica mentioned that the Series X still puts out heat from its large top vent while in the "always-on" mode, and found that the Xbox Wireless Controller was "warm (not hot) 10 hours after [he] powered the console down" and rested the gamepad on the vent overnight.
Later, on a recent episode of the Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast, CNET's Jeff Bakalar also discussed the console's temperature. While Bakalar stands by his characterization of the Series X as "toasty" and notes that the 1 TB expansion drive was "hot to the touch" when he picked the console up on the show, he disagrees with the assumption that these are signs of a "heat problem."
Nonetheless, commenters on Twitter and various forums have still taken observations like these and run to the extremes, making preemptive claims about the Series X running overly hot. Greenberg's comment today came in response to a direct question about whether the Series X is "really running hot" or if it's a case-by-case matter to do with backward compatibility.
"The console will output system heat out of the exhaust, just as any other console will," Greenberg writes. "Our engineering team confirmed the heat leaving the console is not significantly different than Xbox One X. This matches my experience at home[:] quiet, fast & impressive power for the size."
Given that Greenberg works for Xbox, his personal assessment of the Series X's heat output may not sway skeptics. That said, considering that the Series X and PS5 are both pretty large consoles equipped with giant fans to facilitate cooling, it's clear that designers Microsoft and Sony are of the mind that temperature management is a priority for their machines. The baseline expectation should be that both consoles, just like high-end PCs, will output a reasonable amount of heat. Until we see measurements made on final, retail units of both machines, heat definitely isn't an issue worth getting in petty internet fights over.
I say that, of course, knowing full well that those fights will still happen anyway. So it goes.