For those who don’t know, heat kills electronic components. The hotter the temperature, the shorter the life expectancy; real hot temperatures will literally bake the silicon chips and ruin them. That’s why computer CPUs have heat sinks and fans on them so they don’t burn out.
Now, onto the Xbox 360. Again, for those who don’t know, the 360 has a nasty habit of dying with the “red ring of death” (red LEDs indicating the console is broken). Microsoft hasn’t completely identified the cause, to the best of my knowledge, but they have bumped up the warranty to 3 years to compensate people for broken systems (up from a 1 year warranty).
Anyways, one of the suspected reasons the 360s keep dying is because they are running too hot. Hence, the intercooler was designed to help force more air through the system to keep it cool.
Normally the system’s built-in fans should keep the system reasonably cool. However, many people keep their consoles in the entertainment center, where the box-like enclosure minimizes the airflow to the system. Having the intercooler will help bring more air through the system even inside the center.
The intercooler itself is a small fan enclosure that fits on the back of the 360. Three small fans are built into the enclosure along with a pass-through power supply connection. When you attach the intercooler to your 360, the fans are positioned right behind the normal air flow exit port while the power supply connection allows the AC cord to not only power the unit but also power the intercooler at the same time.
Even though I have a glass TV stand with no “box enclosures” for my media equipment, I figured the $20 cost for the intercooler was a small price to pay if indeed heat is the cause of 360 failure. I did check the heat vented from the console with my hand before I attached the intercooler and it was warm but not unreasonably hot.
After I attached the intercooler, I again tested it. This time the temp was noticeably cooler than without it. This could mean either the interior wasn’t able to heat up as much due to the air flow or because there was so much air being moved that I couldn’t feel the heat. Either way it was cooler than before. (I tested the heat each time after playing the unit for several hours so it was “good and hot”.) I did look at some tech site reviews before I bought this and they all said that internal temperatures were noticably lower than without the device so I suspect it actually works.
However, using the intercooler makes the system a lot louder. Under normal use, the 360 can be noticably loud but not unbearable. However, with the intercooler the noise is a lot worse. It’s not really noticable when playing games but when things are quiet you notice how loud it is.
The noise can be unbearable for some people but if you have your Xbox inside an entertainment center (especially behind a glass door), the noise shouldn’t be too bad. Not to mention your system is probably not getting enough airflow and would therefore benefit from the intercooler.
Finally, the device can be used regardless of whether the Xbox is vertical or horizontal. Another cooler I’ve seen acts like a vertical stand for the Xbox. Though it works equally well as this one, it does limit your options when it comes to setting up your system. Therefore, this is probably the best choice for people who either want their Xbox to lie flat or aren’t sure how they will set it up.
The Good: Reduces internal temps, cheap insurance, easy to attach
The Bad: LOUD
Overall: Worth buying to help avoid the “red ring of death”; necessary for entertainment centers. It’s just real loud.