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Xbox safety: the cable and the damage done

Bad engineering - worse explanation

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Letters Last month Microsoft recalled 14 million Xbox cables - which isolate, rather than fix a problem with early versions of the console. The problem is inside the Xbox and these consoles still present a clear safety threat - in Sweden, an Xbox fitted with the replacement cable exploded in its owners face.

Microsoft denies the problem, but its explanation to us yesterday holds little water with professional engineers. Over to Mark Robinson:

I privately predicted that replacing the power cords would not solve the problem, even assuming that the power cords were the issue.

It goes like this:

The pins in the power cable female connector are not springy enough, and fail to make good contact with the pin in the plug in the appliance. Arcing happens at the poor point of contact, the pins in the male and female connector heat up and corrode, as well as being ablated by the arc.

Microsoft in their infinite wisdom replace the power cable as they have identified it as the cause of the problem, but this leaves thousands of appliances with damaged connectors.

Enter new power cable with good springy pins. Sadly this makes poor contact with the ablated and corroded pin in the connector in the appliance, and the cycle repeats until both the cable and the connector in the appliance are replaced. I've seen it before in other equipment.

Ron Unwin, a scientific instrument consultant in the UK, writes:

The quoted claim by Microsoft that 'All consumer electronics products experience some broken solder joints as a result of ordinary wear and tear' is simply untrue. There are issues where high current and high frequency cause mechanical damage, for example in CRT scan coil connectors, but overall a design which allows solder joints to be mechanically stressed is bad and potentially dangerous if mains supply is involved. This is particularly true in Europe where 220 V or above is used.

The early Xbox should be withdrawn before someone gets seriously hurt.

®

Related stories

'Recalled' Xbox goes bang in Sweden
After cable recall, Xbox's still frying

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