When it comes to tech, thinner is the new normal.
Microsoft’s Xbox One, though, goes against the grain. It weighs around 8 pounds and is pretty chunky, especially compared with other consoles it’s competing with. It’s even bigger than slimmest version of the 360, which came out in 2010.
But there’s a good reason for it, according to the Xbox industrial designer Carl Ledbetter: It needs to stay cool.
“Everybody gets frustrated, because what we want is for everything to be wafer thin, not get hot and just be a snap to put together,” he tells MCV’s Christopher Dring. “But the reality is that there are very real issues around cooling when you’re pushing some number of watts in the processor, therefore the thing has to have some size to it. There’s always an interesting dynamic between engineering and design, and constraints around performance.”
He says that you can’t design something without taking into consideration engineering factors.
“It’s called designing with constraints, and constraints create very real things for people to go after and solve,” he says. “Blue sky can get a little tough because it is limitless and it’s boundless. The engineering doesn’t really become a barrier — engineering is necessary, just like the design and technology. It’s a combination of everything that creates the product.”
The Xbox One isn’t just a chunky black box, either. Its patchwork squares are a reflection of the console’s dashboard, which looks similar to the experience on the Surface tablet. It’s meant to be seamless across the entire brand. And all of that effort matters, even if nobody really notices it.
“For us it is about creating a very consistent and seamless experience that is reliable, so that when you see it, it is already starting to communicate aspects of the brand, and when you go into the user experience, it fulfils your expectations,” he says. “It would be like if you saw a beautiful car, and then you opened the door and the handle felt a little strange, and when you got inside it had been designed by someone different, and even the controls were not what you expected.”
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