The Xbox One can tell when it is overheating and automatically adjust its operations on the fly, according to what Xbox General Manager of Console Development Leo del Castillo tells Gizmodo. When asked how Microsoft can account for the unknown ways that consumers can use and abuse their systems and build protections in the design, del Castillo said that, while the company can't "prevent misuse of the product," it can "anticipate that misuse" and do some things to prevent the system from malfunctioning.
The one way the system does that is by being aware of the temperature it's running at, and having some capacity to cool itself down in a few ways.
"The way we designed the box, we don’t actually intend it to ever have to go to maximum speed under normal environmental conditions, del Castillo tells Gizmodo. "But there is overhead. So we’ll allow the fan to go all the way up to its maximum speed and if that solves the condition without the user having to do anything."
But beyond that, the Xbox One also has ability to ramp down its power usage considerably when it is overheating. This keeps the system from melting its more sensitive components and spitting out errors, likely at the cost of performance.
"One thing that we have more flexibility with with the architecture of the Xbox One, is that we can dial back the power of the box considerably," del Castillo continues. "We had a little less flexibility with the 360. And so basically, if we couldn’t dissipate the heat, there wasn’t a whole lot of leverage we could pull to keep the heat from being generated, so we had a limited amount of time before it just shut down. Xbox One can actually dial it back to a lower power state, so low in fact that it can in a mode that uses virtually no air flow."
del Castillo also said that he wasn't sure how a system overheat would be presented to the user, or how it might impact performance when it does happen.
"I don’t know the exact details of how it’ll show up to the user," del Castillo explains. "But we try to be as transparent to the user as possible. We’ll allow the fan to go all the way up to maximum speed. They might notice the extra noise, and that will help to self-correct the condition."
"If we get to the point where that is no longer enough, we have the mechanism, the interface, to deal with that," del Castillo adds.
Whatever systems are used to alert users, they will certainly be more well received than having their Xbox One system cooking itself from the inside... Hopefully the Red Ring of Death is a thing of the past on this new Xbox.