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New Xbox 360 motherboards could mean fewer crashes

A report surfaces that consoles with a new, more efficient chipset that could mean fewer "red ring of death" problems may be hitting the marketplace.

Update (12:57 p.m.): The story now reflects Microsoft's response to a request for comment.

For Xbox 360 users, the so-called red ring of death is a worst-case scenario that can cause nightmares about total system failure and the inability to play any more Halo 3.

Since the introduction of the console, in late 2005, some users have suffered through a well-documented series of quality control problems and some have endured system failures on machine after machine after machine.

Microsoft has attempted to handle the problems--and last year extended the warranty for the machine, leading some to feel that, at the very least, they would be covered if they got the three red rings around their console's power button that indicate total hardware crash.

The 'red ring of death' is the last thing any Xbox 360 user wants to see, as it indicates massive system failure. CNET Networks

All along, the problem has been blamed on the Xbox's original motherboard, a poorly designed piece of electronics that in many cases simply wasn't up to the rigors that users put the machine through. But there had been indications that help was on the way in the form of an all-new motherboard, at once smaller, more efficient, less likely to overheat and less expensive, known as "Jasper."

Now, according to Xbox expert Dean Takahashi at Venture Beat, Jasper-infused Xboxes are finally being spotted out there in the wilds of the marketplace. And presumably, fans of the platform are singing hosannas at the prospect that maybe, finally, some of their brethren might be able to boot up Gears of War without fear of doom.

Actually, Takahashi poses the question of whether Xbox fans will go for the new machines. But I'm not sure why anyone would rather not have an Xbox with the new motherboard instead of one that could blow up--not literally, of course--at any time.

To be sure, those whose original model Xboxes haven't crashed don't really have a choice, and I don't see hordes of owners of the console rushing out to buy a new one. But if you've been holding off on buying one, and find that you have a choice, what would hold you back?

According to a blog called Joeygadget, "The key things to look for when buying a new Xbox 360 with the Jasper chipset is a manufacturing date (MFR) as early as 2008-08-06, Lot 8031 and up, and Team CSON."

Another site, the Xbox 360 DVD Drive Database, reports there is no "substantial evidence that it's out yet."

For its part, Microsoft wouldn't say whether any Jasper Xboxes were on the market yet. "We are constantly updating internal components on our consoles," the company told CNET News, "and therefore will not comment on details of specific components or manufacturing processes."

Either way, it sounds like the era of the red ring of death, at least for new buyers, could well be drawing to a close.

And this is important since, with Microsoft's recent price reductions for the Xbox--the "Arcade" version of the console is now available for $199--it is likely that there will be large numbers of new buyers, especially this holiday season. Unless, that is, the economic situation holds buyers back.

My question is, will the Xboxes with the new motherboard have a smaller power supply than the ugly behemoth that came with the original machine?