We asked respondents for three bits of information: when they bought their systems, what models the systems are, and when the E74 error occurred. Before we drop the data on you, we should say up front that we're not statisticians. Our little study isn't perfect -- it wasn't controlled using scientific procedures. But in the absence of data from Microsoft (more on that in a bit), it's the basis for what we hope to be an important first report:
One oddity is that there is no correlation between the dates on which the systems in question were purchased and when they went belly up. The error usually occurred after anywhere from 12 to 36 months of use, with many of you claiming that trouble arose on consoles that have already been repaired for Red Ring of Death. Whatever modifications Microsoft has made to the console to improve its reliability in the past years seems to have no bearing on the likelihood of E74.
Further evidence for a recent E74 increase comes from our (again, unscientific) poll. Of those claiming to be have gotten the error, only 42 percent said that they had received it before the NXE update. To put that another way, 58 percent of the reported E74s have come in the last 12 percent of the console's life. [Update: Engadget has put together a poll similar to ours, and of the more than 1600 people reporting E74 errors, 59 percent have received them since NXE launched.] Again, not scientific, but do a Twitter search for "E74" and you'll find five new reports of the error since yesterday.
So, why isolate the E74 error? While Red Ring of Death is covered under an extended three-year warranty, those who get the E74 later than 12 months and one day after their purchase are forced to pay more than $100 for a repair.
We reached out to Microsoft, asking what causes the E74 error, if it's been on an uptick, and why it's not covered when RROD is. Here's the official statement:
"E74 is a general hardware error on Xbox 360 indicated by a single red flashing light in the Xbox Ring of Light and an error message visible on the television. This error is unrelated to the three flashing red lights error and there is not a single root cause. We encourage anyone who receives this error to contact Xbox Customer support through www.xbox.com/support or 1-800-4-MY-XBOX. The majority of customers who own Xbox 360 consoles continue to have a terrific experience from their first day, and continue to, day in and day out."
Right, so, Microsoft is not really answering anything. We aren't asking unfair questions here, we're asking the things that those who own Xbox 360s (and those who might consider buying them or even Microsoft's next console) would want to know. The company seems to want to rebuild a relationship with hardware consumers after losing the trust of many with the RROD debacle, but not talking about something that's clearly a widespread problem seems like a terrible way to start. (Maybe Microsoft thinks that if RROD didn't hurt brand preference, neither will E74.)
Sorry, but Microsoft's current stance on E74 isn't good enough for us. We're not going to let this go until we find out why Microsoft lends a hand to some of those inconvenienced by an admittedly shoddy piece of technology, while others have to take a hit in their pocket books. You keep sending us your stories, and we'll keep pursuing the answers.