Microsoft's Xbox has a unique history; it was the first console to merge a PC's architecture with a console's form factor and interface. Its successor, the Xbox 360, continues the trend of having a unique history by making its first public debut on MTV. In what amounted to essentially a 30-minute advertisement on MTV, Microsoft very briefly introduced the new console and gave a sneak peak at some of its specifications as well as the games that would be running on the new platform.

The MTV special was hardly technical; in fact, it seemed as if the editors did their best to tune down any sort of technical slant to the special as best as possible in order to avoid alienating their target audience - the mainstream, non-gaming market. In order for Microsoft to attain the level of success they desire with Xbox 360, it has to be much more than just a console for gamers, it has to expand the potential user base considerably.

Features like an all-wireless controller setup make the console even more mainstream fit - most people hate cables, and minimizing cable clutter is definitely a step in the right direction for the new console. From what we've heard through industry insiders, the wireless controllers appear to charge via a USB cable connected to the Xbox 360 unit itself.

We've spent the first part of 2005 talking about the move to dual and multi-core processors on the desktop, and the Xbox 360 does not stray from the path set before it. While Microsoft hasn't officially revealed the processor specifications for the Xbox 360, they did mention that the new Xbox 360 offers "more than one teraflop of system-floating point performance" driven by a "three-core PowerPC-based CPU." There are many rumors about the clock speed and nature of the PowerPC based cores, but most seem to indicate that they are some sort of derivative of the PPE that is in the Cell processor. Clock speeds have been rumored to be around 3.2GHz for the multi-core CPU, and given that Xbox 360 is expected to launch this year it will most likely be built on a 90nm process. The CPU will be able to execute 6 simultaneous threads, meaning that each of the three PowerPC cores is multi-threaded - once again a similarity to Cell's PPE. We will hopefully be getting more confirmation on the CPU architecture behind Xbox 360 at E3 next week.

The system is outfitted with ATI's next generation GPU, R5xx class, connected to a shared 512MB of system memory. Note that Microsoft is stating that the Xbox 360 offers "more than" 512MB of total memory, which means that the rumors of the ATI GPU having around 10MB of embedded DRAM are most likely true. This isn't ATI's first GPU design with embedded DRAM; the Flipper GPU that was used in Nintendo's Gamecube featured a full 3MB of embedded DRAM. The GPU features "48 ALU pipes" but ATI/Microsoft haven't elaborated beyond that.

The combination of the CPU and GPU in the Xbox 360 already make it a more powerful gaming machine than any PC out today, but as always the balance between PC and console gaming is an ever-shifting struggle. What the Xbox 360 will do however is accelerate the development of multithreaded games, some of which will hopefully make their way to the PC as well.

The CPU (and presumably the GPU) is cooled by a water cooled heatsink and twin fans. The motherboard is built on a 4-layer PCB, which is to be expected from a cost standpoint. Despite the trend away from Windows/PC architecture, the Xbox 360 does appear to still be very computer-like inside.

Contrary to popular belief, it does appear that the hard drive is back in the Xbox 360 and Microsoft is specifically referring to it as a "detachable" hard drive. Given the size of the Xbox 360, we'd assume that it will use a 2.5" drive, compared to the 3.5" drive that was included in the original Xbox. Given how much platter densities and spindle speeds have improved since the original Xbox was launched, the new drive shouldn't have a problem being faster than the original drive that shipped with the Xbox - despite its smaller form factor.

There was no mention of a multi-tiered launch, meaning that it looks like there will only be one Xbox 360 introduced later this year - hard drive included. The inclusion of a hard drive is particularly important for the modders out there, as it does give hope that even the Xbox 360 will be as hackable/moddable as the current Xbox is.

The console itself appears to be significantly smaller than the original Xbox, which was a complaint by many upon the Xbox's initial debut. The Xbox 360 will have removable face plates to offer some level of physical customization, although the finished product does look quite sleek.

Also from the videos it does appear that the new wireless controllers are smaller than even the reduced size Xbox S-type controllers.

HD Everywhere
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  • segagenesis - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    I dont think the Silver/Gold tier service will discourage modding, most people who have the current x-box modded either *dont care* about X-Box Live or just use another unmodded one just for that purpose. However, I doubt it (360) will be modded for at least several years.

    "community-created content, and more to the detachable Xbox 360 hard drive" this is to be seen, how will the community create content for something they cant mess with :P
    Reply
  • JNo - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    Hate to big up the competition and and appear that am disrepecting Anandtech but check out tomshardware for lots of very interesting extra info made possible by the fact that they got to interview Mr Henshaw at MS. Think my current modded xbox is awesome and simply can't wait till this one is modded.... Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    AnandThenMan

    The screenshots were from my own capture of the show - I've got the original file on my MCE machine if you're interested in more proof :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • CurtOien - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    "Can't wait for the XBox cluster to top the supercomputer chart now :)"

    It will be a waste if these aren't used for some type of distributed computing when they are not playing games.
    Reply
  • Cdeck - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    i believe there is an error in your article, a reference to 1 teraflop.

    ms's little web wmv about the xbox 360 stated one trillion instructions per second, not a teraflop. we must assume they counted everything, including ati's video instruction count. a 333 gflop proc only exists in star trek.

    the writer did a good job extracting what little info this mtv thingy had. i never saw it.

    i agree with #19. if i can plug a keyboard into the xbox or ps3, i am throwing my pc in the trash.

    Reply
  • Bonesdad - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    continual PC upgrades sure...you think this is the be all and end all of the XBox? You will be buying another new model in 2 years. Reply
  • Jalf - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    Hang on, I'm pretty sure the Dreamcast also internally rendered at higher resolution (which is why you got higher res by using their VGA adapter).
    So not the first console to do it... But still neat. ;)
    Reply
  • InuYasha - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    i think i'll spend my upgrading money for XBox360 and PS3 instead of my PC from now on...
    Reply
  • BenSkywalker - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    "The support for 720p in all games is quite important as it marks the first time that a game console will have games that renders frames internally at resolutions greater than 640x480."

    While it is true that it will be the first time games are always rendered at higher then 480p standard(which isn't 640x480 btw) there are current XBox titles running 1080i-

    http://www.hdtvpub.com/productdb/games/index.cfm

    May not be a huge list, but XB360 certainly won't be the first time games run higher then 480p(this list does NOT include upsacled games).
    Reply
  • AnandThenMan - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    KristopherKubicki I saw some screenshots of the event, they were from some warez group named Loki. The screenshots were exactly the same rez, quality, colour, everything. It's from the same torrent. I have no problem with it but I am surprised that Anandtech would seek out and use such material considering the torrent very likely came for a warez site.

    As for the MTV event, it was horrible. Useless is a better word.The Xbox 360 looks like it could be performance monster!
    Reply

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