Powermac G5s at the Show

In Microsoft's own Xbox 360 booth, we saw tons of kiosks running upcoming 360 titles that were actually playable.

Games like Top Spin 2 and Need for Speed were playable, but for some reason they didn't actually look all that great for a next-generation console.

Note the aliasing in this screenshot...the Xbox 360 GPU is supposed to have AA enabled at all times...

To find out why, we had to look a little closer at the kiosks.

Each kiosk had a wired Xbox 360 controller connected to it, running into the base of the kiosk that only had one small window showing off a Xbox 360 console.

But the console itself wasn't on, looking at the right of the kiosk you get to see the actual power behind the demos:

Are those two G5s?

A pair of Apple Powermac G5 systems were actually running the Xbox 360 demos, not the 360 console. The consoles in the kiosks weren't actually running, they were just for show - now you know why all the controllers were wired.

Yeah they are

Because the G5 systems can only use a GeForce 6800 Ultra or an ATI Radeon X800 XT, developers had to significantly reduce the image quality of their demos - which explains their lack luster appearance. Anti-aliasing wasn't enabled on any of the demos, while the final Xbox 360 console will have 4X AA enabled on all titles.

We are disappointed that all of Microsoft's Xbox 360 kiosks were running G5 systems as we wanted to see real hardware in action, not behind glass, but Apple should be quite happy.

The DVD Remote An Actual Running Xbox 360 at E3


View All Comments

  • MaverickUK - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    The reason why where are two G5s, is so that if the one running the demo breaks down, they can simply switch over to the spare one.

    Like a spare tire :)
  • Visual - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    I realise that the G5s were not running on standard OS-X. But it's interesting if all these xbox games can easily be ported to run on OS-X, with the eventual release of G70 or R500 I guess the G5s will have enough power for them anyway.

    Or if the games themselves can't be easily ported to OS-X, maybe a leaked version of the xbox dev-kit OS can still be used to run xbox games on macs? It would be even greater if consumers got legal access to such kind of OS, I wish microsoft would release it.

    Even if it turns out that G5s are too slow for the task, I'm sure there'll be multi-core or Cell-based macs coming our way soon, so a way to run xbox games on them would still be a great thing.

    My question is, what is the chance of that happening?
  • linkdown - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    The hard drive is DISCREET. DISCREET Reply
  • dripgoss - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    A few points to consider:

    Those G5's are not dev kits - they are Alpha kits running at about 1/3 the power of the actual 360. Beta kits will be closer to the actual product and should start hitting devs within the next month. These ADK's are even lovingly dubbed "Xbox 120's" in the dev community. MS is using IBM CPU's as the G5 is, so it only makes sense to use this Alpha architecture.

    AA is not handled on these systems like on a traditional GPU running on a PC. It's hard to understand for us PC geeks, but the CPU/RAM will handle many of the graphic processes and although a screamer, the G5 is not an Xbox 360 so it's not completely apples and apples at this point graphics-wise. Production graphics are definitely more clean.

    #7, it's tough to imagine, but development is so accelerated that MS will successfully release fully capable hardware by its anticipated launch don't worry about that. If E3 were to have happened next month, you might actually have seen all the demo booths running beta kits with the bells and whistles and possibly even that slick looking little case.

    BTW - Most of the really cool stuff either has happened or will happen behind closed doors this E3 so stay tuned - it's going to get even better...
  • Reflex - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    Anand - Final 360 hardware should be done in July(I can't state actual milestone dates but thats close enough) and the current dev kits are roughly 1/3 the power of the final product.

    #2: Its not pressure on game devs that has stopped Mac game development, the issue is Apple's lack of a competing API. DirectX makes it very simple to access everything a dev needs on a PC, there is nothing comparable for the Mac. Even PC OpenGL devs use DirectX for much of the non-graphics functions(DirectSound and DirectInput for example). There is no real unified API to give game developers all they need on the Mac, and until there is gaming development won't really take root on the platform.

    #5: The Mac G5 kits are running a custom PowerPC version of the NT kernel, so you are correct.
  • LanceVance - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link


    Understood; you actually did have insider information, you weren't just making a blind consumer observation, and I retract my comment.

    Thanks for the response and the excellent site.
  • Shinei - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    Why didn't Microsoft just sell the G5 they're using instead? Wouldn't it have saved a ton of time and money?

    New from Microsoft: The Apple G5-X!
  • Eug - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    Why are two Power Macs needed?

    P.S. It's nice to see that MS is finally starting to understand the concepts of aesthetics in design.
  • sxr7171 - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    MS using G5s for their Xbox demos? The irony of it all. Reply
  • knitecrow - Thursday, May 19, 2005 - link

    Microsoft has stated because they are so close to launch they wanted to show actual real, live running games instead of tech demos, even if it is on dev kits.


    (1) did you get a chance to check out the games? Perfect Dark?

    (2) Which are the actual specs of the X360 hardware. And I don't mean the marketing fluff put out.

    How many transistors does the X360 CPU have; is the related to the PPC core in the cell? etc

    About the R500, how big is the actual silicon and how does it compare to current gen X800XT


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