Final Words

It’s nearly impossible for the Xbox One not to be a substantial upgrade over the Xbox 360. The fact that Microsoft could ship a single integrated SoC instead of a multi-chip CPU+GPU solution this generation is telling enough. You don’t need to integrate anywhere near the fastest CPUs and GPUs to outperform the Xbox 360, something closer to the middle of the road works just fine.

Microsoft won’t have any issues delivering many times the performance of the Xbox 360. The Xbox One features far more compute power and memory bandwidth than the Xbox 360. Going to 8GB of RAM is also a welcome upgrade, especially since it’s identical to what Sony will ship on the PlayStation 4. As AMD is supplying relatively similar x86 CPU and GCN GPU IP to both consoles, porting between them (and porting to PCs) should be far easier than ever before. The theoretical performance comparison between the two next-gen consoles is where things get a bit sticky.

Sony gave the PS4 50% more raw shader performance, plain and simple (768 SPs @ 800MHz vs. 1152 SPs & 800MHz). Unlike last generation, you don't need to be some sort of Jedi to extract the PS4's potential here. The Xbox One and PS4 architectures are quite similar, Sony just has more hardware under the hood. We’ll have to wait and see how this hardware delta gets exposed in games over time, but the gap is definitely there. The funny thing about game consoles is that it’s usually the lowest common denominator that determines the bulk of the experience across all platforms.

On the plus side, the Xbox One should enjoy better power/thermal characteristics compared to the PlayStation 4. Even compared to the Xbox 360 we should see improvement in many use cases thanks to modern power management techniques.

Differences in the memory subsytems also gives us some insight into each approach to the next-gen consoles. Microsoft opted for embedded SRAM + DDR3, while Sony went for a very fast GDDR5 memory interface. Sony’s approach (especially when combined with a beefier GPU) is exactly what you’d build if you wanted to give game developers the fastest hardware. Microsoft’s approach on the other hand looks a little more broad. The Xbox One still gives game developers a significant performance boost over the previous generation, but also attempts to widen the audience for the console. It’s a risky strategy for sure, especially given the similarities in the underlying architectures between the Xbox One and PS4. If the market for high-end game consoles has already hit its peak, then Microsoft’s approach is likely the right one from a business standpoint. If the market for dedicated high-end game consoles hasn’t peaked however, Microsoft will have to rely even more on the Kinect experience, TV integration and its exclusive franchises to compete.

Arguably the most interesting thing in all of this is the dual-OS + hypervisor software setup behind the Xbox One. With the Windows kernel running alongside the Xbox OS, I wonder how much of a stretch it would be to one day bring the same setup to PCs. Well before the Xbox One hits the end of its life, mainstream PC APUs will likely be capable of delivering similar performance. Imagine a future Surface tablet capable of doing everything your Xbox One can do. That's really the trump card in all of this. The day Microsoft treats Xbox as a platform and not a console is the day that Apple and Google have a much more formidable competitor. Xbox One at least gets the software architecture in order, then we need PC/mobile hardware to follow suit and finally for Microsoft to come to this realization and actually make it happen. We already have the Windows kernel running on phones, tablets, PCs and the Xbox, now we just need the Xbox OS across all platforms as well.

Power/Thermals, OS, Kinect & TV
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  • bji - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I like the 8 year or longer console cycle. It means that I can focus on enjoying games more than upgrading every couple of years to the latest and greatest that isn't really any more fun to play, just has more eye candy. Reply
  • Hrel - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    "We already have the Windows kernel running on phones, tablets, PCs and the Xbox, now we just need the Xbox OS across all platforms as well." That, 100 infinity BAGILLION times that!

    I'd actually like to see Nintendo release a console in time for X-mas 2014 with comparable hardware performance. Just because otherwise I don't see how that company will survive and I really don't want Nintendo to go away. I don't know if that's within their realm of possibility but they need to do something because the wiiU is pretty terrible.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    But they won't, as laughable as Wii U sales are that would still anger however many bought that, likely their core base. They'll survive anyways, see their cash reserves, plus any platform Mario and Zelda et al come to will be fine. Nintendo survives on first party, always has. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    That said, yes I would have preffered if they just kept motionplus controls and the cost of the tablet controller instead went to an APU. Reply
  • skatendo - Friday, May 24, 2013 - link

    Seriously? Have you even tried the GamePad for an extended period of time? The thing is incredible and very useful. Also, the Wii U CPU/GPU is very customized and tailored for gaming. It's smart Nintendo didn't release tech specs because most everybody wouldn't understand how it would perform in real time. Custom silicon is a magnificent thing. Heck look at the 4-core CPU and 12-core GPU for the Tegra 3 and pit that against a paltry looking dual core CPU/GPU Apple A5 and you wouldn't have any competition right? (on paper at least) And who would have thought that the A5 with A FOURTH THE CORES and much slower clockspeed outperformed about twice the game performance the "superior" Tegra 3. Reply
  • marc1000 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    a great thing MS could do is find a way to put Windows Phone 8 inside of Nvidia Shield - and then have the option to stream your game from the Xbox One to to Shield.

    That would be awesome, family could be watching TV on the living room and you could have high-quality gaming anywhere - event if it would not be possible to play on the console AND shield at the same time, of course.

    Streaming games from X1 to Shield (full control scheme) or any WP8 phone/tablet (simpler games) would be that killer-app that MS needs so badly to boost it's phone business.
    Reply
  • nforce4max - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Interesting read and excited that GCN is being used but the cpu side of things I have to wonder how it will actually perform. Bobcat was fairly weak (think of a Pentium 4) and was terrible starved of memory bandwidth but the worst was that the L2 cache only worked at half the core clock. If the Jaguar cores still have the same sluggish L2 cache then even 8 of them is going to be painful but I suppose devs are going to offload what they can onto the gpu (openCL).

    As for the 32mb on die memory as stated in the article it all comes down to how it is used. If used for the frame buffer it will limit resolution but make for a huge fps boost as the rop and tmu are bandwidth hogs gpu wise but leave the rest for the cpu and shader. The cpu being weak as it is won't need much provided the gpu doesn't hog to much of the bandwidth. If used as a cache it will make up for the weak L2 cache and provide a unified pool for all 8 cores, if software only then we might have to wait to find out what for.

    Overall this is good news for the PC, no more games like GTA4 :D
    Reply
  • Arsynic - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Listening to Sony PR and Sony fanboys you'd think PS4 had every advantage under the sun and will retail for $400. Reply
  • MooseMuffin - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Nice article Anand. Rare to get level-headed analysis at the start of a console cycle. Reply
  • highend - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Amiga CDTV in 1990 looked better than XBOX One, see yourself: www.amigahistory.co.uk/cdtv.jpg Also M$ copied from Commodore looks & design Reply

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