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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  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I notice Anand says the XBox is 28nm. But everything I have been seeing says the XBox is 40nm, while the PS4 is 28nm. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    28 was confirmed. See the Engadget tech talk with Microsoft. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    5 billion transistors on 40nm would be something... Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Anand, on the 'Memory Subsystem' page, when you say...

    "less area efficient but lower latency and doesn't need refreshing"

    Are you referring to eDRAM or eSRAM? I got a little confused there.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    eSRAM. eDRAM needs refreshing. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    eDRAM also takes a third the size. Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    "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."

    This is the key point that Microsoft have realised. I bet the developers too told both MS and Sony not to bother going crazy as they will develop to the minimum standard.

    This is not the age of the games console anymore. Its the age of the Media/Entertainment center.

    When I got my 360 back in 2006 it was mainly used for games now seven years later and a whole lot of bandwidth upgrades and media explosion I now use it mainly for...well...media. Gaming takes very much a backseat on my 360. It s a very convenient media portal that happens to play games as well.

    The world has moved on and I can imagine that gamers might feel left behind but there is a whole load more out there to occupy people time than there was in 2005. Microsoft has to capture that.
    Reply
  • bengildenstein - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Interestingly, this seems to be a core strategy for the PS4 as well (as it was for the PS3) as mentioned in their unveil presentation. Reply
  • sfrocks - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Anand, in terms of the product positioning, I agree with your assessment, but I also think Microsoft would be better off by creating a disruptive (rather than sustaining) product. It'll be even better if they launched one in parallel with the Xbox One. It will surely cannibalize the sales, but that's the price for solving innovator's dilemma. Moreover, it's not Sony or Nintendo that MSFT should be very afraid of, rather Apple and Google. Apple will surely eneter the market from the low end of the value chain. More details here -- https://www.facebook.com/notes/itvale-the-blog/xbo... , would love to hear your thoughts. Reply
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Looking at the screen shot of the TV part of the software: at least we now know where the Windows media center team went.

    I am confused is this an HTPC with gaming facility attached or a games system with HTPC capabilities attached?
    Reply

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