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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  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Nexus tablet doesn't have CoD for free.. Reply
  • elitewolverine - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    no one will make a $1 game with the visuals of CoD, BF2, halo, the list goes on. They would make 0 money.

    google taking hdtv gaming seriously? They make all their money on ad's, you honestly think people constantly want ads in a video game? And not product placement...ads. Before you matchmake just watching this 30sec video about vagisil...yea right...

    Also, what is a few generations? A few is more than 2, 3 generations ago we were at the ps1. 14yrs ago.

    Your telling me that its going to take 19yrs for a tablet to have todays graphics of the xbox1? By that time what the hell will the ps5 have or the x5....

    The biggest thing the x1 has for it, that every one is forgetting...cloud/azure.

    This is huge, so huge time will show just how little the x1 in multiplayer games will need to compute tasks
    Reply
  • Majeed Belle - Sunday, September 8, 2013 - link

    I think you are putting way too much stake in the cloud especially when we are talking about computing anything graphics or otherwise. People can barely download music on a steady connection right now. Consoles can't even get you solid updates in a timely manner and you are talking about offloading real work over the internet?

    ok.
    Reply
  • Mathos - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    After reading a lot of articles about these two consoles, and their SoC's. There are some things we can extrapolate from this info.

    Both Systems are based on the same 8core x86 amd64 CPU. Which means the main logic and memory controllers in the APU's are the the exact same. The comment about PS4 being married to ddr5 may not be true, as we all know that the GPU's can also run on ddr3, plus it may be possible that the cpu memory controller is also capable of running ddr5 or ddr3 in either system..

    Both systems are using a 256bit memory bus. Being these are x86 amd cpus, that likely points to jaguar using a quad channel memory controller 64+64+64+64=256, which could be good news when they hit the desktop, if they retain said quad channel controller. It would also be nice to see that in AMD's mainstream chips as well.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    GDDR5 is on the PS4 official spec sheet. Reply
  • Kevin G - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Going with eSRAM is an odd choice. I would have through capacity would have been more important than absolute latency. By merit of being on-die, using eDRAM would have lower latency than external DDR3. If they had chosen eDRAM, they could have had 128 MB on die. That is enough for three 32 bit, 4K resolution buffers. In such a case, I'd have that 128 MB of eDRAM directly accessible and not a cache. Sure, software would need to be aware of the two different memory pools for optimizations but most of that would be handled by API calls (ie a DirectX function calls would set up a frame buffer in the eDRAM for the programmer).

    The bandwidth figures for the eSRAM seem to be a bit on the low side too. The Xbox 360 had 256 GB/s of bandwidth between the ROPs and eDRAM. With high clock speeds and a wider bus, I would have thought the Xbox One had ~820 GB/s bandwidth there.

    I'm also puzzled by MS using DDR3 for main memory. While lower power than GDDR5, for a console plugged into a wall, the bandwidth benefits would out weigh the power savings in my judgement. There is also another option: DDR4. Going for a 3.2 Ghz effective clock on DDR4 should be feasible as long as MS could get a manufacture to start producing those chips this year. (DDR4 is ready for manufacture now but they're holding off volume production until a CPU with an on-die DDR4 memory controller becomes available.) With 3.2 Ghz DDR4, bandwidth would move to 102.4 GB/s. Still less than what the PS4 has but not drastically so. At the end of the Xbox One's life span, I'd see DDR4 being cheaper than acquiring DDR3.

    As far as the XBox One's AV capabilities, I'd personally have released two consoles. One with the basic HDMI switching and another with Cable card + tuner + DVR. And for good measure, the model with Cable card + tuner + DVR would also have an Xbox 360 SoC to provide backwards compatibility and run the DVR software while the x86 CPU's handle gaming and the basic apps. If MS is going to go in this direction, might as well go all the way.

    Good to see 802.11n and dual band support. With HDMI in and out, I'd have also included HDMI+Ethernet support there as well. Basically the Xbox One would have a nice embedded router between the Gigabit Ethernet port, the two HDMI ports and the 802.11n wireless.
    Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Remember though that the DDR3 in the Xbox will be hardwired directly with no legacy or other PC related stuff getting in the way. This will be optimised DDR3 and not working exactly how its standardised in our PCs. Reply
  • Kevin G - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    The only advantage DDR3 in the Xbox One has over a PC is that it is soldered. This allows for marginally better signaling without the edge connector of a DIMM. Reply
  • kamil - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    That was surprisingly fair, considering a lot of what I've seen since yesterday. Sony tried hard to do what it thought would "improve the gaming experience" and ended up with a lot of social integration and considerably more aggressive hardware. Microsoft didn't really add much to actually playing games (though they do have some cloud-based stuff including game streaming) but has made a play for becoming a full living room experience, with games, live and recorded television, no hassle cable integration, and seemingly several exclusive partnerships. I'm not convinced that core gamers will see much use for those options (though most of the people I know in that group were already PC-focused if not exclusive) or the social things with the PS4, but the raw power would be a nice draw, assuming Sony doesn't accidentally pull a 360 and overheat with any noteworthy extended use.

    Of course, if the rumors of Microsoft pushing developers toward always-online DRM, included on-console mandatory check-in every 24 hours, fees for pre-owned or shared games, forced hard drive installs, etc. all pan out a lot of people are going to boycott on principle even if they don't buy used games and have great internet.
    Reply
  • blacks329 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    I fall in that category of, not buying used games with decent internet (but capped - damn you Canadian duopoly!!) but definitely won't be picking up the X1 if this holds (at least early on).

    Additionally, I hate paying for XBL and have no intention of doing it going forward, hopefully Sony doesn't follow this route and maintains PS+ as value added and not a requirement for playing games online.
    Reply

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