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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  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I wonder how close the DDR3 plus small fast eSRAM can get to the GDDR5s peak performance from the PS4. The GDDR5 will be better in general for the GPU no doubt, but how much will be offset by the eSRAM? And how much will GDDRs high latency hurt the CPU in the PS4? Reply
  • Braincruser - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    The cpu is running on low frequency ~ 1.6 GHz which is half the frequency of most mainstream processors. And the GDDRs latency shouldn't be more than double the DDR3 latency. So in effect the latency stays the same, relativelly speaking. Reply
  • MrMilli - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    GDDR5 actually has around ~8-10x worse latency compared to DDR3. So the CPU in the PS4 is going to be hurt. Everybody's talking about bandwidth but the Xbox One is going to have such a huge latency advantage that maybe in the end it's going to be better off. Reply
  • mczak - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    gddr5 having much worse latency is a myth. The underlying memory technology is all the same after all, just the interface is different. Though yes memory controllers of gpus are more optimized for bandwidth rather than latency but that's not gddr5 inherent. The latency may be very slightly higher, but it probably won't be significant enough to be noticeable (no way for a factor of even 2 yet alone 8 as you're claiming).
    I don't know anything about the specific memory controller implementations of the PS4 or Xbox One (well other than one using ddr3 the other gddr5...) but I'd have to guess latency will be similar.
  • shtldr - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Are you talking latency in cycles (i.e. relative to memory's clock rate) or latency in seconds (absolute)? Latency in cycles is going to be worse, latency in seconds is going to be similar. If I understand it correctly, the absolute (objective) latency expressed in seconds is the deciding factor. Reply
  • MrMilli - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    I got my info from Beyond3D but I went to dig into whitepapers from Micron and Hynix and it seems that my info was wrong.
    Micron's DDR3 PC2133 has a CL14 read latency specification but possibly set as low as CL11 on the XBox. Hynix' GDDR5 (I don't know which brand GDDR5 the PS4 will use but they'll all be more or less the same) has a CL18 up to CL20 for GDDR5-5500.
    So even though this doesn't give actual latency information since that depends a lot on the memory controller, it probably won't be worse than 2x.
  • tipoo - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    Nowhere near as bad as I thought GDDR5 would be given what everyone is saying about it to defend DDR3, and given that it runs at such a high clock rate the CL effect will be reduced even more (that's measured in clock cycles, right?). Reply
  • Riseer - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    For game performance,GDDR5 has no equal atm.Their is a reason why it's used in Gpu's.MS is building a media center,while Sony is building a gaming console.Sony won't need to worry so much about latency for a console that puts games first and everything else second.Overall Ps4 will play games better then Xbone.Also ESram isn't a good thing,the only reason why Sony didn't use it is because it would complicate things more then they should be.This is why Sony went with GDDR5 it's a much simpler design that will streamline everything.This time around it will be MS with the more complicated console. Reply
  • Riseer - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    Also lets not forget you only have 32mb worth of ESRAM.At 1080p devs will push for more demanding effects.On Ps4 they have 8 gigs of ram that has around 70GB's more bandwidth.Since DDR3 isn't good for doing graphics,that only leaves 32mb of true Vram.That said Xbone can use the DDR3 ram for graphics,issue being DDR3 has low bandwidth.MS had no choice but to use ESRam to claw back some performance. Reply
  • CyanLite - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    I've been a long-term Xbox fan, but the silly Kinect requirement scares me. It's only a matter of time before somebody hacks that. And I'm a casual sit-down kind of gamer. Who wants to stand up and wave arm motions playing Call of Duty? Or shout multiple voice commands that are never recognized the first time around?

    If PS4 eliminates the camera requirement, get rids of the phone-home Internet connections, and lets me buy used games then I'm willing to reconsider my console loyalty.

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