CPU & GPU Hardware Analyzed

Although Microsoft did its best to minimize AMD’s role in all of this, the Xbox One features a semi-custom 28nm APU designed with AMD. If this sounds familiar it’s because the strategy is very similar to what Sony employed for the PS4’s silicon.

The phrase semi-custom comes from the fact that AMD is leveraging much of its already developed IP for the SoC. On the CPU front we have two Jaguar compute units, each one with four independent processor cores and a shared 2MB L2 cache. The combination of the two give the Xbox One its 8-core CPU. This is the same basic layout of the PS4‘s SoC.

If you’re not familiar with it, Jaguar is the follow-on to AMD’s Bobcat core - think of it as AMD’s answer to the Intel Atom. Jaguar is a 2-issue OoO architecture, but with roughly 20% higher IPC than Bobcat thanks to a number of tweaks. In ARM terms we’re talking about something that’s faster than a Cortex A15. I expect Jaguar to be close but likely fall behind Intel’s Silvermont, at least at the highest shipping frequencies. Jaguar is the foundation of AMD’s Kabini and Temash APUs, where it will ship first. I’ll have a deeper architectural look at Jaguar later this week. Update: It's live!

Inside the Xbox One, courtesy Wired

There’s no word on clock speed, but Jaguar at 28nm is good for up to 2GHz depending on thermal headroom. Current rumors point to both the PS4 and Xbox One running their Jaguar cores at 1.6GHz, which sounds about right. In terms of TDP, on the CPU side you’re likely looking at 30W with all cores fully loaded.

The move away from PowerPC to 64-bit x86 cores means the One breaks backwards compatibility with all Xbox 360 titles. Microsoft won’t be pursuing any sort of a backwards compatibility strategy, although if a game developer wanted to it could port an older title to the new console. Interestingly enough, the first Xbox was also an x86 design - from a hardware/ISA standpoint the new Xbox One is backwards compatible with its grandfather, although Microsoft would have to enable that as a feature in software - something that’s quite unlikely.

Microsoft Xbox One vs. Sony PlayStation 4 Spec comparison
  Xbox 360 Xbox One PlayStation 4
CPU Cores/Threads 3/6 8/8 8/8
CPU Frequency 3.2GHz 1.6GHz (est) 1.6GHz (est)
CPU µArch IBM PowerPC AMD Jaguar AMD Jaguar
Shared L2 Cache 1MB 2 x 2MB 2 x 2MB
GPU Cores   768 1152
Peak Shader Throughput 0.24 TFLOPS 1.23 TFLOPS 1.84 TFLOPS
Embedded Memory 10MB eDRAM 32MB eSRAM -
Embedded Memory Bandwidth 32GB/s 102GB/s -
System Memory 512MB 1400MHz GDDR3 8GB 2133MHz DDR3 8GB 5500MHz GDDR5
System Memory Bus 128-bits 256-bits 256-bits
System Memory Bandwidth 22.4 GB/s 68.3 GB/s 176.0 GB/s
Manufacturing Process   28nm 28nm

On the graphics side it’s once again obvious that Microsoft and Sony are shopping at the same store as the Xbox One’s SoC integrates an AMD GCN based GPU. Here’s where things start to get a bit controversial. Sony opted for an 18 Compute Unit GCN configuration, totaling 1152 shader processors/cores/ALUs. Microsoft went for a far smaller configuration: 768 (12 CUs).

Microsoft can’t make up the difference in clock speed alone (AMD’s GCN seems to top out around 1GHz on 28nm), and based on current leaks it looks like both MS and Sony are running their GPUs at the same 800MHz clock. The result is a 33% reduction in compute power, from 1.84 TFLOPs in the PS4 to 1.23 TFLOPs in the Xbox One. We’re still talking about over 5x the peak theoretical shader performance of the Xbox 360, likely even more given increases in efficiency thanks to AMD’s scalar GCN architecture (MS quotes up to 8x better GPU performance) - but there’s no escaping the fact that Microsoft has given the Xbox One less GPU hardware than Sony gave the PlayStation 4. Note that unlike the Xbox 360 vs. PS3 era, Sony's hardware advantage here won't need any clever developer work to extract - the architectures are near identical, Sony just has more resources available to use.

Remember all of my talk earlier about a slight pivot in strategy? Microsoft seems to believe that throwing as much power as possible at the next Xbox wasn’t the key to success and its silicon choices reflect that.

Introduction Memory Subsystem


View All Comments

  • Krysto - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Seems like Sony has a winner here in terms of hardware and developer support, too.

    Any idea if PS4 does indeed use the full OpenGL 4.3 as rumored? And is it based on some custom Linux OS?
  • powerarmour - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    PS4 will likely run some form of libGCM similar to the PS3, this is another area the PS4 may easily have the upper hand in, software overheads... Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    All pretty much expected on the hardware side of things. And I like it as well, as a non-console gamer (I bought an Xbox 360 for the Kinect to introduce my wife and larger family to gaming... it's mostly left unused, since our living room is on the small side and we need to rearrange a lot to play). The current high end PC should be able to run all the games developed for the consoles very well, which is good. There is less chance of getting rubbish ports since all 3 consoles are so similar. All positives for me as a PC gamer.
    For the software/entertainment side, that doesn't interest me in the least. The Xbox could never be my media hub because I have an A/V receiver for that, as I expect many people do. And all the software stuff, streaming etc. I have my doubts about everything trickling down to the German market as they envision it. Plus, I'm not a TV guy or a rent guy. I like to own my stuff as much as possible.
  • Silma - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    It seems to me that the Microsoft approach is Superior to the Sony one if One + Kinnect is priced competitively or at not too big a premium with the PS4.

    Sony has a history of hacker-friendly internet platforms and it is often in denial. Would I trust the Playstation Network? No way.

    If consoles become the center of the TV/Entertainment center, if people will really use the console as a Skype terminal or as today use the Kinnect to excercise then I think the Microsoft offering is the more attractive one and that its features will interest buyers more than to know that one console has more shader units than the other.

    In addition, it would not be difficult for Microsoft to extend the Platform with byod features such as Skydrive access, Office 365 and so forth.
  • jonjonjonj - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    this annoys the hell out of me. who cares about power. i want performance. i want my console or pc so power hungry it trips a breaker. its obvious everyone wants a kinect instead of a better gpu. right? tv on xbox is useless. so i dont have to hit the input button on my remote? seriously? its not like you get the service from ms. you have to pay for xbox live gold and be a paying cable customer. it offers absolutely nothing. i have 2 360's but i have no plan on my buying this garbage cable box i already have a dvr. ill take that $500+ and buy a 27" 1440p monitor and another video card for sli. ms already proved to me over the past 3 years they don't care about the core gamers anymore and this just reaffirms it. i hope this console fails so miserably. Reply
  • elitewolverine - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    because everyone wants a ps4eyetoy in their ps4 right? instead of a better gpu right?

    Oh wait...ps4 did the same thing.

    Everyone wants a camera with their laptop instead of a better cpu/gpu right? Oh wait...

    In my house hold finding the remote is an issue. Not because we forget but with 8 people in a home, each one grabbing at it at different times, this becomes an issue.

    You have a dvr? great, the xbox is not designed to replace it, in fact its already stated its working along side....any cable box.

    Why do people pay for TiVo? there is a service to be had, and its much better imo than comcasts dvr or the offering by Direct. I was skeptical about TiVo till my damn ex got me hooked on it.

    Not to mention how many times I have to tell my parents the channels of anything other than local news. Now they just have to say...hgtv, animal, history. They don't live with me, but they will be getting one. This is also a plus for me, as my kids don't have to worry about memorizing the channels, even though they do currently.

    Your mentality is what the losers of the tablet wars are facing...

    Why would people want a tablet? I have a laptop, pc, tv, ipod...the list goes on...

    Convenience and easy. This is what x1 is offering, along with cloud computing, dedicated servers, and games games games games
  • jonjonjonj - Tuesday, June 04, 2013 - link

    really? sony hasn't announced the pseye is going to be bundled with all ps4's. in fact there are links to sony videos that say "Playstation4 camera may be required and is sold separately". even if it is the ps4 has a 30% faster gpu then xbox so ms should have spent that kinect money on making the gpu more competitive. the 360 already showed kinect was a failure for gaming. unless you are a girl who wants to play dance central there is no reason to get a kinect. this is why bundling the kinect boggles my mind. it shows me ms either doesn't get it or doesn't care if the xbox is a gaming console.

    the best defense of xbox tv you can come up with is you constantly loose your remote? my remote is always in the room with the tv. not very hard to find.

    i know its not going to replace my dvr. that doesn't change the fact that i see zero benefit to using xbox and i still have to pay for my dvr. i forgot you can use voice commands and wave your hands around like an idiot. no thanks ill pass and stick to my remote.

    "games games games games"? i must have missed that part of the conference. when they announce their exclusives at e3 expect them to mostly be kinect and XBLA games not the non kinect AAA games everyone wants. just like they have over the last 3 years.

    i have a ipad and never use it. the only thing its good for is quickly checking email or watching a youtube video. beyond that my laptop or desktop is 10x faster and easier to use. people are buying tablets because it the cool thing to do and everyone already has multiple pc's and laptops. once everyone has a tablet sales will slow down.
  • BPB - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    It appears MS has dumped the WMC extender abilities. It's not a surprise, but I don't give two hoots about the DVR overlay. With my HTPC and extenders I save a lot of money not having a DVR. MS wants me to go back to a DVR, and I won't. Given all else it looks like PS4 for me with continued 360 gaming (which MS said will also get updated in some sort of way, won't know till E3 what that means). But pricing and other factors will be part of that equation too. Reply
  • elitewolverine - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    im surprised you hooked up an htpc, considering you have a hard time understanding works along side your cable/dvr via infared. Meaning when you tell it to change the channel it will do so, at your cable box/dvr/htpc. I can understand how something so simple can be confusing... Reply
  • BPB - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    Wow, can't wait till I'm all growed up like you! Then I too can be a jackass.

    I watched the MS presentation live, and have followed many of the MS follow-up discussions about Xbox One. They've mentioned working with cable companies like Comcast for TV overlay, but oddly enough they haven't mentioned working with HTPC's running their own Windows software. Then again maybe they too have a hard time figuring all this out. Please post your phone number or email so MS can contact you and you can set them straight.

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