It’s that time of decade again. Time for a new Xbox. It took four years for Microsoft to go from the original Xbox to the Xbox 360. The transition from Xbox 360 to the newly announced Xbox One will take right around 8 years, and the 360 won’t be going away anytime soon either. The console business demands long upgrade cycles in order to make early investments in hardware (often sold at a loss) worthwhile. This last round was much longer that it ever should have been, so the Xbox One arrives to a very welcoming crowd.

Yesterday Microsoft finally took the covers off the new Xbox, what it hopes will last for many years to come. At a high level here’s what we’re dealing with:

- 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU
- 12 CU/768 SP AMD GCN GPU
- 8GB DDR3 system memory
- 500GB HDD
- Blu-ray drive
- 2.4/5.0GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n, multiple radios with WiFi Direct support
- 4K HDMI in/out (for cable TV passthrough)
- USB 3.0
- Available later this year

While Microsoft was light on technical details, I believe we have enough to put together some decent analysis. Let’s get to it.

Chassis

The Xbox 360 was crafted during a time that seems so long ago. Consumer electronics styled in white were all the rage, we would be a few years away from the aluminum revolution that engulfs us today. Looking at the Xbox One tells us a lot about how things have changed.

Microsoft isn’t so obsessed with size here, at least initially. Wired reports that the Xbox One is larger than the outgoing 360, although it’s not clear whether we’re talking about the new slim or the original design. Either way, given what’s under the hood - skimping on cooling and ventilation isn’t a good thing.

The squared off design and glossy black chassis scream entertainment center. Microsoft isn’t playing for a position in your games cabinet, the Xbox One is just as much about consuming media as it is about playing games.

In its presentation Microsoft kept referencing how the world has changed. Smartphones, tablets, even internet connectivity are very different today than they were when the Xbox 360 launched in 2005. It’s what Microsoft didn’t mention that really seems to have played a role in its decision making behind the One: many critics didn’t see hope for another generation of high-end game consoles.

With so much of today focused on mobile, free to play and casual gaming on smartphones and tablets - would anyone even buy a next-generation console? For much of the past couple of years I’ve been going around meetings saying that before consolidation comes great expansion. I’ve been saying this about a number of markets, but I believe the phrase is very applicable to gaming. Casual gaming, the advent of free to play and even the current mobile revolution won’t do anything to the demand for high-end consoles today or in the near term - they simply expand the market for gamers. Eventually those types of games and gaming platforms will grow to the point where they start competing with one another and then the big console players might have an issue to worry about, but I suspect that’s still some time away. The depth offered by big gaming titles remains unmatched elsewhere. You can argue that many games are priced too high, but the Halo, BioShock, Mass Effect, CoD experience still drives a considerable portion of the market.

The fact that this debate is happening however has to have impacted Microsoft. Simply building a better Xbox 360 wasn’t going to guarantee success, and I suspect there were not insignificant numbers within the company who felt that even making the Xbox One as much of a gaming machine as it is would be a mistake. What resulted was a subtle pivot in strategy.

The Battle for the TV

Last year you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a rumor of Apple getting into the TV business. As of yet those rumors haven’t gone anywhere other than to point to continued investment in the Apple TV. Go back even further and Google had its own TV aspirations, although met with far less success. More recently, Intel threw its hat into the ring. I don’t know for sure how things have changed with the new CEO, but as far as I can tell he’s a rational man and things should proceed with Intel Media’s plans for an IPTV service. All of this is a round about way of saying that TV is clearly important and viewed by many as one of the next ecosystem battles in tech.

Combine the fact that TV is important, with the fact that the Xbox 360 has evolved into a Netflix box for many, add a dash of uncertainty for the future of high end gaming consoles and you end up with the formula behind the Xbox One. If the future doesn’t look bright for high-end gaming consoles, turning the Xbox into something much more than that will hopefully guarantee its presence in the living room. At least that’s what I suspect Microsoft’s thinking was going into the Xbox One. With that in mind, everything about the One makes a lot of sense.

CPU & GPU Hardware Analyzed
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  • Rogatti - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    If Sony allow Linux OS ... PS4 GO !

    Next generation of EyeToy...E3 2013 ?
    Reply
  • blacks329 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    They've already showed the next gen PS Eye and it was announced back in February that it would be shipping with every PS4 (just like Kinect) ... Sony needs better marketers lol. Reply
  • Majeed Belle - Sunday, September 8, 2013 - link

    All of you who are trying to use the "Sony will ship with the PSeye" thing is missing a very big point.

    The PSeye IS NOT required for ANY functionality. That's a big difference there big man.

    I personnaly don't give a damn about the eye or kinect I didn't use either of them last gen and I won't use either now. If you are going to try and make a though you should try to state ALL the facts. Not just the ones that you think will validate your argument.
    Reply
  • rasatouche - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Memory bandwidth is going to be a huge issue, no? I'm mean we've all seen the benchmarks when you get an AMD apu based X86 pc, and then you change the speed of the ram and you see 30 - 40% difference in FPS, on PC with all it's glorious overhead. In games GPU's are the deciding factor, and probably still will be for sometime, not to mention the PS4 will likely have a less intensive ram overhead for the OS to boot.

    What this is going to mean this gen IMO, is that sony's first party titles will probably look better, and third party games, and the 'ports' if you will, will be the reverse of last generation. I remember one of the main reasons I got a 360 was that it was the better console for 3rd party titles, they ran better, less texture popping & FPS dips / tearing, than the ps3 at the time. It will likely be the reverse this generation, seeing as games should be easier to get running optimally on the ps4, simply because it has more GPU. 50% more shaders in the GPU is nothing to sneeze at, to put it in PC performance terms, it's probably about the relative difference between a 660ti & a 680.
    Reply
  • elitewolverine - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    you might want to re-understand how the internals will work.

    ddr5 is great at bandwidth, something a video card needs, because its sharing large amounts of predetermined data, latency is not a real issue. DDR3, is used in pcs because its cheaper, but also because it has lower latency in general.

    You off load one of main things a gpu does, framebuffering, and ddr5 becomes a highly priced memory module.

    Don't forget, the x1 is carring a set of 2133 ddr3's, what you are talking about is people going from 1333 ddr3 to 1800 or 2133. Good thing the x1 already has 2133
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Could it be that 2 years down the line, MS or Sony could overclock the CPU part to something like 1.8GHz through a firmware update ? Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Why would they not launch at that speed then, since every single shipped PS4 would have to be validated for the higher speed first? Reply
  • WoodyPWX - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Sony is the winner here. The architecture is the same, so developers can easily tune some numbers (higher quality shaders, more particles, higher FPS, higher resolution etc) to get noticeably better results on the PS4. I would prefer PS4 as my next gaming device. Hopefully Sony will not screw up developer tools. Reply
  • kensa99 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    I prefer Xbox one too! I liked playing Xbox 360 games ever and even read many articles about it from Aneesoft Xbox 360 column. And now I will choose Xbox as my favorite game console. Reply
  • alex@1234 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    GPU is the most important factor in determining the console. PS4 holds the advantage here. Xbox one unless they change the GPU similar to PS4, I will not opt for it. Other than this the integration of TV, Internet is not necessary for most of the gamers. Still Xbox should change the GPU, otherwise it will lose. Reply

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