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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  • novastar78 - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    I'm curious to see what feature sets each of these GPU's has. These are not the run of the mill APU's that you can buy at the store. These are both custom SoC's and it's my understanding that they may even be from different generations (7000 vs. 8000), similar to how the PS3's RSX was from the 7900 era and the Xenos was around the R600 era (Unified Architecture). Although this would be a much smaller difference here being the same make (AMD) and similar model (GCN).

    In the end simply measuring CU's may not be enough to determine the true power/quality of the two GPU's.

    We may never know as I highly doubt they will easily divulge this info for fear of the outcry (especially from M$ standpoint).

    Still i'm very curious...
  • epobirs - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    "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."

    I would disagree. You won't see compatibility with existing Xbox discs but I very much expect a line of original Xbox titles to be offered as download purchases on the new machine. If Nintendo thinks $5 for an NES game running ont he Wii U is reasonable, Microsoft should able to make some good coin on a core set of two or three dozen Xbox titles at $10 each.

    As for the 360 library, those should start turning up in HD (well, HD-ier) remakes in about four years as the market ripens for bringing those item back into circulation. This has worked very well for adding value to the PS3 with HD remake collections of PS2 hits. Given the right tools, reworking old IP can be very cost effective.

    Some of the best original Xbox titles might get native remakes. We've already had Halo Anniversary and I wouldn't be surprised to see a Halo 2 Anniversary turn up for Xbox One. Jade Empire and the Knights of the Old Republic games may be worth the investment.
  • RedavutstuvadeR - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    Anand Lal Shimpi why did you not mention any thing about the four move engines in the Xbox one and the capabilities of the cloud quadrupling the Xbox ones power
  • RedavutstuvadeR - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    a link to cloud power of XB1
  • tipoo - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    iirc the PS4 had similar hardware blocks to the Move engines, just no fancy branding? And the cloud compute thing is a future theoretical, I'll factor it in when it's actually shown to work well. It can't be used for any latency sensitive calculations of course.
  • slickr - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link
  • jmr99 - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    The Xbox 1 (aka PS4 Mini aka PS4 Lite) sure is a colossal disappointment. Microsoft are trying to cut costs and save money in order to create the biggest gap they can btwn selling price and production cost. In other words, the Apple approach: rape your customers. Kudos to Sony for 1152 cores and gddr5.
  • croc123 - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    Interesting article in my 'local' rag this AM...
  • JimF2 - Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - link

    I won't buy any console that needs an internet connection. It is a huge privacy risk to have a console with a camera that connects to the internet. A console that connects to the internet once per day or once per week has the same privacy risk as a console with an always-on connection.

    Gamers should boycott Xbox One so the console manufacturers get the message that we won't accept a required internet connection. If a physical disk is inserted in the console, no internet connection should be needed to prevent piracy. The console manufacturers just have to develop a proprietary disk format that can't be copied by Windows, Mac or Linux. It would be fine if gamers who don't want to put a physical disk in the console to prove they own the game are required to have an internet connection. That way, if a gamer wants to prevent game companies from spying on them, they would just swap disks when switching games. If a gamer uses LIVE or they want the convenience of not needing to swap disks, they would provide an internet connection.
  • TheEvilBlight - Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - link

    The PS4's PS3 games are allegedly coming via GaiKai. I'm curious what MS will do for the old stable of games. I wonder if it would be too much to implement other VM's for the Xbox and the Xbox 360; though a VM on an x86 running PPC is likely to suffer severe penalties. It's either state or gaming from the cloud.

    Alternatively, developers will recompile some of the "best hits" on the 360 and re-release for the Xbox One. I wonder how that would work with the Halo series, but having Gears of War on a faster machine might be fun.

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