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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  • Shawn74 - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - link

    Custom CPU (6 operations per clock compared to the 4 of PS4) and now overclocked.
    GPU (now overclocked)
    eSram (ultra fast memory with extremely low access time, we will see it's real function soon)
    DDR3 (extremely fast access time memory)
    Maybe this combination may become a nightmare for the PS4 owners?? xD
    Yes, i really think YES.

    And please don't forget the new pulse triggers (apparently fantastic and a must have for a completely-new experience)

    YES, my final decision is for the ONE
  • Shad0w59 - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    I don't really trust Microsoft with all that overclocking after Xbox 360's high failure rate. Reply
  • Shawn74 - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    Shadow, have you seen the cooling system? It's giant..
    Have you seen the case? It's giant..(a lot of fresh air inside ;-)
    Have you seen the Xbox One will detect heat, power down to avoid meltdown?
    And the very heat power supply is outside.....

    A perfect system for overclocking.... obviously for me....

    Ah, for my first message here a reply to PS4 team made directly by Albert Penello (Microsoft Director of Product Planning):

    I see my statements the other day caused more of a stir than I had intended. I saw threads locking down as fast as they pop up, so I apologize for the delayed response.

    I was hoping my comments would lead the discussion to be more about the games (and the fact that games on both systems look great) as a sign of my point about performance, but unfortunately I saw more discussion of my credibility.

    So I thought I would add more detail to what I said the other day, that perhaps people can debate those individual merits instead of making personal attacks. This should hopefully dismiss the notion I'm simply creating FUD or spin.

    I do want to be super clear: I'm not disparaging Sony. I'm not trying to diminish them, or their launch or what they have said. But I do need to draw comparisons since I am trying to explain that the way people are calculating the differences between the two machines isn't completely accurate. I think I've been upfront I have nothing but respect for those guys, but I'm not a fan of the mis-information about our performance.

    So, here are couple of points about some of the individual parts for people to consider:

    • 18 CU's vs. 12 CU's =/= 50% more performance. Multi-core processors have inherent inefficiency with more CU's, so it's simply incorrect to say 50% more GPU.
    • Adding to that, each of our CU's is running 6% faster. It's not simply a 6% clock speed increase overall.
    • We have more memory bandwidth. 176gb/sec is peak on paper for GDDR5. Our peak on paper is 272gb/sec. (68gb/sec DDR3 + 204gb/sec on ESRAM). ESRAM can do read/write cycles simultaneously so I see this number mis-quoted.
    • We have at least 10% more CPU. Not only a faster processor, but a better audio chip also offloading CPU cycles.
    • We understand GPGPU and its importance very well. Microsoft invented Direct Compute, and have been using GPGPU in a shipping product since 2010 - it's called Kinect.
    • Speaking of GPGPU - we have 3X the coherent bandwidth for GPGPU at 30gb/sec which significantly improves our ability for the CPU to efficiently read data generated by the GPU.

    Hopefully with some of those more specific points people will understand where we have reduced bottlenecks in the system. I'm sure this will get debated endlessly but at least you can see I'm backing up my points.

    I still I believe that we get little credit for the fact that, as a SW company, the people designing our system are some of the smartest graphics engineers around – they understand how to architect and balance a system for graphics performance. Each company has their strengths, and I feel that our strength is overlooked when evaluating both boxes.

    Given this continued belief of a significant gap, we're working with our most senior graphics and silicon engineers to get into more depth on this topic. They will be more credible then I am, and can talk in detail about some of the benchmarking we've done and how we balanced our system.

    Thanks again for letting my participate. Hope this gives people more background on my claims.

    Once again i would like to warn PS4 fan........Everytime Sony announced a new console, Sony have publicized it as the most powerful.... every time Xbox does the job better....

    In my opinion

    P.S. Sorry for my bad english, i'm italian
  • Shawn74 - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    Penello's post is here:
  • tipoo - Saturday, September 21, 2013 - link

    Regarding the eDRAM, it's now known not to be an automatically managed cache, from developer comments about having to code specifically to use it. Reply

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