Power & Thermals

Microsoft made a point to focus on the Xbox One’s new power states during its introduction. Remember that when the Xbox 360 was introduced, power gating wasn’t present in any shipping CPU or GPU architectures. The Xbox One (and likely the PlayStation 4) can power gate unused CPU cores. AMD’s GCN architecture supports power gating, so I’d assume that parts of the GPU can be power gated as well. Dynamic frequency/voltage scaling is also supported. The result is that we should see a good dynamic range of power consumption on the Xbox One, compared to the Xbox 360’s more on/off nature.

AMD’s Jaguar is quite power efficient, capable of low single digit idle power so I would expect far lower idle power consumption than even the current slim Xbox 360 (50W would be easy, 20W should be doable for truly idle). Under heavy gaming load I’d expect to see higher power consumption than the current Xbox 360, but still less than the original 2005 Xbox 360.

Compared to the PlayStation 4, Microsoft should have the cooler running console under load. Fewer GPU ALUs and lower power memory don’t help with performance but do at least offer one side benefit.

OS
 

The Xbox One is powered by two independent OSes running on a custom version of Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor. Microsoft made the hypervisor very lightweight, and created hard partitions of system resources for the two OSes that run on top of it: the Xbox OS and the Windows kernel.

The Xbox OS is used to play games, while the Windows kernel effectively handles all apps (as well as things like some of the processing for Kinect inputs). Since both OSes are just VMs on the same hypervisor, they are both running simultaneously all of the time, enabling seamless switching between the two. With much faster hardware and more cores (8 vs 3 in the Xbox 360), Microsoft can likely dedicate Xbox 360-like CPU performance to the Windows kernel while running games without any negative performance impact. Transitioning in/out of a game should be very quick thanks to this architecture. It makes a ton of sense.

Similarly, you can now multitask with apps. Microsoft enabled Windows 8-like multitasking where you can snap an app to one side of the screen while watching a video or playing a game on the other.

The hard partitioning of resources would be nice to know more about. The easiest thing would be to dedicate a Jaguar compute module to each OS, but that might end up being overkill for the Windows kernel and insufficient for some gaming workloads. I suspect ~1GB of system memory ends up being carved off for Windows.

Kinect & New Controller
 

All Xbox One consoles will ship with a bundled Kinect sensor. Game console accessories generally don’t do all that well if they’re optional. Kinect seemed to be the exception to the rule, but Microsoft is very focused on Kinect being a part of the Xbox going forward so integration here makes sense.

The One’s introduction was done entirely via Kinect enabled voice and gesture controls. You can even wake the Xbox One from a sleep state using voice (say “Xbox on”), leveraging Kinect and good power gating at the silicon level. You can use large two-hand pinch and stretch gestures to quickly move in and out of the One’s home screen.

The Kinect sensor itself is one of 5 semi-custom silicon elements in the Xbox One - the other four are: SoC, PCH, Kinect IO chip and Blu-ray DSP (read: the end of optical drive based exploits). In the One’s Kinect implementation Microsoft goes from a 640 x 480 sensor to 1920 x 1080 (I’m assuming 1080p for the depth stream as well). The camera’s field of view was increased by 60%, allowing support for up to 6 recognized skeletons (compared to 2 in the original Kinect). Taller users can now get closer to the camera thanks to the larger FOV, similarly the sensor can be used in smaller rooms.

The Xbox One will also ship with a new redesigned wireless controller with vibrating triggers:

Thanks to Kinect's higher resolution and more sensitive camera, the console should be able to identify who is gaming and automatically pair the user to the controller.

TV
 

The Xbox One features a HDMI input for cable TV passthrough (from a cable box or some other tuner with HDMI out). Content passed through can be viewed with overlays from the Xbox or just as you would if the Xbox wasn’t present. Microsoft built its own electronic program guide that allows you to tune channels by name, not just channel number (e.g. say “Watch HBO”). The implementation looks pretty slick, and should hopefully keep you from having to switch inputs on your TV - the Xbox One should drive everything. Microsoft appears to be doing its best to merge legacy TV with the new world of buying/renting content via Xbox Live. It’s a smart move.

One area where Microsoft is being a bit more aggressive is in its work with the NFL. Microsoft demonstrated fantasy football integration while watching NFL passed through to the Xbox One.

Memory Subsystem Final Words
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  • THizzle7XU - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Ignite is only the name of their next gen game engine. Reply
  • cbrownx88 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Negative - they have an exclusive "launch on xbox FIRST" deal... No way EA would allow those franchises to be exclusive Reply
  • Friendly0Fire - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Ghosts only has timed exclusivity on DLC. The game will see simultaneous release on all platforms. Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    What are you smoking? It's news but not surprising that EA is dumping the Wii U, but the PS4? That would be insane. And in fact, such a thing has not happened.

    Same with COD:G. AQll of the ones you have mentioned are cross-platform.
    Reply
  • blacks329 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Here is what is exclusive regarding EA Sports titles and CoD Ghosts.

    X1 will receive the Ultimate Teams feature exclusively. They haven't mentioned what that is. But the games themselves will release simultaneously on 360, PS3, X1, PS4 (assuming the last two arrive before the sports title is released).

    X1 will receive the CoD Ghosts DLC pack first, before it is released on PS4. Similarly to how it has been with every release of COD this gen for the past few years. CoD Ghosts will release simultaneously on 360, PS3, X1 and PS4.
    Reply
  • Inteli - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I'm personally waiting to see someone strip Xbox OS from this and stick plain-old Windows on it. This might make a good HTPC without having to deal with any sort of specialized OS Reply
  • geniekid - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    That was one of the main draws of the PS3 until they removed the ability to run Linux on it. Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Already has the Metro part of plain Windows. Reply
  • epobirs - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    Why bother? You can build a mini-ITX HTPC using an AMD APU right now for less than the XO will likely cost at launch. I'm building a mini-ITX system right now that is thus far not breaking the bank. (To be fair, I got the Core i7-3770K for an unusually low price but I'd have settled for a low-power A10 model for about the same price and lower cost on the motherboard.) In fact, by taking it slow and gathering parts as deals come along, it has totaled remarkably little so far.

    I suspect Newegg has my phone bugged. Whenever I mention in a conversation not being able to find a good price on a particular needed item, I seem to get an email within hours with a sale on that item.
    Reply
  • Chad Boga - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Why didn't Microsoft simply match the PS4's GPU capabilities? If they had, surely they then could have finished off Sony for good.

    Now Sony has a chance to once again become the premier gaming console.

    Microsoft has got so much wrong in the last decade and it looks like this is just a continuation of these stuff ups.
    Reply

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