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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  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I think it's so that they can bundle Kinect at a competitive cost. Reply
  • geniekid - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    As alluded to in the article, only PS4 exclusives are likely to take advantage of the additional processing power. Most developers will probably use the same textures/lighting/etc. on both platforms to lower porting costs so you'd never see an improvement.

    I think they were correct to focus more on the Kinect 2.
    Reply
  • dysonlu - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    It's not difficult at all to include different levels of textures and ligthing. As we all know, the PC games makers have been doing that for years. And these news consoles are nothing but PCs. Reply
  • Flunk - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Frankly, even if they don't program for it, it means that everything will run just a little smoother on the PS4. I'm now leaning toward the PS4 to replace my 360. If they go the same pay for multiplayer route they did this generation it will cement my decision. Reply
  • Voldenuit - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    The reality is that games are never fully optimized for any hardware configuration, so even if PS4 users never see higher res textures or higher poly models, having 50% (!!!) more GPU power means they will see smoother framerates with less dips.

    I'd take that over some Big Brother contraption in my living room (Kinect) that will be broken into by creepy hackers trying to spy on teenage girls. Or I would, if I were buying a console, which still hasn't been decided (cost/affordability rather than any ideological divides).
    Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Exactly.

    Of course Move wasn't better given that a camera was used for that too...
    Reply
  • Ramon Zarat - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Sony's cam is not required to be plugged in for the rest of the console to work . XB1, yes. No Kinect, no console, period.

    Sony's cam are not hooked to an always-on console. I could be offline forever if I want and the console would still work, and it would be impossible to hack if it's not online. If your XB1 is off the net for more than 24H, no console, period

    Sony's cam can actually be turned off, and I mean completely off. XB1, no. It's on, even when everything else is off. Just in case you are too lazy to just get out of the couch and press power on on your console, your Kinect is always on to accept your voice command.

    Always-online console + always-on cam and mic and no way to shut any of those thing off = sooner than later some Chinese hackers WILL record you f*cking your wife on that couch and blackmail you for some money threatening you to post that video on YouTube.

    I just seriously can't way for this to happen! :)
    Reply
  • blacks329 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    FYI The new PS Eye (Kinect like Camera) will be included in every PS4 box. This was confirmed in February. Whether it is required to be plugged in like the X1 remains to be seen, but I wouldn't be surprised. Reply
  • piiman - Saturday, June 22, 2013 - link

    "I'd take that over some Big Brother contraption in my living room (Kinect) that will be broken into by creepy hackers trying to spy on teenage girls"

    Paranoid much?
    Just place something in front of the camera if you’re really that worried.
    Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Rather the opposite -- any engine-licensed game will take advantage of additional processing power and/or have way better framerates. Reply

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