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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  • xaml - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    If every third Xbox 360 user had to get at least one repaired and after that died, bought a new one until finally salvaged by the 'Slim'...
  • Niabureth - Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - link

    And just how do you expect them to do that? Decisions on what hardware to use was made a lot earlier than Sony's PS4 presentation, meaning that train has already left the station. I'm guessing AMD is massproducing the hardware by now. Mircosoft: Oh we saw that Sony is going for a much more powerful architecture and we don't want any of the million of APU's u've just produced for us!
  • JDG1980 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    If AMD is using Jaguar here, isn't that basically an admission that Bulldozer/Piledriver is junk, at least for gaming/desktop usage? Why don't they use a scaled-up Jaguar in their desktop APUs instead of Piledriver? The only thing Bulldozer/Piledriver seems to be good for is very heavily threaded loads - i.e. servers. Most desktop users are well served by even 4 cores, and it looks like they've already scaled Jaguar to 8. And AMD is getting absolutely killed on the IPC front on the desktop - if Jaguar is a step in the right direction then by all means it should be taken. BD/PD is a sunk cost, it should be written off, or restricted to Opterons only.
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Too big.
  • Slaimus - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Bulldozer/Piledriver needs SOI. Steamroller is not ready yet, and it is not portable outside of Globalfoundries gate-first 28nm architecture. Jaguar is bulk 28nm and gate-last, which can be made by TSMC in large quantities at lower cost per wafer.
  • JDG1980 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    All the more reason for AMD to switch to Jaguar in their mass-market CPUs and APUs.
    I'd be willing to bet money that a 4-core Jaguar clocked up to 3 GHz would handily beat a 4-module ("8-core") Piledriver clocked to 4 GHz. BD/PD is AMD's Netburst, a total FAIL of an architecture that needs to be dropped before it takes the whole company down with it.
  • Exophase - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Jaguar can't be clocked at 3GHz - 2GHz is closer to the hard limit as far as we currently know. It's clock limited by design, just look at the clock latency of FPU operations. IPC is at best similar to Piledriver (in practice probably a little worse), so in tasks heavily limited by single threaded performance Jaguar will do much worse. Consoles can bear limited single threaded performance to some extent but PCs can't.
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    It's effectively a low-power optimised Athlon 64 with added bits, so it's not going to scale any higher than Phenom did. That already ran out of steam on the desktop. Bulldozer/Piledriver may not have been the knockout blow AMD needed but they're scaling better than die-shrinking the same architecture yet again would have.
  • JDG1980 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Bobcat/Jaguar is a new architecture specifically designed for low-power usage. It's not the same as the K10 design, though it wouldn't surprise me if they did share some parts.
    And even just keeping K10 with tweaks and die-shrinks would have worked better on the desktop than the Faildozer series. Phenom II X6 1100T was made on an outdated 45nm process, and still beat the top 32nm Bulldozer in most benchmarks. A die-shrink to 28nm would not only be much cheaper to manufacture per chip than Bulldozer/Piledriver, but would perform better as well. It's only pride and the refusal to admit sunk costs that has kept AMD on their trail of fail.
  • kyuu - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    That's a nice bit of FUD there. K10 had pretty much been pushed as far as it was going to go. Die-shrinking and tweaking it was not going to cut it. AMD needed a new architecture.

    Piledriver already handily surpasses K10 in every metric, including single-threaded performance.

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