It’s that time of decade again. Time for a new Xbox. It took four years for Microsoft to go from the original Xbox to the Xbox 360. The transition from Xbox 360 to the newly announced Xbox One will take right around 8 years, and the 360 won’t be going away anytime soon either. The console business demands long upgrade cycles in order to make early investments in hardware (often sold at a loss) worthwhile. This last round was much longer that it ever should have been, so the Xbox One arrives to a very welcoming crowd.

Yesterday Microsoft finally took the covers off the new Xbox, what it hopes will last for many years to come. At a high level here’s what we’re dealing with:

- 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU
- 12 CU/768 SP AMD GCN GPU
- 8GB DDR3 system memory
- 500GB HDD
- Blu-ray drive
- 2.4/5.0GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n, multiple radios with WiFi Direct support
- 4K HDMI in/out (for cable TV passthrough)
- USB 3.0
- Available later this year

While Microsoft was light on technical details, I believe we have enough to put together some decent analysis. Let’s get to it.

Chassis

The Xbox 360 was crafted during a time that seems so long ago. Consumer electronics styled in white were all the rage, we would be a few years away from the aluminum revolution that engulfs us today. Looking at the Xbox One tells us a lot about how things have changed.

Microsoft isn’t so obsessed with size here, at least initially. Wired reports that the Xbox One is larger than the outgoing 360, although it’s not clear whether we’re talking about the new slim or the original design. Either way, given what’s under the hood - skimping on cooling and ventilation isn’t a good thing.

The squared off design and glossy black chassis scream entertainment center. Microsoft isn’t playing for a position in your games cabinet, the Xbox One is just as much about consuming media as it is about playing games.

In its presentation Microsoft kept referencing how the world has changed. Smartphones, tablets, even internet connectivity are very different today than they were when the Xbox 360 launched in 2005. It’s what Microsoft didn’t mention that really seems to have played a role in its decision making behind the One: many critics didn’t see hope for another generation of high-end game consoles.

With so much of today focused on mobile, free to play and casual gaming on smartphones and tablets - would anyone even buy a next-generation console? For much of the past couple of years I’ve been going around meetings saying that before consolidation comes great expansion. I’ve been saying this about a number of markets, but I believe the phrase is very applicable to gaming. Casual gaming, the advent of free to play and even the current mobile revolution won’t do anything to the demand for high-end consoles today or in the near term - they simply expand the market for gamers. Eventually those types of games and gaming platforms will grow to the point where they start competing with one another and then the big console players might have an issue to worry about, but I suspect that’s still some time away. The depth offered by big gaming titles remains unmatched elsewhere. You can argue that many games are priced too high, but the Halo, BioShock, Mass Effect, CoD experience still drives a considerable portion of the market.

The fact that this debate is happening however has to have impacted Microsoft. Simply building a better Xbox 360 wasn’t going to guarantee success, and I suspect there were not insignificant numbers within the company who felt that even making the Xbox One as much of a gaming machine as it is would be a mistake. What resulted was a subtle pivot in strategy.

The Battle for the TV

Last year you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a rumor of Apple getting into the TV business. As of yet those rumors haven’t gone anywhere other than to point to continued investment in the Apple TV. Go back even further and Google had its own TV aspirations, although met with far less success. More recently, Intel threw its hat into the ring. I don’t know for sure how things have changed with the new CEO, but as far as I can tell he’s a rational man and things should proceed with Intel Media’s plans for an IPTV service. All of this is a round about way of saying that TV is clearly important and viewed by many as one of the next ecosystem battles in tech.

Combine the fact that TV is important, with the fact that the Xbox 360 has evolved into a Netflix box for many, add a dash of uncertainty for the future of high end gaming consoles and you end up with the formula behind the Xbox One. If the future doesn’t look bright for high-end gaming consoles, turning the Xbox into something much more than that will hopefully guarantee its presence in the living room. At least that’s what I suspect Microsoft’s thinking was going into the Xbox One. With that in mind, everything about the One makes a lot of sense.

CPU & GPU Hardware Analyzed
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  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - link

    Do you mean HUMA by any chance? Yes, both would have that. Reply
  • Buccomatic - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    xbox one - everything we don't want in a video game console, except the controller.
    ps3 - everything we do want in a video game console, except the controller.

    that's how i see it.
    Reply
  • Buccomatic - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    can anyone tell me if the following statement is correct or incorrect?

    pc games will be ports from the games made for consoles. both consoles (xbox one and ps4) will have 5gb vram in their gpu. so that means the system requirements for pc games, as early as december when they start porting games over from the consoles to pc, will require a pc gamer to have a video card of at least 5gb vram, or more, just to run the game.

    ?

    yes or no and why?
    Reply
  • fteoath64 - Monday, June 10, 2013 - link

    Before the hardware is released and analysed, we have no idea how much of the PS4 GDDR5 ram is going to be shared and/or dedicated for gpu use and how much of those are going to be available to user data. It is anyone's guess at this stage. But the improvements in hUMA design with dual ported frame buffer for gpu and cpu makes it a rather quick gpu by PC standards. Since only one game is loaded at a time, there can be shared memory reconfiguration going on just before the game loading so it can depend on the game and how much ram it can grab. The cpu counts very little in the process and it is why it can be clocked at 1.6Ghz rather than storming at 3.6Ghz as in Trinity chips. Still with faster gpu and globs of ram now, there is certainly greater leeway in the development process and optimizing process for game developers. One can assume at 3X the Trinity gpu core counts, the PS4 must be at least 2.5X the speed of Trinity gpus since those ran at 900Mhz. With good cooling, the PS4 could well clock their gpu cores at 1.2Ghz since Intel is going 1.3Ghz on the GT3 core. Reply
  • SnOOziie - Sunday, June 02, 2013 - link

    Looking at the motherboard they have use solder balls on CPU to BGA it's going to RROD Reply
  • Wolfpup - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    This has never been an easier choice-Microsoft doesn't let you buy games, Sony does, and their system is 50% more powerful, more focused on games, while Microsoft's off doing yet more Kinnect. Reply
  • SirGCal - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    YUP, and as a cripple, what good is flailing my arms about and hopping around like a retard going to do me? Kinetic is about the dumbest thing I've seen people use. Accept for work-out stuff and kids stuff sure, makes sense. But then now they give those in the dial-up and cellular internet locations the finger and say 'stick with the 360' when they know damn well developers won't make games for it within a year... Morons. I'm done with M$. If I do get a new console, it will be the PS4. Besides, I've always loved the Kingdom Hearts series more then any others... Reply
  • NoKidding - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    i am glad that these consoles have finally seen the light of day. though a bit underpowered compared to an average mid range rig, at least game developers will be forced to utilized each and every available core at such low clock rates on these consoles. heavily threaded games will finally be the norm and not just a mere exception. if the playing field no longer relies heavily on ipc advantages, will amd's "more cores but cheaper" strategy finally catch intel's superior ipc advantage? will amd finally reclaim the low to mid range market? no, not likely. but one can hope so. i yearn for the good old c2d days when intel was forced to pull all the stops. Reply
  • kondor999 - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Who gives a shit about heat and power consumption in a console? Both machines are miserly, and they're not notebooks for Gods sake. Looks like MS simply cheaped out to me. Letting them off the hook by pointing out the tiny heat/power savings as a "benefit" is a real reach. By this logic, why not just cut the compute power even more?

    No thanks.
    Reply
  • Shawn74 - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - link

    mmmmm....
    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
    Reply

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