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
POST A COMMENT

244 Comments

View All Comments

  • 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? http://www.vg247.com/2013/08/13/xbox-one-will-dete...
    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
    Reply
  • Shawn74 - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    Penello's post is here:
    http://67.227.255.239/forum/showthread.php?p=80951...
    Reply
  • 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

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now