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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  • Ramon Zarat - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Seriously? LOD, rendering distance, anti-aliasing level, texture filtering level, post processing level, tessellation, shadows and every other conceivable GFX parameters can be turned up or down on the fly by ANY modern game engine. Even fluid and particles are now fully visualized and not fixed, prerendered object and so their level of complexity can be easily adjusted up of down.

    PS4 would be displaying GFX on high or very high and XB1 only on medium. Same identical textures, same number of polygons etc... The foundation would remain the same, but PS4 would display more complex scene at higher quality. You don't need 2 different sets of games to produce drastically different results, it's all built in the engine already. It's only a matter of processing power and the PS4 GPU and GDDR5 are just that, more powerful.

    The only real inherent limitation would be the number of items/accessories simultaneously on screen (trees, cars, spectators, chair, cup, book etc...) in a given scene that would fixed by the game developers and even then, they could build some flexibility into it to allow the more powerful system to display more stuff.
    Reply
  • Majeed Belle - Sunday, September 8, 2013 - link

    I don't think it will be just exclusives perse. If we think about what types of games both systems will get then we will see likely see better performance on the PS4 for games that are graphic intensive.

    Think about RTSs for example that tend to have tons of stuff happening on screen or something like Dungeon Defenders.

    Skyrim, Dragon's Age, Dragon's Dogma etc also all have tons of lighting and graphical effects going on at the same time that should see benefits from the difference in ram.

    Anyone who has played Dragon's Dogma on the PS3 and uses a Mystic Knight with 3 great cannons firing all at the same time has seen slowdown happen and that's because of the lower amount of ram. This should be a problem with the PS4.
    Reply
  • Majeed Belle - Sunday, September 8, 2013 - link

    -edit
    This SHOULDN'T be a problem with the PS4
    Reply
  • jeffkibuule - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    "Why didn't they just match X?" Because the design of these chips to have them tested, validated, and shipping on time is on the order of years, not weeks. Reply
  • dysonlu - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    "Finish off Sony" is a big overstatement considering that PS3 surpassed Xbox360 in some recent reports. Reply
  • FearfulSPARTAN - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I hate it when websites get info wrong or interpret it badly, sony matched shipped numbers not sales numbers. I fyou go to vgchartz you will see the xbox was still up around a million units last time I checked. Reply
  • blacks329 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I think when both systems are hovering around the same numbers and are off by 1 million. It's fairly negligible in the grand schemes of things. It's impressive for Sony how close they are, considering how colossally Sony screwed up early in this gen and started a year after the 360. Reply
  • beuwolf - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    You checked a long time ago then: http://www.vgchartz.com/ - they are equal. And that's despite Xbox having 1 extra year...

    If you look at the global year to date, then PS3 is outselling 360 by more than a million this last year.
    Reply
  • c1979h - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Kind of sorry for Sony, it took them that long to get even, remember they had Asia all to themselves. It also happens to be the biggest continent in the world. Reply
  • blacks329 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Biggest continent in the world doesn't mean anything. Their purchasing power pales in comparison to the US and Europe.

    Although their purchasing power is increasing, which is more beneficial for Sony in the long term, but even then it still pales in comparison to what the average North American can purchase.
    Reply

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