The ever shifting details of the Xbox One have had another layer of the informational onion peeled back in the last few days. This time it’s with the GPU, and it’s very much a positive for all involved.
Back at E3, rumours were abound that Microsoft was struggling to get high enough yields in manufacture, for the APU at the heart of the system. As a consequence of the ESRAM taking up a lot of space on the die, and various struggles to get this to manufacture as flawlessly as possible, there were suggestions that Microsoft would be forced to drop clock speeds in order to have more of the produced chips be usable in the console.
Previous informed speculation on Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry put the Xbox One’s GPU closest to the AMD Radeon 7790, whilst the PlayStation 4 trumps it with something akin to an AMD Radeon 7870. Both are then using AMD’s GCN core, but both have also made certain sacrifices, and have improved yields by accepting the loss of two of the cores on the chip and lowering the clock speeds.
To then have to make further sacrifices would have seriously hampered games already in development. Luckily for Microsoft, this issue sounds like it either never existed, as GAF eventually concluded, or has been resolved to more than satisfactory levels, as Microsoft Corporate Vice President Marc Whitten took to Major Nelson’s podcast, to talk about the system, as reported by Gamespot. This starts off at the 22:20 mark.
This is the time where we’ve gone from the theory of how the hardware works – what do we think the yield is going to look like, what is the thermal envelope, how do things come together – to really having them in our hands. […] It’s actually been really good news for us, and an example of that is we’ve tweaked up the clock speed on the GPU from 800MHz to 853MHz. Just an example of how you start landing the programme, as you get closer to launch.
A gain of 53MHz, or a 6.6% increase in speed, which pushes the GPU up from 1.23 TFLOPS to 1.31 TFLOPS, and a little bit closer to the PS4’s 1.84 TFLOPS. It might not sound like a big jump, but within a closed system like a games console, it could be the difference between having a locked 30Hz or 60Hz frame rate, and seeing it dip below that when the action picks up.
More good news for developers is that there are also improvements on the driver side, letting them get more performance out of the hardware available to them.
Since E3, an example is that we’ve dropped in what we internally call our mono driver. It’s our graphics driver that really is 100 percent optimised for the Xbox One hardware. You know, you sort of start with the base [DirectX] driver, and then you take out all parts that don’t look like Xbox One and you add in everything that really, really optimises that experience. Almost all of our content partners have really picked it up now, and it’s really, I think made a really nice improvement.
Finally, a little tidbit from a couple weeks ago, which is great news for end users who like to upload games to youtube. Whilst the Xbox One has the capacity to hold a 5 minute buffer, it will also provide unencrypted video of games, over the HDMI port. This means that current capture cards which work with the Xbox 360, will continue to work on the Xbox One.
This only applies to gameplay, whilst other content, such as streaming movies and pass-through TV, is going to be encrypted, depending on the DRM the provider has chosen. However, this is still a sight better than the PS4 is looking to be, as the PS3 currently has HDCP encryption on all HDMI output, and this is likely to continue on the PS4, without the Component output as a backup.
— Digital Foundry (@digitalfoundry) July 22, 2013