With the June 2022 update to the Xbox Game Development Kit (GDK), Microsoft has made some changes that will boost memory performance on Xbox Series consoles, and particularly on Xbox Series S, where they’ve been able to free up more RAM space for them to use.
As spotted by The Verge, the June 2022 GDK highlighted some of the key improvements that Microsoft had made to their tools for developers. The video presentation explains that “Additional memory is available for Xbox Series S consoles. Hundreds of additional MB of memory are now available to Xbox Series S developers […] which could improve graphics performance in memory constrained conditions.”
Beyond that, Microsoft has identified and fixed an issue with how memory is allocated for graphics tasks, the virtual addresses were being handed out “considerably slower” than non-graphics addresses. This applies across both Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, and could help with cross-platform games where the Series X has occasionally had slightly worse performance than the PlayStation 5, despite having more raw power.
While the Xbox Series S comes with 10GB of memory, it’s an atypical configuration which could be a contributing factor toward games with mediocre performance and visual settings on the device – remember, Microsoft originally pitched it as a 1440p machine, but many games have targeted 1080p instead with dynamic resolutions. The 10GB is split into 8GB that runs at 224 GB/s and 2GB that runs at just 56 GB/s – this is actually slower than the DDR3 memory of the base Xbox One, and 1/10th of the speed of the fastest RAM in the Xbox Series X.
Of course, not all of that memory can be used by games, with modern consoles all having background tasks like voice chat, video capture, background updates and more to handle, as well as needing to be able to call up system menus almost instantly. To date, the Series S has provided the 8GB of memory for games to use, most likely all from the faster speed 8GB pool. If Microsoft has managed to optimise the system to give more RAM to developers, then it will be from the slower 2GB pool of memory. Now, while that won’t directly be useful for memory intensive parts of a game engine, what it can do is be a new home for less memory intensive tasks, freeing up a little more of the faster RAM.
Combined, this should help developers make better use of the Xbox Series S, and comes at an important time in the generation as developers are starting to drop support for the last generation machines. This will make the Xbox Series S the lowest powered console many developers are working on, and they should have more resources to devote to optimising for the platform, and now a slightly easier time of it as well.