Microsoft Confirms AMD Mantle Not Compatible with Xbox One

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 14, 2013 - 08:52 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, microsot, Mantle, dx11, amd

Microsoft posted a new blog on its Windows site that discusses some of the new features of the latest DirectX on Windows 8.1 and the upcoming Xbox One.  Of particular interest was a line that confirms what I have said all along about the much-hyped AMD Mantle low-level API: it is not compatible with Xbox One

We are very excited that with the launch of Xbox One, we can now bring the latest generation of Direct3D 11 to console. The Xbox One graphics API is “Direct3D 11.x” and the Xbox One hardware provides a superset of Direct3D 11.2 functionality. Other graphics APIs such as OpenGL and AMD’s Mantle are not available on Xbox One.

mantle.jpg

What does this mean for AMD?  Nothing really changes except some of the common online discussion about how easy it would now be for developers to convert games built for the console to the AMD-specific Mantle API.  AMD claims that Mantle offers a significant performance advantage over DirectX and OpenGL by giving developers that choose to implement support for it closer access to the hardware without much of the software overhead found in other APIs.

Josh summed it up in a recent editorial.

This is what Mantle does.  It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.  This lowers memory and CPU usage, it decreases latency, and because there are fewer “moving parts” AMD claims that they can do 9x the draw calls with Mantle as compared to DirectX.  This is a significant boost in overall efficiency.  Before everyone gets too excited, we will not see a 9x improvement in overall performance with every application.  A single HD 7790 running in Mantle is not going to power 3 x 1080P monitors in Eyefinity faster than a HD 7970 or GTX 780 (in Surround) running in DirectX.  Mantle shifts the bottleneck elsewhere.

I still believe that AMD Mantle could bring interesting benefits to the AMD Radeon graphics cards on the PC but I think this official statement from Microsoft will dampen some of the over excitement.

Also worth noting is this comment about the DX11 implementation on the Xbox One:

With Xbox One we have also made significant enhancements to the implementation of Direct3D 11, especially in the area of runtime overhead. The result is a very streamlined, “close to metal” level of runtime performance. In conjunction with the third generation PIX performance tool for Xbox One, developers can use Direct3D 11 to unlock the full performance potential of the console.

So while Windows and the upcoming Xbox One will share an API there will still be performance advantages for games on the console thanks to the nature of a static hardware configuration.

Source: Microsoft

Steam Family Sharing Is Different From Xbox One

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | September 11, 2013 - 08:31 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, valve, steam

I know there will be some comparison between the recent Steam Family Sharing announcement and what Microsoft proposed, to a flock of airborne tomatoes I might add, for the Xbox One. Steam integrates some level of copy discouragement by accounts which identify a catalog of content with an individual. This account, user name and password, tends to be more precious to the licensee than a physical disk or a nondescript blob of bits.

The point is not to prevent unauthorized copying, however; the point is to increase sales.

SteamRequestingAccess.jpg

Account information is used, not just for authentication, but to add value to the service. If you log in to your account from a friend's computer, you have access to your content and it can be installed to their machine. This is slightly more convenient, given a fast internet connection, than carrying a DRM-free game on physical storage (unless, of course, paid licenses are revoked or something). Soon, authorized friends will also be able to borrow your library when you are not using it if their devices are authorized by your account.

Microsoft has a similar authentication system through Xbox Live. The Xbox One also proposed a sharing feature with the caveat that all devices would need a small, few kilobyte, internet connection once every 24 hours.

The general public went mental.

The debate (debacle?) between online sharing and online restrictions saw fans of the idea point to the PC platform and how Steam has similar restrictions. Sure, Steam has an offline mode, but it is otherwise just as restrictive; Valve gets away with it, Microsoft should too!

It is true, Microsoft has a more difficult time with public relations than Valve does with Steam. However, like EA and their troubles with Origin, they have shown themselves to be less reliable than Valve over time. When a purchase is made on Steam, it has been kept available to the best of their abilities. Microsoft, on the other hand, bricked the multiplayer and online features of each and every original Xbox title. Microsoft did a terrible job explaining how the policy benefits customers, and that is declared reason for the backlash, but had they acquired trust from their customers over the years then this might have just blown over. Even still, I find Steam Family Sharing to be a completely different situation from what we just experienced in the console space.

So then, apart from banked good faith, what is the actual difference?

Steam is not the only place to get PC games!

Games could be purchased at retail or competing online services such as GoG.com. Customers who disagree with the Xbox One license have nowhere else to go. In the event that a game is available only with restrictive DRM, which many are, the publisher and/or developer holds responsibility. There is little stopping a game from being released, like The Witcher 3, DRM-free at launch and trusting the user to be ethical with their bits.

Unfortunately for Xbox Division, controlling the point of sale is how they expect to recover the subsidized hardware. Their certification and retail policies cannot be circumvented because that is their business model: lose some money acquiring customers who then have no choice but to give you money in return.

This is not the case on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is easy to confuse Steam with "PC Gaming", however, due to how common it is. They were early, they were compelling, but most of all they were consistent. Their trust was earned and, moreover, is not even required to enjoy the PC platform.

Source: Steam

Podcast #267 - Ivy Bridge-E i7-4960x, 4TB and Laptop WD Red drives, AMD's Processor Shift and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 5, 2013 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, x79, WD Red, WD, video, podcast, Ivy Bridge-E, haf stacker, cooler master, 4960x

PC Perspective Podcast #267 - 09/05/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the Ivy Bridge-E i7-4960x, 4TB and Laptop WD Red drives, AMD's Processor Shift and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:19:40

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

 

Microsoft Shows Off Xbox One SoC At Hot Chips 25

Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2013 - 11:22 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, SoC, microsoft, gaming, console, amd

At the Hot Chips conference earlier this week, Microsoft showed off several slides detailing the SoC used in its upcoming Xbox One gaming console.

The Xbox One uses a System on a Chip (SoC) designed by AMD’s Semi-Custom Business Unit. The processor features eight “Jaguar” AMD CPU cores, an AMD GCN (Graphics Core Next) based GPU with 768 shader cores, an audio co-processor, and 32MB of on-chip eSRAM.

The SoC, measuring 363mm^2 is manufactured on TSMC’s 28nm HPM process. The chip can interface with 8GB of DDR3 main memory with bandwidth of 68.3 GB/s or utilize the on-chip SRAM which has bandwidth of 102GB/s. The embedded SRAM is in addition to the smaller L1 and L2 caches. The slides indicate that the GPU and CPU can at least access the SRAM, though it still remains frustratingly unknown if the SoC supports anything like AMD’s hUMA technology which would allow the CPU and GPU to both read and write to the same memory address spaces without having to copy data between CPU and GPU-accessible memory space. It may be that the CPU and GPU can use the SRAM, but the same memory spaces can not be shared, though that may be the pessimist in me talking. On the other hand, there could be something more, but it’s impossible to say from the block diagram spotted by Semi-Accurate at the Microsoft presentation.

Microsoft Xbox One Gaming Console.png

With that said, the slides do reveal a few interesting figures about the SoC that were not known previously. The Xbox One SoC has 47MB of on-chip memory including 32MB eSRAM used by the CPU and GPU and 64KB of SRAM used by the audio co-processor. The chip’s GPU is rated for Microsoft’s DirectX 11.1 and above graphics API. Further, Microsoft rates the GPU at 1.31 TFLOPS, 41 Gigatexels-per-second, and 13.6 Gigapixels-per-second. Additionally, the GCN-based GPU is able to hardware-encode multi-stream H.264 AVC MVC video and hardware decode multiple formats, including H.264 MVC. The hardware encoder is likely being used for the console’s game capture functionality.

The audio processors in the Xbox One SoC use two 128-bit SIMD floating point vector cores rated at 15.4 GFLOPS and “specialized hardware engines” and “signal processing optimized vector and scalar cores.”

The final interesting specification I got from the slides was that the SoC is able to go into a low power state that is as low as 2.5% of the chip’s full power using power islands and clock gating techniques.

You can find all of the geeky details in these slides over at SemiAccurate.

Source: SemiAccurate

Podcast #266 - Corsair Air 540 Case, MSI GTX 780 Lightning, hUMA in the PS4, and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2013 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, video, ps4, podcast, msi, hUMA, hsa, gtx 780, corsair, case, amd, air 540, 780 lightning

PC Perspective Podcast #266 - 08/29/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the Corsair Air 540 Case, MSI GTX 780 Lightning, hUMA in the PS4, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Teitelman

Program length: 1:12:24

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Samsung 840 EVO pricing was definitely not kidding!
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

Just in case you forgot, console gamers are getting new toys

Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2013 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbone, ps4, gaming

Today we found out that the PlayStation 4 will be available in the US on November 15th and in the UK on the 29th.  In the US you can expect to pay $400 and across the pond it will run you £349.  Microsoft immediately followed, not by announcing their special day but by revealing a number of the games you will be able to play with hints of very similar release dates.  The Xbone will be more expensive, $500 US or £429 in the UK with pricing on additional controllers also available at The Inquirer.  In case you've forgotten the tech specs you can get a quick refresher here; I will likely still be addicted to Rome 2.

xbox-one-vs-ps4.jpg

"THE DUST IS SETTLING on the E3 games trade show keynotes and we are left picking through the facts given out about the Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox One consoles.

The good news is that both consoles cost a lot less than the £600 that Amazon had estimated."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: The Inquirer

Do Not Cite Just a Retail Website for Release Dates!

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 2, 2013 - 11:48 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, ps4

Toys "R" Us received attention by listing launch dates for both next generation consoles on their retail website. The Xbox One is rumored to launch on November 29th, which is Black Friday for North Americans, and the PlayStation 4 on December 13th. The two console manufacturers refused to confirm these dates.

Then, something odd happened: a Toys "R" Us spokesperson allegedly contacted BT Games to assert their listing was provided by vendors of Microsoft and Sony.

15-Kaz.jpg

You know, a giraffe has a long and easily accessible neck.

Most of the time, I cringe at placeholder information on store product pages. WiiU titles, prior to launch, were tagged with a list price of $99 at multiple sites; I have seen Unreal Tournament 2007 listed with a January 5th 2007 release date... and kept this incorrect date for, as I remember, about 6 months after it passed.

How many expected release dates have you seen for Duke Nukem Forever?

Even with the source, I cannot wrap my head around two Friday console launches. Tuesdays and Sundays have been more typical, I assume due to existing distribution for movies and games, which boggles me about why both would, independently, choose Friday.

I will remain skeptical until official word, or a leaked promotional image, confirms or denies this. My real point, I guess, is how retailers seem to have a policy of made-up placeholder dates and prices. Frankly, I tend to feel better citing an anonymous source.

Source: BT

Microsoft Offering Free 12-Month Xbox Live Gold Subscription To Yearly Office 365 Customers

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2013 - 02:21 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, productivity, outlook, office 365, microsoft, gaming, deals

Microsoft recently posted a new offer that seeks to sweeten the pot for customers interested in trying out the company’s Office 365 Home Premium subscription. Under the new promotional offer, users that purchase an annual Office 365 subscriptions will also receive a year of Xbox Live Gold for free. Not a bad deal, at all considering Office 365 Home Premium is $100 a year and Xbox Live Gold is $60 by itself.

Free 12 Month Xbox Live Gold Subscription With Office 365.png

The offer is eligible for customers in the United States who purchase a yearly subscription to Office 365 Home Premium. The promo runs from July 18, 2013 to September 28, 2013. That eligible version of Office 365 Home Premium normally includes a basic suite of Office applications for up to five PCs and five mobile devices, 20GB of additional SkyDrive storage, 60 Skype minutes (per month), and a web version of Office.

Office applications include:

  • Word 2013
  • Excel 2013
  • PowerPoint 2013
  • Outlook 2013
  • OneNote 2013
  • Access 2013
  • Publisher 2013

With the promo, users can get a year of XBL Gold as well. Once Office 365 has been purchased, users will need to activate the subscription and then log into Office.com/xbox (before October 31, 2013) with the same Microsoft account that purchased the subscription to get a code that can be redeemed on Xbox.com or the console itself for a year of XBL Gold which gives users access to streaming services and multi-player gaming for the company’s Xbox 360 (and presumably the upcoming Xbox One) gaming console.

To find the full list of terms and conditionss for the promo, head over to this FAQ page.

Source: Microsoft

Xbox Division has a Leader: Julie Larson-Green

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | July 15, 2013 - 02:09 AM |
Tagged: xbox, xbox one

Two weeks have passed since Steve Ballmer informed all Microsoft employees that Don Mattrick would disembark and pursue a career at Zynga for one reason or another. Initially, Ballmer himself was set to scab the void for an uncertain amount of time, further unsettling the upcoming Xbox One launch without a proper manager to oversee. His reign was cut short, best measured in days, when he appointed Julie Larson-Green as the head of Microsoft Devices and Studios.

... because a Christmas gift without ribbon would just be a box... one X box.

Larson_web.jpg

Of course the internet, then, erupted with anxiety: some reasonable concerns, even more (predictably) inane. Larson-Green has a long list of successfully shipped products to her name but, apart from the somewhat cop-out of Windows 7, nothing which resonates with gamers. Terrible sexism and similarly embarrassments boiled over the gaming community, but crazies will always be crazy, especially those adjacent to Xbox Live subscribers.

Operating Systems will be filled by Terry Myerson, who rose to power from the Windows Phone division. This could be a sign of things to come for Windows, particularly as Microsoft continues to push for convergence between x86, RT, and Phone. I would not be surprised to see continued pressure from Microsoft to ingrain Windows Store, and all of its certification pros and woes, into each of their operating systems.

As for Xbox, while Julie is very user experience (UX)-focused, division oversight passed to her long after its flagship product's lifetime high-level plans have been defined. If Windows 7 is any indication, she might not stray too far away from that which has been laid out prior her arrival; likewise, if Windows 8 is any indication, a drastically new direction could just spring without notice.

Source: Microsoft

Xbox Division Lead, Don Mattrick, Leaves to Join... Zynga? Steve Ballmer, Himself, Scabs the Void.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 2, 2013 - 03:33 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, microsoft, consolitis

Well that was unexpected...

Don Mattrick, a few months ahead of the Xbox One launch and less than two months after its unveiling, decided to leave his position at Microsoft as president of Interactive Entertainment Business. This news was first made official by a Zynga press release, which announced acquiring him as CEO. Steve Ballmer later published an open letter addressed all employees of Microsoft, open to the public via their news feed, wishing him luck and outlining the immediate steps to follow.

Mattrick.jpg

While subtle in the email, no replacement has been planned for after his departure on July 8th. Those who report to Don Mattrick will report directly to Steve Ballmer, himself, seemingly through the launch of Xbox One. As scary and unsettling as Xbox One PR has been lately, launching your flagship ship without a captain is a depressingly fitting apex. This would likely mean that either: Don gave minimal notice of his departure, he was being abruptly ousted from Microsoft and Zynga just happened to make convenient PR for all parties involved, or there is literally no sense to be made of the situation.

However the situation came about, Xbox One will likely launch from a team directly lead by Steve Ballmer and Zynga will have a new CEO. Will his goal be to turn the former social gaming giant back on course? Or will he be there to milk blood from the company before it turns to stone?

I wonder whether his new contract favors cash or stock...

Source: Zynga