Xbox One Xbox One Xbox One Xbox One X ...

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2017 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, console, gaming, xbox one x, model numbers gone wild

AMD will once again benefit from the launch of a new console, the Xbox One X is powered by eight Jaguar cores running at 2.3 GHz and 40 custom AMD CUs which run at 1172 MHz which will provide six teraflops of processing power.  Ars Technica took the new console for a spin and were quite impressed, in theory.  The XbOX does offer proper 4k HDR video output, assuming you have the TV for it, however most of the available games do not offer both so you might be somewhat disappointed with a title such as Halo3.  On the other hand, all games do look better on the X1X and perform quite well.  Drop by for a large number of screenshots comparing the Xbone to the XbxX and details on which games benefit the most from the new device.

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"When it comes to hard numbers, the Xbox One X definitely merits Microsoft’s marketing hype as “the most powerful console ever.” Microsoft has pulled out the stops in squeezing stronger components into the same basic architecture of the four-year-old Xbox One."

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Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft Now Supports Original Xbox Games On Xbox One

Subject: General Tech | October 25, 2017 - 08:33 PM |
Tagged: xbox one x, xbox one s, xbox one, xbox, upscaling, gaming, console, backwards compatible

Microsoft is adding original Xbox games to its backwards compatibility program with 13 games available now with more on the way in spring of next year. Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X owners will soon be able to play a curated selection of original Xbox games at higher resolutions and with improved color details.

Microsoft claims that original Xbox games will run with up to four times the pixel count on Xbox One (and One S) and up to 16 times the pixels on Xbox One X. Gamers will be able to use their original Xbox game disc to play or they can purchase the older titles in digital form from the Microsoft Store. Original features like co-op and System Link will work, but there is no Xbox Live service support which means online multiplayer will not work. Further, Microsoft notes that players will not earn any achievements when playing original Xbox games.

The first batch of original Xbox games includes:

  1. BLACK
  2. BloodRayne 2
  3. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
  4. Dead to Rights
  5. Fuzion Frenzy
  6. Grabbled by the Ghoulies
  7. King of Fighters Neowave
  8. Ninja Gaiden Black
  9. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  10. Psychonauts
  11. Red Faction II
  12. Sid Meier's Pirates!
  13. KOTOR (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

While I have not played most of those games, I played a ton of Red Faction II with my brother, and fondly remember KOTOR on the PC. The video above shows a comparison between the original KOTOR running on Xbox and the backwards compatible enhanced version of the game running on Xbox One, and the visual difference is impressive (still not as good as it can look on the PC with mods though heh) with the game being significantly sharper with deeper colors (the original Xbox game looks extremely blurry and washed out by comparison).

It is a small list currently, but there are some gems on the launch list, and I am interested to see how the games look running on the Xbox One X. Hopefully the frame rates and loading times can also be improved ;-). As an added bonus Microsoft also pointed out that Xbox Game Pass members can grab Ninja Gaiden Black for free.

Microsoft claims that gamers have spent 700 million hours playing the 400 backwards compatible Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. There is certainly interest and it seems Microsoft is watching the numbers carefully which will be important for gamers in getting the Redmond-based company to continue adding support for additional classics.

Also read:

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Details Upgrade Options For Xbox One X Including Network Transfer Of Games and Settings

Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2017 - 12:13 AM |
Tagged: xbox one x, xbox one, microsoft, console, 4k

Microsoft’s next generation Xbox One X gaming console is expected to launch on November 7th, 2017 and the Redmond-based company is making it as easy as possible to upgrade from current Xbox One and One S consoles. Specifically, Microsoft’s Xbox Program Management Corporate Vice President Mike Ybarra revealed that gamers would be able to prepare for the switch to the new console by downloading 4K game updates ahead of time and making the transfer process simple by using a wizard and either an external hard drive or network transfer to move console settings and game data over from their old console to the Xbox One X.

Xbox One X Network Transfer.png

So far, Microsoft has announced that approximately 100 games from its existing catalog will have 4K updates available including Halo 5, Halo Wars 2, Forza Motorspot 7, Fallout 4, NBA 2K18, Project Cars 2, Rocket League, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Gamers will be able to pre-load 4K updates for their existing games onto their Xbox One or Xbox One S console. Once the Xbox One X launches, gamers will be able to transfer and keep most of their Xbox settings to the new console along with apps, games, and game save data. The data can be transferred by hooking up an external hard drive or by connecting both gaming consoles to the same LAN and starting the home network transfer by adding both consoles to your Xbox home and copying what you want between consoles.

I am interested to see if the Xbox One X is really able to live up to the claims of 4K60 gaming as well as the promised supersampling and anti-aliasing for gamers playing on 1080p displays (including older backwards compatible Xbox and Xbox 360 titles).

Are you planning on upgrading to the XBOX? What are your thoughts on the $499 console and its performance promises?

Also read: Xbox One X Scorpio Edition: What’s Different Explained @ Screen Rant

Source: eTeknix

Sony Will Add USB Hard Drive Support To PS4 and Boost Mode to PS4 Pro

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2017 - 02:25 AM |
Tagged: usb 3.0, sony, ps4 pro, ps4, gaming, console

Sony is taking the wraps off of its latest firmware with the release of version 4.50 “Sasuke” beta firmware for the PS4. With the new firmware, Sony is rolling out a number of UI/UX improvement and users will finally be able to use external storage with the game console. On the PS4 Pro front, Sony will be adding a “boost mode” in a future update (it may not be ready in time for a production 4.50 release) that lets legacy games access the additional GPU horsepower of the Pro version of the console to smooth out frame rates without needing any special patches from the game developers.

Sony PS4 Pro.jpg

The new firmware adds support for USB 3.0 hard drives (or SSDs) up to 8TB. Users will be able to use the external storage to store games, downloaded applications, screenshots, and videos and have it all show up on the main system menu along with the local storage. Users will not need to shuffle game data back and forth in order to play their games either. Note that currently, the actual save game data is still stored locally even if the game itself is stored on the external hard drive. Fans of the PlayStation VR (PS VR) also get an update with firmware 4.50 in the form of support for watching 3D Blu Rays. Beyond those big feature updates, Sony is also changing up the interface slightly. The Quick Menu now takes up less screen space and will allow gamers to create and join parties right from there rather than going to a separate app. In the notification area, Sony has condensed all the various notification types into a single unified list. Further, users will be able to set in game screenshots as the home screen wallpaper.

Perhaps most interesting is the planned “boost mode” for the PS4 Pro which is currently in beta. Gamers are reporting that titles such as The Evil Within and Just Cause 3 are significantly smoother frame rates with noticeably reduced stuttering. Reportedly, the boost mode will work with most PS4 games that were programmed with unlocked frame rates though the exact benefits will vary. Games that have a hard cap on the frame rate will still need specific patches from the game developers to get any improvements. Ars Technica speculates that the “boost mode” is simply Sony removing its own blocks it put in place to force compatibility with older games that were developed with the base PS4 in mind. When the boost mode is off, the PS4 Pro GPU has part of itself turned off such that it functions exactly as the PS4’s GPU and activating boost mode takes away the blocks and allows the full GPU (with it's 36 CUs) to process the game data as best it can. Getting things like native higher resolutions or more detailed textures will still require patches, of course.

If you have a PS4 or PS4 Pro, keep an eye on the beta Sasuke 4.50 firmware.

Also read:

Source: Ars Technica

Xbox One S is Compact, Power Efficient, and (Slightly) Faster

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2016 - 11:06 PM |
Tagged: xbox one s, xbox one, TSMC, microsoft, console, 16nm

Microsoft recently unleashed a smaller version of its gaming console in the form of the Xbox One S. The new "S" variant packs an internal power supply, 4K Blu-ray optical drive, and a smaller (die shrunk) AMD SoC into a 40% smaller package. The new console is clad in all white with black accents and a circular vent on left half of the top. A USB port and pairing button has been added to the front and the power and eject buttons are now physical rather than capacitive (touch sensitive).

Rear I/O remains similar to the original console and includes a power input, two HDMI ports (one input, one output), two USB 3.0 ports, one Ethernet, one S/PDIF audio out, and one IR out port. There is no need for the power brick anymore though as the power supply is now internal. Along with being 40% smaller, it can now be mounted vertically using an included stand. While there is no longer a dedicated Kinect port, it is still possible to add a Kinect to your console using an adapter.

Microsoft Xbox One S Gaming Console 4K Media BluRay UHD.jpg

The internal specifications of the Xbox One S remain consistent with the original Xbox One console except that it will now be available in a 2TB model. The gaming console is powered by a nearly identical processor that is now 35% smaller thanks to being manufactured on a smaller 16nm FinFet process node at TSMC. While the chip is more power efficient, it still features the same eight Jaguar CPU cores clocked at 1.75 GHz and 12 CU graphics portion (768 stream processors). Microsoft and AMD now support HDR and 4K resolutions and upscaling with the new chip. The graphics portion is where the new Xbox One S gets a bit interesting because it appears that Microsoft has given the GPU a bit of an overclock to 914 MHz. Compared to the original Xbox One's 853 MHz, this is a 7.1% increase in clockspeed. The increased GPU clocks also results in increased bandwidth for the ESRAM (204 GB/s on the original Xbox One versus 219 GB/s on the Xbox One S).

According to Microsoft, the increased GPU clockspeeds were necessary to be able to render non HDR versions of the game for Game DVR, Game Streaming, and taking screenshots in real time. A nice side benefit to this though is that the extra performance can result in improved game play in certain games. In Digital Foundry's testing, Richard Leadbetter found this to be especially true in games with unlocked frame rates or in games that are 30 FPS locked but where the original console could not hit 30 FPS consistently. The increased clocks can be felt in slightly smoother game play and less screen tearing. For example, they found that the Xbox One S got up to 11% higher frames in Project Cars (47 FPS versus 44) and between 6% to 8% in Hitman. Further, they found that the higher clocks help performance in playing Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One in backwards compatibility mode such as Alan Wake's American Nightmare.

The 2TB Xbox One S is available now for $400 while the 1TB ($350) and 500GB ($300) versions will be available on the 23rd. For comparison, the 500GB Xbox One (original) is currently $250. The Xbox One 1TB game console varies in price depending on game bundle.

What are your thoughts on the smaller console? While the ever so slight performance boost is a nice bonus, I definitely don't think that it is worth specifically upgrading for if you already have an Xbox One. If you have been holding off, now is the time to get a discounted original or smaller S version though! If you are hoping for more performance, definitely wait for Microsoft's Scorpio project or it's competitor the PlayStation 4 Neo (or even better a gaming PC right!? hehe).

I do know that Ryan has gotten his hands on the slimmer Xbox One S, so hopefully we will see some testing of our own as well as a teardown (hint, hint!).

Also read:

Source: Eurogamer
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Finally, a SHIELD Console

NVIDIA is filling out the family of the SHIELD brand today with the announcement of SHIELD, a set-top box powered by the Tegra X1 processor. SHIELD will run Android TV and act as a game playing, multimedia watching, GRID streaming device. Selling for $199 and available in May of this year, there is a lot to discuss.

Odd naming scheme aside, the SHIELD looks to be an impressive little device, sitting on your home theater or desk and bringing a ton of connectivity and performance to your TV. Running Android TV means the SHIELD will have access to the entire library of Google Play media including music, movies and apps. SHIELD supports 4K video playback at 60 Hz thanks to an HDMI 2.0 connection and fully supports H.265/HEVC decode thanks to Tegra X1 processor.

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Here is a full breakdown of the device's specifications.

  NVIDIA SHIELD Specifications
Processor NVIDIA® Tegra® X1 processor with 256-core Maxwell™ GPU with 3GB RAM
Video Features 4K Ultra-HD Ready with 4K playback and capture up to 60 fps (VP9, H265, H264)
Audio 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound pass through over HDMI
High-resolution audio playback up to 24-bit/192kHz over HDMI and USB
High-resolution audio upsample to 24-bit/192hHz over USB
Storage 16 GB
Wireless 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.1/BLE
Interfaces Gigabit Ethernet
HDMI 2.0
Two USB 3.0 (Type A)
Micro-USB 2.0
MicroSD slot (supports 128GB cards)
IR Receiver (compatible with Logitech Harmony)
Gaming Features NVIDIA GRID™ streaming service
NVIDIA GameStream™
SW Updates SHIELD software upgrades directly from NVIDIA
Power 40W power adapter
Weight and Size Weight: 23oz / 654g
Height: 5.1in / 130mm
Width: 8.3in / 210mm
Depth: 1.0in / 25mm
OS Android TV™, Google Cast™ Ready
Bundled Apps PLEX
In the box NVIDIA SHIELD
NVIDIA SHIELD controller
HDMI cable (High Speed), USB cable (Micro-USB to USB)
Power adapter (Includes plugs for North America, Europe, UK)
Requirements TV with HDMI input, Internet access
Options SHIELD controller, SHIELD remove, SHIELD stand

Obviously the most important feature is the Tegra X1 SoC, built on an 8-core 64-bit ARM processor and a 256 CUDA Core Maxwell architecture GPU. This gives the SHIELD set-top more performance than basically any other mobile part on the market, and demos showing Doom 3 and Crysis 3 running natively on the hardware drive the point home. With integrated HEVC decode support the console is the first Android TV device to offer the support for 4K video content at 60 FPS.

Even though storage is only coming in at 16GB, the inclusion of an MicroSD card slot enabled expansion to as much as 128GB more for content and local games.

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The first choice for networking will be the Gigabit Ethernet port, but the 2x2 dual-band 802.11ac wireless controller means that even those of us that don't have hardwired Internet going to our TV will be able to utilize all the performance and features of SHIELD.

Continue reading our preview of the NVIDIA SHIELD set-top box!!

Console DRM Woes? Try Some Good Old PC Games Instead!

Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2014 - 11:23 AM |
Tagged: Xbox live, retro, PlayStation network, pc gaming, GOG, gaming, DRM, console

With the outage over Christmas of both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network (both pretty much restored, though it took Sony much longer to recover) many console gamers were unable to play.

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Screen captures of the official status from both networks this morning

Beyond online gaming even those attempting to play their own local games were often hampered by the inability of the DRM system to work, preventing the game from loading. Oh, DRM...who needs it? Not the person playing old games that don't use it!

While the term "retro gaming" will likely evoke images of an Atari 2600 or NES, it is retro gaming of the PC persuasion to which we direct our attention now. The website known as Good Old Games (GOG.com) sells many classic titles from distant and not so distant past, and everything sold is DRM free. Install, run; no internet connection required (after you use the internet to actually download the game, that is).

gog.png

The games are inexpensive as well, but get so much more so during the frequent sales the site promotes. One such sale is going on now, where various Square Enix-owned titles are 75% off, which puts them at $1.49 to $2.49 each. Take that, modern console gaming!

Author:
Manufacturer: Sony

Does downloading make a difference?

This is PART 2 of our testing on the PlayStation 4 storage systems, with the stock hard drive, an SSHD hybrid and an SSD.  Previously, we compared performance based on Blu-ray based installations though today we add downloaded titles from PSN to the mix.  Be sure you read PART 1, PlayStation 4 (PS4) HDD, SSHD and SSD Performance Testing.

I posted a story earlier this week that looked at the performance of the new PS4 when used with three different 2.5-in storage options: the stock 500GB hard drive, a 1TB hybrid SSHD and a 240GB SSD.  The results were fairly interesting (and got a good bit of attention) but some readers wanted more data.  In particular, many asked how things might change if you went the full digital route and purchased games straight from the Sony's PlayStation Network.  I also will compare boot times for each of the tested storage devices.

You should definitely check out the previous article if you missed it. It not only goes through the performance comparison but also details how to change the hard drive on the PS4 from the physical procedure to the software steps necessary. The article also details the options we selected for our benchmarking.

psn1.jpg

Today I purchased a copy of Assassin's Creed IV from the PSN store (you're welcome Ubisoft) and got to testing.  The process was the same: start the game then load the first save spot.  Again, each test was run three times and the averages were reported. The PS4 was restarted between each run.

load3.png

The top section of results is the same that was presented earlier - average load times for AC IV when the game is installed from the Blu-ray.  The second set is new and includes average load times fro AC IV after the installation from the PlayStation Network; no disc was in the drive during testing.

Continue reading our story on the performance testing of HDD, SSD and SSHD with downloaded and Blu-ray installed games on PS4!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Sony

Load time improvements

This is PART 1 of our testing on the PlayStation 4 storage systems, with the stock hard drive, an SSHD hybrid and an SSD.  In PART 2 we take a look at the changes introduced with PSN downloaded games versus Blu-ray installed games as well as show boot time differences.  Be sure you read PART 2, PlayStation 4 (PS4) Blu-ray and Download Storage Performance, Boot Times.

On Friday Sony released the PlayStation 4 onto the world.  The first new console launch in 7 years, the PS4 has a lot to live up to, but our story today isn't going to attempt to weigh the value of the hardware or software ecosystem.  Instead, after our PS4 teardown video from last week, we got quite a few requests for information on storage performance with the PS4 and what replacement hardware might offer gamers.

Hard Drive Replacement Process

Changing the hard drive in your PlayStation 4 is quite simple, a continuation of a policy Sony's policy with the PS3.

01_0.jpg

Installation starts with the one semi-transparent panel on the top of the unit, to the left of the light bar.  Obviously make sure your PS4 is completely turned off and unplugged.

02_0.jpg

Simply slide it to the outside of the chassis and wiggle it up to release.  There are no screws or anything to deal with yet.

03_0.jpg

Once inside you'll find a screw with the PS4 shapes logos on them; that is screw you need to remove to pull out the hard drive cage. 

Continue reading our analysis of PS4 HDD, SSHD and SSD Performance!!

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