Xbox One announced, the games: not so much.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems | May 21, 2013 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox

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Almost exactly three months have passed since Sony announced the Playstation 4 and just three weeks remain until E3. Ahead of the event, Microsoft unveiled their new Xbox console: The Xbox One. Being so close to E3, they are saving the majority of games until that time. For now, it is the box itself as well as its non-gaming functionality.

First and foremost, the raw specifications:

  • AMD APU (5 billion transistors, 8 core, on-die eSRAM)
  • 8GB RAM
  • 500GB Storage, Bluray reader
  • USB 3.0, 802.11n, HDMI out, HDMI in

The hardware is a definite win for AMD. The Xbox One is based upon an APU which is quite comparable to what the PS4 will offer. Unlike previous generations, there will not be too much differentiation based on available performance; I would not expect to see much of a fork in terms of splitscreen and other performance-sensitive features.

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A new version of the Kinect sensor will also be present with all units which developers can depend upon. Technically speaking, the camera is higher resolution and more wide-angle; up to six skeletons can be tracked with joints able to rotate rather than just hinge. Microsoft is finally also permitting developers to use the Kinect along with a standard controller to, as they imagine, allow a user to raise their controller to block with a shield. That is the hope, but near the launch of the original Kinect, Microsoft filed a patent to allow sign language recognition: has not happened yet. Who knows whether the device will be successfully integrated into gaming applications.

Of course Microsoft is known most for system software, and the Xbox runs three lightweight operating environments. In Windows 8, you have the Modern interface which runs WinRT applications and you have the desktop app which is x86 compatible.

The Xbox One borrows more than a little from this model.

The home screen, which I am tempted to call the Start Screen, for the console has a very familiar tiled interface. They are not identical to Windows but they are definitely consistent. This interface allows for access to Internet Explorer and an assortment of apps. These apps can be pinned to the side of the screen, identical to Windows 8 modern app. I am expecting there to be "a lot of crossover" (to say the least) between this and the Windows Store; I would not be surprised if it is basically the same API. This works both when viewing entertainment content as well as within a game.

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These three operating systems run at the same time. The main operating system is basically a Hyper-V environment which runs the two other operating systems simultaneously in sort-of virtual machines. These operating systems can be layered with low latency, since all you are doing is compositing them in a different order.

Lastly, they made reference to Xbox Live, go figure. Microsoft is seriously increasing their server capacity and expects developers to utilize Azure infrastructure to offload "latency-insensitive" computation for games. While Microsoft promises that you can play games offline, this obviously does not apply to features (or whole games) which rely upon the back-end infrastructure.

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And yes, I know you will all beat up on me if I do not mention the SimCity debacle. Maxis claimed that much of the game requires an online connection due to the complicated server requirements; after a crack allowed offline functionality, it was clear that the game mostly operates fine on a local client. How much will the Xbox Live cloud service offload? Who knows, but that is at least their official word.

Now to tie up some loose ends. The Xbox One will not be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games although that is no surprise. Also, Microsoft says they are allowing users to resell and lend games. That said, games will be installed and not require the disc, from what I have heard. Apart from the concerns about how much you can run on a single 500GB drive, once the game is installed rumor has it that if you load it elsewhere (the rumor is even more unclear about whether "elsewhere" counts accounts or machines) you will need to pay a fee to Microsoft. In other words? Basically not a used game.

Well, that has it. You can be sure we will add more as information comes forth. Comment away!


May 21, 2013 | 08:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is the APU based on an existing architecture or is this a completely custom chip from AMD? Secondly, does anyone know what percentage of the transistors are part of the cpu/gpu?

May 21, 2013 | 08:40 PM - Posted by mikeisfly (not verified)

I wonder if they were getting live TV through A cable box or over the network via a box like HD Homerun Prime which now supports DLNA. My guess is that it will probably do both. I would go the Homerun route as you don't need a bulky cable box in your living room. With the use of USB 3.0 you can add storage for DVR like functionality which you can bet they will be supporting with DTCP. The nice thing about that is you don't need the cable companies blessings because the FCC mandate that the cable companies have to support Cable card. I have the HD home run prime and it works very well, as a matter of fact I don't have any cable boxes in my home only computers with this network based cable card tuner.

May 22, 2013 | 03:26 AM - Posted by Funkatronis

I'd like to know the same thing as #1. Additionally, Microsoft made mention that the console was Wi-Fi Direct compliant and that the new controller had Wi-Fi Direct radio stack.. what would I need to do to make that new controller work with my PC as i'm not familiar with this standard, I could use a general explanation. The new rumble features of the controller sound nice and it would be nice to no longer be replacing blown out usb dongles for the 360 controller.

Does Wi-Fi Direct run at 2.4 or 5Ghz? Also I'd like to note its a shame that they didn't include 802.11ac

May 22, 2013 | 02:27 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Not sure about the AMD bit, the controller-for-PC bit, or the 2.4 or 5GHz bit yet (heard a rumor that it will support 5.0GHz but... it was by no means a reliable source lol).

As for the lack of 802.11ac, I thought of that as soon as the WiFi spec was mentioned. The PS3 will have better connectivity... albeit I'm not sure how much that will matter until I see what they let you use high bandwidth wireless for. It's not sufficient to have the capability in hardware, they also need to let you use it.

Now if you're going to be streaming HD videos around the house or the boxes last long enough for everyone to get gigabit fibre or something... then sure. But who knows, yet.

Was going to mention it in the article, but cut it for space.

May 27, 2013 | 06:46 AM - Posted by mikeisfly1 (not verified)

Real gamers are going to have a hardline connection to their Xbox anyway right? 802.11ac is not ratified yet so any inclusion of hardware would be early and might not be compatible with the final spec hence the decision to stay with (n) which is MIMO.

I like Wi-Fi direct because everything has Wi-Fi and I don't have to buy dongles anymore. Xbox dongle works on my surface RT but I would rather use Wi-Fi if I could. Wi-Fi direct is backwards compatible because only one of the devices connecting needs to be Wi-Fi direct. Check this article out

  • May 22, 2013 | 04:54 PM - Posted by Mark Blackie (not verified)

    Seriously MS, using the transistor count as a metric?

    May 22, 2013 | 04:55 PM - Posted by Mark Blackie (not verified)

    Opps, forgot to mention, if the XBox One does not have any DVR functionality, I don't see it replacing the interface for the TV.

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