Microsoft Xbox One engineers talk about ESRAM, CPU speed and more

There's been tons of talk on the Internet about how Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4 console has more powerful hardware compared to what Microsoft has put into the Xbox One. Microsoft execs have been trying to show that the Xbox One is much closer to the PS4 in hardware performance than what the mere numbers may show on the surface.

Today, Microsoft made yet another push to convince hardcore gamers and hardware junkies that the Xbox One is very competitive with the PS4. The Digital Foundry team at Eurogamer posted an article that was based on a chat with two Microsoft engineers who worked on the Xbox One's hardware.

Microsoft technical fellow Andrew Goosen stated in the article there is a "lot of misinformation out there" about what's inside the Xbox One. One of those aspects deals with the console's use of ESRAM. As we have reported in the past, the PS4 uses 8GB of GDDR5 RAM at 5500 MHz for 170.6 GB/s of bandwidth. The Xbox One uses 8GB of DDR3 RAM at 2133 MHz for 68.3 GB/s of bandwidth, but also adds an extra 32 MB of ESRAM for 102 GB/s of embedded memory bandwidth.

Microsoft's Xbox hardware architecture team manager Nick Baker seemed to hint that the company wanted the Xbox One to have a solid balance for its memory and that using the PS4's GDDR5 hardware was not considered early in the development process. He said :

In terms of getting the best possible combination of performance, memory size, power, the GDDR5 takes you into a little bit of an uncomfortable place. Having ESRAM costs very little power and has the opportunity to give you very high bandwidth. You can reduce the bandwidth on external memory - that saves a lot of power consumption and the commodity memory is cheaper as well so you can afford more.

Much of this highly technical article offers up more information on ESRAM in the Xbox One but there is also some mentions on the CPU inside the console. Microsoft announced recently that they had raised the CPU clock speed for the final retail version from 1.60 GHz to 1.75 GHz. However, Gooosen says:

Adding the margin on the CPU... we actually had titles that were losing frames largely because they were CPU-bound in terms of their core threads. In providing what looks like a very little boost, it's actually a very significant win for us in making sure that we get the steady frame-rates on our console

If your brain doesn't explode from the amount of technical jargon, there's plenty of new and highly specific information on the Xbox One's hardware in this article and it's well worth checking out.

Source: Eurogamer | Image via Microsoft

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47 Comments

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Why is 'bandwidth' constantly brought up by the developers. By bandwidth, so they mean the throughput of the graphics allowed by the system? Surely they don't mean available network resources\speed. If so, then I am totally lost.

Yeah they mean the throughput, how fast the GPU can stream textures when rasterizing and it also matters for triangle setup, not so much for transform and lighting if it's realtime and not pre-calculated shadow maps.

It has nothing to do with the network. But every component that is attached to another component needs to send/receive data. In this case between the memory and ALU.

Edited by Geezy, Sep 23 2013, 9:41pm :

With the track record of the most powerful console almost never finishing on top, I'm happy to go for an Xbox One

NeoDominik said,
PS3 sold more than the X360 and it was the more powerful console, if its not sales what constitutes finishing on top?

Note ,y usage of the words almost never. The 360 had a massive lead for years and possibly still does in the USA while not worldwide

How much of that is due to people buying different models of the same hardware? I have 3 360s, launch which died, elite which I got for the HDMI and large HDD, and slim because I didn't want a jet engine in my living room and my elite was about to die out of warranty. I know a lot of people who did about the same and their excuse was they could use it for streaming and Netflix in their bedroom. Out of those who own them, I don't know anyone who just has one 360.

You do realize that the esram will be used for frame buffering right? They have to buffer the HDMI input at all times, the One's GUI, and the actual game you're playing at the time. They need to dedicate this if you expect the fast switching and snappi g that they are promising. NONE of it will be left to cache the system's main RAM.

Not to mention that in graphical applications, streaming large textures is most important, and in this case a cache will only help with seek times, not streaming, so it is pretty much pointless for texture buffering.

The only situation in which the esram might help is in shader operations, but it still won't make up for the fact that the One has 768 GPU cores vs PS4's 1152 cores.

Bottom line, a 1920x1080 framebuffer needs 14MB ram, and if you want to avoid screen tearing, you need you double buffer, which is 28MB. If the game is the only thing going on you only have 4MB left to help with shader operations.

This also makes me wonder how practical 4k resolution will be on the One for anything g other than video playback, especially if you expect to snap anything.

Edited by Geezy, Sep 22 2013, 9:21pm :

God this glorified ****ing contest is wearing thin now. When will people realise that real people don't buy consoles for specs, they buy them for games. And the last time I checked, both the XBO and PS4 have a very healthy game line up.

If specs bother you so much then just quit consoles and join the PC master race. I'm sure they wouldn't mind having a extra noise made at the "who's gotta bigger dick?" AMD/Nvidia arguments...

Silver47 said,
God this glorified ****ing contest is wearing thin now. When will people realise that real people don't buy consoles for specs, they buy them for games. And the last time I checked, both the XBO and PS4 have a very healthy game line up.

If specs bother you so much then just quit consoles and join the PC master race. I'm sure they wouldn't mind having a extra noise made at the "who's gotta bigger dick?" AMD/Nvidia arguments...

I think we buy them for entertainment, not just games. I mostly use my Xbox to watch TV and movies. I do play games as well but the majority of my time is spent watching content. Almost everyone I know have similar uses, in fact my parents have a ps3 but not a single game. The console is a home entertainment box today, no longer just a gaming system.

I agree about the graphics argument, that is really the last concern I have about either console. I mostly just want a great and responsive interface. Better load times for apps and games is most important for me.

"but also adds an extra 32 MB of ESRAM for 102 GB/s of embedded memory bandwidth"

The ESRAM has 204 GB/s in the final production hardware. This is explained in the article.

partly... its 109GB/s read / 109GB/sec write you have to be doing both reads and writes at the same time to achieve maximum peak bandwidth of 204GB/s but cus 1 out of 8 "miss" and you wont doing both all the time so they reckon real world performance is about 150GB/s. selective bits out of context really arent good hah so have to read the whole proper article if people want to know the whole thing

Edited by psionicinversion, Sep 22 2013, 8:54pm :

Sorry but I'm gonna trust Sony on this one. The fact they were able to make their system smaller than PS3 slim and still have better hardware in the box than Microsoft really tells you they know what they're doing.

DPyro said,
Sorry but I'm gonna trust Sony on this one. The fact they were able to make their system smaller than PS3 slim and still have better hardware in the box than Microsoft really tells you they know what they're doing.

You're basing this on the size of the box? It's obvious that Microsoft is just playing it safe, heat-dissipation-wise. They aren't stupid... there is a reason for all the custom hardware in the XB1. They could have just put in big specs and called it a day.

DPyro said,
Sorry but I'm gonna trust Sony on this one. The fact they were able to make their system smaller than PS3 slim and still have better hardware in the box than Microsoft really tells you they know what they're doing.

first and foremost i wanna know how the PS4 handles heat dissipation at full load ;-)

Jarrichvdv said,

first and foremost i wanna know how the PS4 handles heat dissipation at full load ;-)

The only sticking point of PS4

Jarrichvdv said,

first and foremost i wanna know how the PS4 handles heat dissipation at full load ;-)

If the PS3 that had a far more power hungry processor plus an internal PSU didn't didn't seem to have issues I don't see why Sony would have problems with the PS4.

Sony have better hardware engineers, but Microsoft are better at tying their hardware and software together.

I think both consoles will end up comparing pretty equally.

Jarrichvdv said,

first and foremost i wanna know how the PS4 handles heat dissipation at full load ;-)

They say it runs 15-20 degrees cooler and uses less power. Probably because it uses a SoC.

I hope that is being funny. The PS4 might be the better console, but Sony is the last company I would trust.

Sony:
1) Installed Rootkits onto people's PCs
2) Removed features from PS3 after people bought the console
3) Proprietary memory card format sold at very high prices
4) Hacked and lied about it until the hacked information was released
5) Continued with Last of Us the Online Pass program -- even though it was a Sony published title. The following week talk about no more DRM
6) Talk about how PSN is the best and online should be free. Start charging for online gaming with PS4

Sony certainly doesn't have a good record where we should just trust them "because" they are Sony and said so.

virtorio said,
Sony have better hardware engineers, but Microsoft are better at tying their hardware and software together.

I think both consoles will end up comparing pretty equally.

It would be true if it was Intel hardware, there's a reason they are called Wintel in some parts of the tech industry. This time they are working on a base Jaguar arch (slightly modified for their own needs) which is way different than Intel even has on their line up. It tooks MS half a year to release threading patches for Bulldozer when it came out, why should this time be any different?

ryuh3d said,
I hope that is being funny. The PS4 might be the better console, but Sony is the last company I would trust.

Sony:
1) Installed Rootkits onto people's PCs
2) Removed features from PS3 after people bought the console
3) Proprietary memory card format sold at very high prices
4) Hacked and lied about it until the hacked information was released
5) Continued with Last of Us the Online Pass program -- even though it was a Sony published title. The following week talk about no more DRM
6) Talk about how PSN is the best and online should be free. Start charging for online gaming with PS4

Sony certainly doesn't have a good record where we should just trust them "because" they are Sony and said so.

As if Microsoft has never backpedaled on anything.

alwaysonacoffebreak said,

It would be true if it was Intel hardware, there's a reason they are called Wintel in some parts of the tech industry. This time they are working on a base Jaguar arch (slightly modified for their own needs) which is way different than Intel even has on their line up. It tooks MS half a year to release threading patches for Bulldozer when it came out, why should this time be any different?

They seem like they know how to optimize for ARM better than anyone else, and that's not even close to Intel.

No. Theyre clarifying misconceptions not comparing it.

We're not children, stop calling one piece of technology "the best". Or bull**** like "PC Master Race".

Tha Bloo Monkee said,
When it comes to making your product look good, you always compare it to the best (in this case, the PS4), amirite?

It's hardly that simple when you have a console like the XBox, which has a tremendous amount of capability due to its cloud architecture, and a competition that does not and can't duplicate it...

Ani Hover said,
No. Theyre clarifying misconceptions not comparing it.

We're not children, stop calling one piece of technology "the best". Or bull**** like "PC Master Race".


Someone can't take a joke. Or maybe they don't own a PC; either or.

Crisp said,

PC master race.

Ps4 >> My Computer
Can't really compare something to a range that has no specific hardware.
If/When official steambox, maybe then, and you can compare how better or worse your system is to that

Before the massive flame war between oh PS4 has blah blah blah but x1 has blah blah blah, first thing what ive seen ppl moan about on digital foundries is there saying the PS4 "isnt balanced" no where in the article does it say that all there saying is theyve built the x1 to be balanced.

Number 2 if your that bothered about gfx, the PS4 can connect to the x1 through the hdmi passthrough and can snap both running games together so youll be able to judge gfx and frame rate literally side by side for a far far better comparison than any crap that is currently floating around so hold your tongues

psionicinversion said,
no where in the article does it say that all there saying is theyve built the x1 to be balanced.

Huh?

"Firstly though, we don't have any games out. You can't see the games. When you see the games you'll be saying, 'what is the performance difference between them'. The games are the benchmarks. We've had the opportunity with the Xbox One to go and check a lot of our balance. The balance is really key to making good performance on a games console. You don't want one of your bottlenecks being the main bottleneck that slows you down.

...

"Balance is so key to real effective performance. It's been really nice on Xbox One with Nick and his team - the system design folks have built a system where we've had the opportunity to check our balances on the system and make tweaks accordingly," Goosen reveals. "Did we do a good job when we did all of our analysis and simulations a couple of years ago, and guessing where games would be in terms of utilisation. Did we make the right balance decisions back then? And so raising the GPU clock is the result of going in and tweaking our balance."
"

ive seen ppl moan about on digital foundries is there saying the PS4 "isnt balanced" no where in the article does it say that

should of put a comma in after that, but you should of bin able to see that tbh

Another article on Neowin said if you put the PS4 in the XBone's HDMI input the latency of the XBone's HDMI port will slow down any advantages the PS4 has.

A real comparison (and not your scroogled version) is to use a TV for each side by side.