Microsoft started dropping hints about the next generation Xbox last year. This week, however, the company has released some hard specs and more information about how the Xbox Series X will actually work when it arrives for holiday 2020. The coronavirus outbreak canceled the E3 video game trade show, but that hasn’t stopped the company from outlining its upcoming hardware.
The problem, though, is that console spec sheets can be difficult to navigate. Even if you own a PS4 or an Xbox One right now, you’d be totally justified not knowing what kind of processor it has inside, how much RAM its packing, or how many teraflops it promises (or even what a teraflop is). Here are the most important numbers you’ll need to understand regarding the upcoming Xbox Series X, and what to make of them
The big Xbox Series X reveal had a lot of technical info to unpack. We already knew that the CPU and the GPU would be powered by AMD’s Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures, respectively, but Microsoft introduced a lot of unexpected features, such as the so-called Xbox Velocity Architecture, which is comprised of four components: custom NVMe SSD, a dedicated hardware decompression block (to eliminate all overhead associated with real-time decompression), the all-new DirectStorage API (reportedly coming to PC, too, at some point), and Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS). The latter, for instance, aims to greatly improve memory utilization for textures, therefore acting as a 2x or 3x multiplier for memory and SSD performance.
Other highlights of the Xbox Series X unveiling include DirectML support, powered by over 24 TFLOPS of 16-bit float performance and over 97 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of 4-bit integer performance on Microsoft’s next-generation console. Machine learning will be used in a number of ways, from making NPCs much smarter to providing vastly more lifelike animation and greatly improving visual quality as a whole.
Earlier today, Microsoft revealed the specifications for its upcoming next-gen Xbox Series X and those specs surely look impressive. What’s more impressive than the specs is the technology that Microsoft is implementing to make the Xbox Series X a one-of-a-kind gaming console.
Today, we are taking a brief look at Xbox Series X’s Smart Delivery feature. The Smart Delivery feature allows the Xbox to render software at a level that its hardware is capable of running smoothly. While new games will look great, this also means that older games will receive a visual upgrade when running on the Xbox Series X. The upcoming console from Microsoft will be using a machine-learning algorithm to upgrade older games with HDR colors.
According to Digital Foundry, Halo 5 and Fusion Frenzy were shown to be running with HDR on the Xbox Series X and heatmap results indicated that the dynamic range in both games went beyond the standard HDR. Even though this test seems to be a technical demo, Microsoft’s Software Engineer Claude Marais told Digital Foundry the technology was already used in the past and it will become even more consistent on the Series X.
“It can be applied to all games theoretically, technically, I guess we’re still working through user experiences and things like that but this is a technical demo. So this [Halo 5] is four years old, right, so let’s go to the extreme and jump to a game that is 19, 20 years old right now – and that is Fusion Frenzy,” Marais said. “Back then there’s nothing known about HDR, no-one knew about HDR things. Games just used 8-bit back buffers.”
Marais also discussed about how the team at Microsoft was able to create “highly convincing, perceptibly real HDR” for an older Fusion Frenzy, which has only extended the life of the game.
Even though HDR is a pretty awesome technology, one has to be very careful when implementing it in games. Even games with dedicated HDR colors fail to impress many enthusiasts and we just have to wait and see how Microsoft’s “highly convincing” HDR replication turns out to be.
Unlike PlayStation 4, the Xbox One X already supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, which is noticeably missing from Sony’s platform. Dolby Vision is Netflix’s HDR standard of choice and has also been adopted by a growing library of 4K UHD Blu-Ray. It’s safe to assume, then, that Xbox Series X will retain these features.
What’s more, Sony is doubling down on priority tech for PS5, like its Tempest 3D audio instead of Dolby Atmos. Microsoft, meanwhile, created their own spatial audio tech for Xbox One – Windows Sonic – but also lets users choose Dolby Atmos, if they prefer.
While we can confidently predict Sony won’t be introducing a new display technology anytime soon (fingers crossed), it’s refreshing to see that Microsoft is continuing to invest in more widely available standards, such as HDR.
Marais said that in theory, this could be applied virtually any game. He then proceeded to demonstrate Fuzion Frenzy, an original Xbox game, also working with the Auto HDR feature.
It can be applied to all games theoretically, technically, I guess we’re still working through user experiences and things like that but this is a technical demo. So this [Halo 5] is four years old, right, so let’s go to the extreme and jump to a game that is 19, 20 years old right now – and that is Fuzion Frenzy. Back then there’s nothing known about HDR, no-one knew about HDR things. Games just used 8-bit back buffers.
Given that to this day there are some games still shipping without HDR support, this is great news for Xbox Series X owners who may be able to play basically any game in their Xbox library while taking advantage of their HDR displays. It remains to be seen whether this feature will eventually be available on Windows PC, too – it would be certainly welcome among PC gamers as well.