Inside the Xbox One

There's no doubt that the Xbox One is a games console, but it's a games console with a twist -- it's also an entertainment system.

Yesterday Microsoft lifted the lid on the next Xbox gaming console – the Xbox One – so it's time to take a look at what powers this next-generation hardware.

There's no doubt that the Xbox One is a games console, but it's a games console with a twist.

Here's what we know so far.

  • 8-core AMD APU based on the Jaguar architecture
  • AMD Graphics Core Next GPU
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n support
  • 4K HDMI
  • 500GB hard drive
  • Blu-ray optical drive
  • USB 3.0

Instantly, it's clear that the Xbox One is a win for AMD. In fact, it's a double win for the Sunnyvale, California-based chipmaker because the company also managed to get inside Sony's upcoming PS4 console. However, given how close the Xbox One and PS4 are in terms of hardware spec, that's perhaps not surprising.

(Source: Microsoft)

The APU in the Xbox One is based on the Jaguar architecture, which is a follow-on to the Bobcat architecture used to build the Ontario, Zacate and Hondo APUs. The CPU is likely to be clocked somewhere in the region of 1.5 to 2.0GHz, while the graphics core should be good to around 1GHz.

Whether Microsoft decides to pull out all the stops and max out the hardware, or keep things a bit more subdued in order to control heat – and, by extension, sound for the coolers – remains to be seen. Given the problem that the Xbox 360 had with heat, I would expect Microsoft to play it safe.

One interesting difference is that Microsoft has gone for GDDR3 RAM while Sony opted for the faster GDDR5 variety. While this is not necessarily a downside – Microsoft could make up for the slower RAM by making effective use of caches – it suggests that Microsoft is taking a softly-softly approach to power usage with the Xbox One.

The Xbox One is powered not by one but two operating systems running on a custom version of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor. There's the Xbox OS for gaming, and a Windows kernel for apps. The multiple cores gives the new console enough power to handle the multiple operating systems, and the hardware can switch between the two operating systems and devote APU cores as required.

This is an interesting approach, and gives the Xbox One unprecedented flexibility in terms of what it can do. 

Shifting from the inside of the Xbox One to the outside, the new console ship with an upgraded Kinect voice and motion sensing bar – which can wake the console up from sleep and is sensitive enough to detect gestures and even the gamer's heartbeat – and a redesigned controller.

(Source: Microsoft)

The more I look at the Xbox One the less I see a games console and the more I see an entertainment system. Everything from the styling, the integration of live TV, the apps, and the low power consumption points to this device being more than just a gaming device.

Two interesting facts gaming-related to come out about the Xbox One is that first of all it won't be backward-compatible with any current Xbox 360 titles, which means that gamer's investment in the old hardware hits a brick wall, and the revelation that running 'used' games will incur a 'fee,' details of which have not been revealed. So in one swoop, Microsoft is cutting off at the knees the old game titles, and simultaneously putting a choke point on the second-hand games market.

How this goes down with gamers remains to be seen.