With the Xbox One officially unveiled, the most striking thing about the Microsoft event was that the company didn't introduce it as a gaming console. Rather, Microsoft seems to be intent on taking over the living room with the Xbox One's set-top box capabilities. We believe it would be a good time to take a look at what makes the console run.
The most obvious new thing in the Xbox One is the new architecture. Much like the PlayStation 4, Microsoft has gone with the x86 architecture for the Xbox One. Thanks to this, porting games through and from the PS4 and the PC will be easier than it was before. x86 has also been around for quite some time now, so development for it is also much easier, resulting in higher quality games.
The processor is an 8-core AMD chip with a 28nm processor, which consumes around 100 watts of power. The processor is the same Jaguar-based AMD chipset that will be powering the PlayStation 4, so in this area, we expect performance to be more-or-less the same.
The console has a sleek blocky design
The GPU is once again the same AMD-made one that is present in the PS4. It will be compatible with DirectX 11.1, which brings the hardware up to par with current mid-to-high tiered PCs. What's interesting is that with the CPU and GPU combined, the Xbox One boasts of five billion transistors. For comparison's sake, the average chips made by Intel or AMD have 1.4 billion of these.
The hardware on the console seems to be powerful enough to not only support the standard HD resolution of 1080p, but supposedly also ultra HD resolutions, which essentially amounts to roughly 4000 pixels across.
This is one place where the PlayStation 4 might end up leaving the Xbox One in the dust. While both consoles have the same 8GB of RAM, the PS4 has DDR5 RAM as opposed to the Xbox One's DDR3. The Xbox One is by no means a slouch in the memory department, but the faster memory on the PS4 might give it a significant performance advantage over the Xbox One.
Despite this, however, the 8GB of RAM on the Xbox One is still quite beefy and will help games look better. Thanks to the higher amount of RAM, developers can put in higher-resolution textures in their games.
The console will be equipped with a 500GB HDD, but of unknown speed. There's no word yet on whether this will be expandable or replaceable, but hopefully, it will be because 500GB seems inadequate considering the current trend of game sizes. It doesn't help that according to Microsoft, any game disc that is inserted will be automatically ripped to the HDD.
The complete Xbox One package
The Xbox One is equipped with a bunch of connectivity options, with some of the key highlights being HDMI-In and Wi-Fi Direct. HDMI-In will be used to hook up your set-top box to the console and access its features from there. This ties in well with Microsoft's plan of taking over the living room with the console.
Wi-Fi Direct is replacing Bluetooth as the console's means of connection to wireless controllers. The console is equipped with three Wi-Fi 802.11n radios. Out of the three, one will be used to connect to controllers, another to connect with other devices such as smartphones and tablets, and the third will be used to maintain a stable internet connection. There will also be a gigabit Ethernet port if users prefer wired connections over wireless.
The console will have "some" USB 3.0 ports, which will greatly improve read/write speeds with external memory sources that might support the USB 3.0 protocol.
On the audio side of things, the console will support home theatre setups with up to 7.1 surround sound speakers. For video, both 1080p and 4K resolutions are supported. We doubt games will be running on 4k resolutions just yet, but super-expensive 4K TVs won't feel like overkill now.
The controller doesn't have any touchpad
The controller will be following Microsoft's own XNA Direct Input protocols and, as a result, will be compatible with both the Xbox One as well as PCs. Design-wise not much has changed from the Xbox 360 controller, except for a few things. The Xbox Guide button has been shifted up higher on the controller and the D-pad seems to have gone through a complete overhaul.
The controller also supports a new feature – force feedback on the triggers. This is an interesting idea that could lead to new gameplay. This essentially allows developers to give separate rumble for the trigger buttons. For example, in a driving game, a high-end car will have smooth accelerations and breaks, but shoddy beaten up cars will have more problems. This can now easily be reflected through the controller.
Not all of the new controller features are so awesome, though. The biggest sore point of the new Xbox One controller is the fact that Microsoft is sticking to using AA batteries for the wireless version. Not only is this a problem because you'll need to go out and buy new batteries every time you run out of juice on the controller, but there is also the problem of the batteries adding unnecessary bulk and weight.
The Xbox One will be bundled with a new and updated Kinect. The new version of the Kinect will be considerably more powerful than its predecessor. It will be capable of better motion tracking thanks to the new 250,000 pixel infrared depth sensor. It also helps that the Kinect will connect to the Xbox through USB 3.0 ports instead of the 360's USB 2.0 ports, thus letting the console stream higher quality video feeds from the Kinect. It will also be capable of acting as a webcam and can record video at 720p.
The console will come bundled with a Kinect
Despite the AA batteries on the controller and the slower RAM, the Xbox One is a great piece of hardware. It is more-or-less on par with the PlayStation 4, but the latter manages to win thanks to its faster RAM. How much of a difference the PS4's faster RAM will make is yet to be seen. This next console generation will be an interesting one, and the winner will probably be decided by the pricing when it comes down to it.