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Is “GPU Acceleration” Xbox One Secret Sauce

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Is “GPU Acceleration” Xbox One Secret Sauce

* Editors note* The opinions reflected in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the views of OmniGamer

As of late, the war over who’s got the most powerful upcoming console has picked up some steam. To date, most believe that the PS4 is more powerful than the Xbox One. By all outward appearances this would seem to be the case as its GPU boasts nearly 400 more shaders and .50 TeraFLOP/s faster throughput; but does this make it more capable? Power doesn’t always translate to performance. Let’s consider a race between high performance cars: say you have a car with 700 horsepower under the hood but the weight distribution causes the tires to lose traction and spin, a larger engine wouldn’t hold a candle to a car with 400 horsepower that’s been built with balance in mind.

Microsoft has said that the power gap between the PS4 and the Xbox One isn’t noticeable, and that once both consoles hit the shelves the more capable of the two will be revealed. Let’s look at some past leaks about the Xbox One and some Microsoft patents, to see if we can get a clearer picture of the Xbox One’s secret sauce and what capabilities Microsoft might be alluding to.

In previous articles the topic of a particular patent of Microsoft’s came up; this patent gives us a clearer picture of the situation. At the recent Hot Chip’s Conference, Microsoft revealed the schematics for their Xbox One powering System on a Chip. The Xbox One SOC seems to benefit from GPU acceleration of video encoding; a technological patent Microsoft was awarded in 2010. The patent covers all GPU-accelerated video encoding. At the time, some in the industry were wondering why Microsoft would apply for a patent to shorten encoding time. Now we know why.

GPU acceleration provides faster video encoding than is possible on a CPU alone. It also means potential performance enhancements for a programmable GPU. Looking at some of Microsoft’s recent announcements concerning the Mono driver giving developers the ability to write to the metal, or the exclusivity of DirectX 11.2 to Xbox One, makes you wonder if Microsoft found a way to use GPU acceleration to increase performance to a whole new level. Looking at the Xbox One SOC components we do see video encoding and video decoding processors; are these processors and flash memory a part of Microsoft’s secret sauce?

Microsoft claims that the Xbox One is the perfect balance of power and performance; this should mean something considering Microsoft created Direct X. Then who better to collaborate with to build a GPU chip than ATI? They’ve had a good relationship with Microsoft since the Xbox 360. Could the Xbox One SOC chip be a derivative of GPU acceleration hardware, in order to take full advantage of a programmable GPU? Time will tell what Microsoft and Sony’s consoles are capable of. Don’t forget; just because car “A” has 700 horses and car “B” has 400 horses doesn’t mean car A wins. If car A weighs 5000 pounds and car B weighs 3000 pounds, horsepower means nothing. It makes sense why Microsoft would claim their console has both. With processing power in the GPU coming up short they’ll have to make up the difference somehow, meaning the secrets in the performance. After all, the PS3 showed higher performance numbers in the GPU but managed a worse frame rate on a number of cross-platform titles. Speculation aside, it won’t be much longer until we get definitive recipe for Microsoft’s secret sauce.

–By Rickey Gibson and Tyler Zdenek

 

Written by

Rickey is a gamer to the core, He can remember at the early stages of his life playing pong, for every generation that has been, He has owned a console in that generation, He likes to study the architecture, the structure,and the software of every system that he has owned. From Atari, to Sega, to Nintendo,to Sony, and his favorite company Microsoft, he has been there gaming.

14 Comments to “Is “GPU Acceleration” Xbox One Secret Sauce”

  1. Nester-san says:

    I read this article because I was asked to, and I’m honestly quite shocked.

    Terribly inaccurate, flat out wrong, full of mis-information, not researched in the slightest, full of school-boy errors about differences between SPU’s and GPU’s and performance characteristics of the Nvidia and ATI GPU’s used in the current consoles.

    The patent referred to in the article was filed in 2004. This is not NEW technology by ANY means. Back when AMD 4xxx series cards where around they could encode 4 x 1080p movie length streams at once in 20 mins using Hardware Encode.

    What MS has done is basically buttoned up tech that has been around and has been in use for a dog’s age. The reasons are not quite clear, but this is not NEW.

    The PS3 does NOT have a better gpu than the 360, that is flat out false. The PS3 is a better number cruncher, by virtue of it’s SPU’s, but it is crippled by a 256MB partitioned GPU that is a terrible part in comparison to the BEAST of a GPU that the 360 has.

    Any developer (John Carmack of Id for example will have left many dev diaries outlining this). Sony’s ability to better the 360 on games like ‘GOW’ or ‘Last of Us’ is entirely down to it’s internal teams having unlimited time (almost) and the ability to manipulate the SPUs to fulfill the woefull lack of performance of the garbage Nvidia Part.

    The comments about Horsepower are not apt, simply because EVERY component expcept certain custom chips which BOTH companies have put in are the same.

    This is not a contest between a first generation Viper and an Attesa GT-R Vspec. This is a contest between two Formula 1 cars.

    As a matter of fact the PS4s unpartitioned ram pool (AMD created it as future tech, and Sony modified it) and the GDDR5 are things that will probably have the longest impact than the PS4s GPU power advantage.

    http://users.ece.gatech.edu/lanterma/mpg/ece4893_xbox360_vs_ps3.pdf
    http://www.bit-tech.net/news/bits/2010/10/13/ms-patents-gpu-video-encoding/
    http://www.tomsguide.com/us/GPU-video-transcoding,news-1785.html
    http://www.rllmukforum.com/index.php?/topic/112069-xbox-360-gpu-vs-ps3-gpu/

    • JNZ says:

      You know… As someone who actually does very low level (assembly) ram management on controllers with extremely finite resources day in and day out…

      I’m getting really sick of all the “RAM EXPERTS” on the internet who in absolute truth are more impressed that one type has a “5″ on it vs the that shitty old one with a “3″.

      ” unpartitioned ram pool (AMD created it as future tech, and Sony modified it)” gave you away as not having a clue about how the nuts and bolts really work. It’s OK, you’re like 99% of the rest of the internet, hell, you’re like 99% of developers because very few actually deal with ram management past “oh this is too big, I’ll make it smaller”.

      Just stop with the hating. They are both going to be fine systems and if you think one console having “better ram” is more important than say a multi-billion dollar cloud/datacenter network you’re just going on about the equivalent of picking your nose.

      • Cuylar says:

        Low level assembler with a higher regard for himself.

        Your job title and post do nothing to qualify you as an expert…. and it’s not the 5 or the 3 that people look at… it’s the throughput.

      • Matty says:

        Microsoft’s data center, ie cloud, and huge financial resources are not to be doubted lol. Love your comment bro!

    • Jacob S says:

      They started working on and patented in 2004 and then MS worked with NVidia in 2008+ on GPU acceleration. And there are rumors of NVidia working with MS on Xbox1, not to mention Surface 2 and mobile devices. MS has something up there sleeves, everyone including you knows it… that’s why you read these articles. Gddr5 is complete sht for EVERYTHING besides graphics. Even so, as far as I seen X1 has the better graphics. How technology changes it’s not about sheer power anymore, but balance. And I wouldn’t count on MS out on just the whole APU package… I still think we must wait until after the Volcanic Islands and Kaveri APU are debuted – to know exactly what MS and possibly Sony are really using.

    • Zephyrnix says:

      To be honest bro. The first link you posted for reference as a bit off. The last page says that Xbox 360 only renders at 720p with hardware interpolating it to a higher resolution. Now, I know PLENTY of games that proved THAT false and if you use that as a reference with such OBVIOUS false information on it, Imma have to call your whole paragraph Shinannagins

  2. JNZ says:

    For the most part, yes, MS’s advantages will be in the extra hardware they have put in the Sony did not have access to for their console.

    Sony played it safe on new features, there basically are none. Lost the Cell processor that no one liked. And claim they worked with developers, but in reality, all they did was put in the best PC hardware they could afford to and still make their price point.

    MS has already commented that Sony’s “off the shelf” was a mistake. They boasted about how they “had a hand” in every part of the hardware.

    MS has:

    - A dedicated dual core audio processor that takes all sound calculation away from the CPU, as where Sony’s audio processor is just an encoder/decoder for streams leaving the CPU to still process actual effects

    - TWO sets of video encoder/resizers this means the DVR function is “free” it will take no processing to convert to 720p@30fps regardless of what the source is. Playstation does this on the APU.

    - Alike to the DVR, pushing the either the game, Skype, TV, or apps to the side in a snapped position is also “free”, notice that the PS4 does NO snapping or multitasking anywhere.

    - There are at between 6 and 12 “undisclosed” processors that were mentioned at Hotchips but not disclosed at all. It’s closer to 6 if you take 2 for audio, 4 for video processors. But no matter how you count is, MS has at least a few dedicated processors on their custom silicon they have not mentioned. These are likely physics, ray tracing, and/or general task processors that could have a major increase in overall speed when used properly. In effect with the PS4 using the APU to do physics, the same calculations could be done 10x faster on the X1 by using hardware specifically designed for such tasks. This frees up the X1 APU to do other things.

    - Then there is also the ESRAM. I won’t get into it, but anyone that says on the internet the fully understand what MS is doing with it is lying. There are four banks of 8MB each which leads to speculation they are using this in a unique way. Idiots will talk about how this will be “hard” to program for, but the reality is the hardware and MS APIs will take care of almost all the ESRAM work. Except for maybe two people at any given studio, there will be almost no direct work with the ESRAM system. It’s also interesting to me that both the new Intel and AMD chips will start shipping with an ESRAM system VERY similar to X1′s. This means optimizations and code that works well for the 8-32mb portions will start popping up in PC and X1 games, leaving the PS4 as the odd-man-out. But this is minor.

    - DirectX 11.2 on X1. Not only are you getting tiled resources and other new techniques, but DX optimizations and code will be common between PC, X1, and WinPhone/Tablet/RT. I would for the most part expect to see PC alter between X1 become the primary development systems and PS4 to receive OpenGL ports later on. Sony has (ridiculously) claimed they support the DirectX 11.2 “FEATURE SET” but this is just smoke and mirrors for them working on their PSL (playstation shader language) that most developers will skip in favor of the more common and accepted OpenGL. No Sony console will ever use DirectX, but that won’t stop Sony from over-promising on having the same “feature set”.

    - The only other thing worth mentioning in the performance debate is that MS controls DirectX. This means they control the direction PC games will go and to an extent, where the hardware will go. If you don’t think DirectX 12 is already in-design and will won’t work on Xbox, you’re a bit delusional. MS has a massive card by being able to make sure that future PC code will “just happen” to line up quite nicely with the design choices for X1.

    = The PS4 will be a fine console. The X1 is a fine console with more features. The multiplatform games will in the end be identical on both. Both consoles will have great exclusives and any “serious” gamer will own both. There is no point in a “console war” and it’s completely naive to assume that MS just “dropped the ball” when it comes to the Xbox. For me the choice is clear, I’d pay an extra $100 just for IR Blasters, or just for HDMI-IN, or just for MS’s Live (Azure/Cloud) network, or just for Kinect2 gesturing and voice control to access TV or HTPC, and hell, sometimes I’d pay just $100 to have a matchmaking system that keeps trolls well away from me. So to me, to pay $400 and not get any of that, you’re getting screwed. Best I just pay an extra $100 and get something really “next gen” over more of the same.

    • ZNJ says:

      You know… As someone who actually does low level programming with extremely finite resources day in and day out…

      I’m getting really sick of all the “GPU EXPERTS” on the internet who in absolute truth are more impressed that one type has a “5″ on it vs the that shitty old one with a “3″.

      “DirectX 11.2 on X1. Not only are you getting tiled resources and other new techniques, but DX optimizations and code will be common between PC, X1, and WinPhone/Tablet/RT. I would for the most part expect to see PC alter between X1 become the primary development systems and PS4 to receive OpenGL ports later on. Sony has (ridiculously) claimed they support the DirectX 11.2 ‘FEATURE SET’ but this is just smoke and mirrors for them working on their PSL (playstation shader language) that most developers will skip in favor of the more common and accepted OpenGL. No Sony console will ever use DirectX, but that won’t stop Sony from over-promising on having the same ‘feature set’”

      Just stop with the hating. They are both going to be fine systems, but if you think one console having “better cloud/datacenter network” is more important than a faster on board GPU and RAM, you’re just going on about the equivalent of picking your nose.

      Reply

    • Cuylar says:

      I won’t waste my time commenting on every post you have here… .but it seems you feel like you have access to the system architecture of the PS4…. I am confident that you do not.

      I will point out to you that it’s obvious that you need to feel right and superior to others… so rather than correct you I will offer some advice… Go see a shrink, your ego has outgrown your body (and your intellect for that matter)

    • Matty says:

      This may be this most complete and concise breakdown yet! Great post.

    • BigDickDaddyNilestyle says:

      Dude…I’m totally copying this to some of my buddies FB walls. Thanks for all the info!

  3. Pete says:

    I think what ALL of you need is a proof reader/spell checker. All these grammar/idiom mistakes give me a headache!

  4. all the time i used to read smaller content that as well clear their motive, and
    that is also happening with this piece of writing which I am
    reading here.

  5. steevo says:

    Amazing how all the features one guy above just mentioned, about the x1 architecture, wow, with all that stuff, the sad reality is: x1 sucks hard, and so do the games.
    Just look at an infamous ss and a dead rising 3. That’s a huuuuge difference.

    You can say all you want about the Xbox one, the sad reality is that Microsoft knows they will never catch up Sony visuals wise. The gab is already enormous: FFS, isn’t a tomb raider game using twice the x1 power, when running at twice the frame rate? That’s 2 times the whole Xbox one power.
    Isn’t most 1080p ps4 games already running at 2.25 times more pixels than the 720p x1 versions?
    How can people be that delusional and don’t accept facts?
    Does all Microsoft is doing mean nothing to you? Titanfall hardly sold new consoles; they are removing kinekt,which was he only thing they could brag about ‘hey, on x1, gamers can do voice commands, etc, but ps4 gamers can’t';
    They are desperate lowering the price, to desperately expect now people will go and grab one, but too bad, that won’t happen. The x1, without kinekt, just lost even more appeal and value, gamers aren’t willing to buy a system for then sake of buying it because they love the brand, when they know competition has the same games, with better visuals.

    Stop talking like only Microsoft is doing R&D and will optimize tools and code, and Sony, all the engineers are reading mangas and reading some hentai magazines. No, it will evolve in parallel, not as fast, but much faster, because Sony ps4 simply has much more power under the hood.

    For gaikai, Sony is building the fastest network ever. Maybe there will be some new ISP, with special ADSL/cable lines,with some kind of acceleration. Why could Sony just add some servers, and have its own cloud? Is Microsoft cloud exclusive, and nobody else can build cloud computing data centers?

    You can say and think WHAT you want, the reality is most ps4 games already look far far better than the x1. Guys, aren’t you aware of all the 720p games on x1, while the ps4 runs at 1080p? Aren’t aware of that? Do you think it is not true?
    Look at dead rising 3. The game rune between 16-24 fps, with last-gen visuals.the x1 always explodes ‘just for running that game. Do you think that suddenly, by miracle, the x1 will do 4k at 60fps, thanks to some amazing tech? Come on. Be delusional, but don’t be stupid.

    You will see, even at 399$ now, and with less paywalls, in September, there will be 10-13 million ps4 sold vs 6-7 million x1. The sales gap will increase, not decrease. And as soon as someone buys a ps4, his friends, his brother, his neighbour, his team mate, his nephew will buy one as well, because they want to play together.

    Last gen, even with 1 full year advance, Sony sold like 75-80 million ps3 vs 40-50 million x360 only. Yeah, you read it correctly. The remaining 30 million x360 were re-re-re-re-re-replacements, as dozens millions consoles kept dying and dying,with the rrod, etc, and Microsoft had to fix and replace several consoles from the same gamers, that kept having problems.
    And while the x360 is almost dead, the ps3 is still selling like crazy.

    Now, imagine what it means to a manufacturer like microsoft, when after a few months, the competition is almost selling 2-1 units. Knowing what happened last gen, with the ps3, at 600$(900-1000$ outside US),slowly, month by month, managed to outsell the x360, just imagine what will now happen, when this soon, the ps4 is already dominating this hard. Can’t you see that microsoft already tried everything to sell more units, but nothing worked?

    Yeah, guys, keep on believing in clouds, smoke and tiles, when the first games will popup in 2016-2017 that will use such techs, that will give them 10-15$ more power to work with, just imagine what an uncharted 5, using +5 GB of gddr5, the 64 ACU(x1 only has 16 of these, and computers until recently only used 2) + full GPU compute + ultra optimized code + perfect mastering of tools + final and drivers that unlock all the ps4 custom components/power, etc etc, will look like. Just imagine that uncharted 5.
    Do you think only Microsoft will come with special sauces? Sony is working on software just like Microsoft. But the difference is that so far, on the Microsoft side, that was all about PR announcements , stunts, BS, to keep fans interested, while Sony, they are quietly releasing their great 1080p titles. Next diablo 3 alone, will just sell another 500K ps4. I still haven’t found a ps4 for sale, just like other million gamers, in Europe. Everybody and his dog want a ps4. I still have to buy mine until one of the hundreds physical and internet shops receive some extra 10K’s units. Everybody wants one. Meanwhile,stores have huge piles of untouched x1 boxes that nobody wants or cares about. THAT, is the sad truth.

    See you next Christmas, bookmark this page like I will do, and compare the +15 -18 million ps4 vs 8-9million X1. My comment and yours won’t change the world and facts. Actually, people do it, with their wallets. And right now, wallets are opening to Sony/ps4/vita. Be as delusional as you can, microsoft is desperate. What will they do next?

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