Pete Dodd, better known to many as FamousMortimer is a well known leaker and industry insider. Recently he has taken to Twitter, discussing subjects of the Xbox One’s performance and User Interface. He began, “I talked to so many devs who said the UI was a mess. They did a great job pulling it together.” Adding, “It crashed a lot of debug units right up till launch. System launched…Stable UI.” Rumors of the Xbox One’s user interface woes were prevalent a month or so before the systems launch. Indeed, many of the Kinect 2.0 demos were found out to be staged and not ‘live’.
Let’s jump back on right onto the subject of the Xbox One’s graphics performance. The choices Microsoft made with both the GPU and eSRAM/DDR3 of the X1 have earned it criticism among the tech community. Microsoft were very eager to point out the power of cloud rendering, but many, including Pete Dodd aren’t convinced it’ll make any difference. “Cloud won’t help with rendering. Not for half a decade at minimum. As for 1080p/60fps – not anytime soon but tools will improve.”
The reasons behind the cloud’s inability to assist isn’t because of the speed of the servers, but rather the speed of the connection to the servers. Your console sending data to the Windows Azure servers, for the servers to then process this data, then send it back to your Xbox One all takes time. This means that with things which must be synced to a frame of animation, it’s just not going to react in time.
Both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 will have their tool chains develop over time, as is standard in the history of a new console. Several rumors circulated that the Xbox One’s development tools were lagging behind schedule, and behind the PS4. Long term, this is nothing to concern ourselves with, Microsoft and games developers will improve their tools over time. It also should be noted that Microsoft are certainly not the only one guilty of this. Nintendo’s Wii U is fairly infamous among developers for poor tool chains, and Sony learned a lot from the previous generation. The PS3’s hardware was notoriously difficult to program and the Cell not easy to get to grips with.
FamousMortimer recently disclosed the Xbox One’s performance would be seeing a nice boost with the 10 percent GPU reserve being cut to only 2 percent. He was asked if this would the console’s performance. “A little. Card is still weak. Worst decision they made making the box. Kinect is expensive so they went with a cheap gpu.” Pete Dodd also pointed out that the amount of RAM in the console isn’t causing concerns, rather its performance, “The problem isn’t the amount, it’s the speed. Plenty of room to store 1080p textures, just not enough speed or power to output it.”
The more complicated a scene is that you wish to render, be it the amount of detail on screen, or the higher resolution, the more performance is required to get it rendered in acceptable time. Think of each ‘frame’ as a job or task. Consider each task to take a portion of time to complete. The issue is that the Xbox One’s GPU and memory configuration simply isn’t fast enough to complete the ‘job’ of creating 1080P 60FPS for many titles. Games which are intensive, in other words, more things to draw, take longer to create than those which are simple.
The CPU, RAM and GPU (along with other parts of the console) all must be up to the task in order to not cause a bottleneck. The issues the Xbox One are facing seems to be two-fold. The first is the DDR3 memory, which although is spacious enough to store the data, isn’t fast enough to serve it. The 32MB of eSRAM embedded on the SoC of the Xbox One is meant to act as fast storage, but because of the small space, not enough assets can be stored. This means that often the system is left to render from DDR3.
The GPU meanwhile has significantly less Texture Mapping Units, ROPS and Processors than its rival, the Playstation 4. Although the PS4’s GPU is fairly tame compared to PC standards (for example, the £100 R7 260X has a higher TFLOP count), it manages to pull ahead of the Xbox One. It’s likely that these reasons are behind why we’ve been seeing titles on the Xbox One fall behind the Playstation 4 in terms of graphics.
The performance and graphics of both machines will improve over time, but according to another insider, Ashan Rasheed, the performance gap will widen even further. As titles and game engines become more ambitious, it’s likely that the Xbox One’s hardware will be pushed ever harder. On the other hand, Epic have stated there’s “not much difference” between the PS4 and Xbox One running Unreal Engine 4. Just how accurate that is of course remains to be seen.
It’s important to remember though that you’ll still be seeing the games you love on the Xbox One, just perhaps at a lower frame rate or resolution than the PS4. Remember that Sony’s Playstation 2 was at a huge technological disadvantage to both Nintendo’s Gamecube and the original Xbox, but easily won the console ‘war’.