Xbox One Software Update Provides Additional GPU Memory Bandwidth For Devs


Microsoft’s Xbox One has taken a lot of flack from the gaming community in the performance department, but the Xbox team are hard at work to squeeze every last drop of power out of the machine. There have been numerous reports popping up for the past few months regarding the Xbox One’s performance boosts, including improved SDK’s, DirectX 12 and even reduction in the percent of GPU reserved to handle Kinect / other OS functionality.

Phil Spencer has just announced via Twitter that the XBox One will be receiving a performance boost as he says “June #XboxOne software dev kit gives devs access to more GPU bandwidth. More performance, new tools and flexibility to make games better”

Which is obviously great news – unfortunately right now there’s precious little information aside from his tweet, which leaves us with a few precious questions. The first is the most obvious – how much extra performance are we talking here? Two percent, five percent or even more? Then clearly the next question would be is still still part of the GPU Kinect OS reduction that has already been announced or is this something else entirely? Logically it would be Kinect related – but Microsoft are yet to confirm this.

The Xbox One’s memory system is fairly complex, using DDR3 RAM to store the majority of the data, and the eSRAM as a small buffer to handle data which needs to be moved about very fast – for example the frame buffer for the graphics. The PS4’s memory system is generally easier for developers to use because of the single nature of the unified GDDR5 RAM and the improved AMD GPU, despite both systems using very similar CPU technology, the AMD Jaguar X86-64.

Phil Spencer has certainly been rather busy since he’s taken over as head of the XBox division. Just a few of the things that’s happened under his watch include the introduction of the Kinectless SKU, the removal of the paywall from applications such as Netflix which required Xbox Live Gold to function (which was frankly a silly requirement). We’ve even got the frequently promised external storage support too. For PC gamer’s, Phil even agreed that more needed to be done to support PC gaming and it was part of his plan. ““I agree that MS needs to up our gaming presence on Windows,” he told a follower on Twitter. “Part of my XBOX role is to bring back our Windows gaming focus.”

It’s important to remember that the Xbox One’s specs don’t change with this update – the PS4 will still be technically the superior machine, but the extra performance will certainly help to improve the performance of multi-format titles. As we discussed during our Tech Tribunal of Watch Dogs Playstation 4 vs Xbox One, while the frame rates are similar the biggest difference is the graphics. The PS4 version running at higher resolution and with slightly better lighting / shadows.

The Xbox One’s DX12 is supposedly going to improve performance by about 30 percent but it’s still very up in the air right now, as the 30 percent could simply be down to say Draw Call performance, rather than overall system performance. Either way, this is all great news for Xbox One owner’s, and even small increases in performance are going to help the system in the long term, remember both systems are barely six months old at this point. The other benefits of DX12 will be far easier to port titles from the PC to X1, which benefits both platform users and clearly goes hand in hand with Phil Spencer’s comments above – more info in our DX12 analysis here.

Sony aren’t going to sit idly by and let the gap close, their ICE Team are reporting large speed increases which are being attributed to GPGPU. The real power of both consoles shall be demoed of course with exclusive titles for the machines, and with E3 coming up we’ll not have long to wait.