here we go!
Official Product Page link: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one-x
Xbox One X will cost $499 when it launches on November 7, 2017. Microsoft confirmed a worldwide November 7 release date for Xbox One X, as well as pricing - £449, $499 USD, €499 Euros, $599 CA and $649 AU.
Touted as the smallest Xbox ever - smaller even than last year's Xbox One S slimline revision.
- Eight custom CPU cores clocked at 2.3GHz
- 326GB/s of memory bandwidth
- 1172MHz GPU - with 40 customised compute units
- 12GB GDDR5 memory
- 1TB HDD
- 4K UHD Blu-ray disc player
- 4K gaming support
- VR support
Xbox One X is a mid-generation upgrade of the Xbox One, and so all games and peripherals that run on an Xbox One today will work on the new system, including controllers and Kinect, as well as initiatives such as Xbox 360 backwards compatibility and cross-buy with Windows 10 as well.
However, at gamescom 2016, Xbox marketing chief Aaron Greenberg confirmed there would be VR exclusive Xbox One X games, since they view VR as separate to traditional console games.
The end result is 40 Radeon compute units in the custom Scorpio Engine, ramped up to a remarkable 1172MHz - a huge increase over Xbox One's 853MHz, and indeed PS4 Pro's 911MHz.
Xbox One X runs its GDDR5 modules across a 384-bit GDDR5 interface ("So you were right!" laughs Goossen) that uses 12 32-bit channels. The modules themselves run at 6.8GHz, offering a final bandwidth figure of 326GB/s - on top of which, Microsoft gets the benefit of AMD's delta colour compression (DCC) system, an element that wasn't present on Xbox One. And yes, Xbox One X does indeed feature 12GB of memory, as indicated on Microsoft's E3 motherboard render, 9GB of which is available to developers, with 3GB reserved for the system.
All signs point to the upclocked Jaguar cores we find in Xbox One, and Xbox One X's CPU set-up is indeed an evolution of that tech, but subject to extensive customisation and the offloading of key tasks to dedicated hardware.
"So, eight cores, organised as two clusters with a total of 4MB of L2 cache. These are unique customised CPUs for Xbox One X running at 2.3GHz. Alluding back to the goals, we wanted to maintain 100 per cent backwards compatibility with Xbox One and Xbox One S while also pushing the performance envelope," says Nick Baker.
The new x86 cores in Xbox One X are 31 per cent faster than Xbox One's, with extensive customisation to reduce latency in order to keep the processor occupied more fully, while CPU/GPU coherency also gets a performance uplift. There's significant hardware offloading too - some of which is inherited from Xbox One, some of which is radically new.
The audio processor in Xbox One is fully transplanted across to Xbox One X and gains new functionality - spatial surround, effectively adding a 'height' component to the existing 7.1 set-up. Xbox One X is set to receive support for Dolby Atmos for gaming, Dolby Atmos for headphones plus a Microsoft proprietary format called HRTF, developed by the Hololens team. Because the APB (audio processor block) hardware is basically identical to that found in Xbox One, it means that all existing iterations of the console will get the spatial surround upgrade.
"We essentially moved Direct3D 12," says Goossen. "We built that into the command processor of the GPU and what that means is that, for all the high frequency API invocations that the games do, they'll all natively implemented in the logic of the command processor - and what this means is that our communication from the game to the GPU is super-efficient."
Processing draw calls - effectively telling the graphics hardware what to draw - is one of the most important tasks the CPU carries out. It can suck up a lot of processor resources, a pipeline that traditionally takes thousands - perhaps hundreds of thousands - of CPU instructions. With Xbox One X's hardware offload, any draw call can be executed with just 11 instructions, and just nine for a state change.
The Scorpio Engine processor measures 360mm2 and features seven billion transistors. We got to see the chip plan, with the four shader engines occupying the majority of the die, skewed towards the left of the layout. Each SE actually has 11 compute units, with one disabled per block to increase chip yield on the production line. To the right of the GPU sit the two clusters of custom CPU cores, while the memory interfaces skirt the edges of the chip.
Also integrated is the latest AMD media block, meaning that the Xbox GameDVR gets an upgrade to 4K60 using the next-gen HEVC codec - you can even capture your content in full HDR. What Microsoft calls retroactive screen capture is also introduced, meaning you can move through your captures frame-by-frame to take out the best shot, without having to press the screenshot button at exactly the right time.
Nick Baker, "In addition, we have always believed in having flexible output processing with three output planes so you can have your render target, your overlay dash and video playing. Each one of those has symmetric capabilities in terms of being able to run sampling, so we have a high quality multi-tap filter. As an example, if you render at 4K and you're going to a 1080p TV, you can use that to do a high quality sample."
Downsampling to 1080p is an important point. Performance modes should be accessible to 4K users, while ultra HD rendering should super-sample down for those 1080p displays. Microsoft takes care of this at the platform level, and it requires that all titles should run at the same frame-rate or higher as the standard Xbox One. [UPDATE: Microsoft has clarified that 1080p supersampling is handled at the system level with higher resolution rendering modes as opposed to imposing this on the developer - we've adjusted the text to reflect this.]
In addition to allowing you to play games at 4K, Microsoft asserted at its press conference that the Xbox One X would bolster existing Xbox One games in a number of ways that include adding anisotropic filtering, faster load times, and enabling supersampling; the latter of which renders games above 1080p and then downsizes them to an HDTV. This makes them look sharper than traditional 1080p. Everything should run just fine, but more than that, the full power of the Scorpio Engine will be brought to bear on enhancing your existing games. According to the Xbox hardware team, your existing library of games should run smoother, look better and load faster. Microsoft has previously promised that 900p and 1080p Xbox One games should be able to run at native 4K on the Xbox One X, and that existing Xbox One and 360 games will see a noticeable performance boost.
"We built into the hardware the capability of overwriting all bilinear and all trilinear fetches to be anisotropic," Andrew Goossen reveals. "And then we've dialled up the anisotropic all the way up to max. All of our titles by default when you're running on Scorpio, they'll be full anisotropic."
Good quality texture filtering will make a big difference to a large number of Xbox One titles, where typically 4x anisotropic tends to be the balancing point chosen by developers. The leap to 16x, enforced at a system level by the back-compat engine, is a huge boon, especially in concert with the complete lack of screen-tear and smoother overall performance. More good news: this new feature extends to Xbox 360 games too.
Faster loading: In a world where a Battlefield 1 campaign level can take anything up to two minutes to load, this one is especially welcome. "We're able to say that game loads will be fundamentally faster," Goossen reveals. "There are three ways we say that - one of which is the CPU boost. The 31 per cent CPU boost in terms of clock will help games that are CPU-bound in terms of their IO."
Assets streamed from a hard drive often arrive in a compressed state, requiring the CPU to decompress them. Extra frequency on the CPU cores can make a difference here - sometimes a dramatic one.
"The second one is that we've that we've improved the hard disk speed," Goossen adds. "We're actually promising developers a 50 per cent improvement in overall bandwidth for the purposes of driving 4K textures, but this also helps us in this situation where you're running existing Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles. They will also benefit from the faster hard disk."
"If Xbox One games take five gigs, we have three gigs left over. We do a file system cache on that. Any repeated IOs... if you go into a race and come out or if you go into a fight and come out, we've got a nice boost right there for load times as well."
Leo Del Castillo, general manager of Xbox hardware design, "One of the things we do is we basically fine tune the voltages for each of the chips and optimise them so the chips are getting exactly what they need to get the job done... That drives a much higher degree of efficiency into the system and allows us to get rid of a lot of wasted power that would otherwise come out as heat."
It's a technique that Microsoft calls the 'Hovis method', named after the engineer who developed it. Every single Scorpio Engine processor that comes off TSMC's production line will have its own specific power profile. Rather than adopt a sub-optimal one-size-fits-all strategy, Microsoft tailors the board to match the chip.
Microsoft is using a vapour chamber heat sink. It consists of a copper vessel that forms its basis, inside of which is deionised water under vacuum. Heat is absorbed into the water, where it vapourises. The steam convects away from the hot spots and condenses on the heat sink fins. It's highly efficient - but the heat still needs to be expelled from the system and the standard axial fans used on prior Xbox hardware wouldn't cut the mustard.
"We went to a custom designed adapted centrifugal fan for this design," Del Castillo continues. "It kind of looks like a supercharger on a car, it looks like an intercooler almost. Every part about this is custom designed for the application."
There's the UHD Blu-ray drive - pretty much the same unit we saw in Xbox One S, with minor mods to fit the Xbox One X chassis.
It was also heartening to see that Microsoft has retained an internal power supply: in this case, a 245W universal voltage PSU that Del Castillo reckons is the most efficient in Xbox history. On the rear of the unit, the arrangement of ports is identical to Xbox One S, including the standard figure-eight power socket. The thinking here is that those who've plumbed their Xbox One S into their AV set-up can swap over to Xbox One X with next to no effort. Since port arrangement is based on Xbox One S, there's no return for the original Xbox One's Kinect port (a USB adapter is required) but the HDMI input is retained.
Xbox One X supports AMD's FreeSync - and the upcoming variable refresh rate support baked into the next-gen HDMI 2.1 spec. So what's the big deal here? In an ideal world, every single console game would run at 60fps, perfectly sychronised with the refresh rate of the attached display. This would result in a super-smooth, low latency gameplay experience - something you can see in the here and now in titles including the Forza Motorsport series and Halo 5. However, if a game targets 60fps and doesn't consistently hit the target, the experience is compromised in one of two ways.
First of all, if the game runs with v-sync enabled, frames are dropped and this introduces noticeable judder - what's happening here is that the game only has a small window in which to synchronise with the screen. If a frame renders over its 1/60th of a second budget, the GPU stalls, waiting for the next refresh. Alternatively, the developer may simply decide to drop synchronisation with the screen - when this happens, highly intrusive, ugly screen-tearing kicks in.
Adaptive refresh technology like AMD's FreeSync completely eliminates tearing and reduces stutter significantly by allowing the GPU to trigger the display refresh instead of adhering to a hard and fast 60Hz cycle. Essentially, the screen produces the next image immediately after the GPU finishes rendering it.
Microsoft has actually implemented the FreeSync 2 standard, meaning compatibility with HDR and full support across the range of potential frame-rates. Paired with a supported screen, this will even eliminate tearing on games running with adaptive v-sync with frame-rates under 30fps, something not supported on most FreeSync 1 screens (VRR range varied on a per-screen basis, with 40Hz to 60Hz commonplace).
So in the short term, what does this mean for prospective Xbox One X buyers? How do you get to experience the new tech? Well, until the HDMI 2.1 standard is ratified, there are no living room displays that are VRR-enabled. To see the benefit, you'll need to have a PC monitor - a 4K one preferably, though 1080p screens will work - and it needs to support FreeSync over HDMI. This limits the amount of potential screens as it's more frequently run via DisplayPort, a video output that is not supported by Xbox One X. Looking forward, a 4K HDR monitor with FreeSync 2 support really is the best way to ensure optimal results from this feature. In here and now, what we can say is that Xbox One X's adaptive sync support is baked in at the system level - the developer doesn't need to worry about it (though they could enable higher frame-rate caps for VRR users if the overhead is there). And on top of that, it works across all Xbox content that runs on the new console - Xbox 360 back-compat titles and Xbox One games.
118 games and counting expected to have Xbox One X Enhanced support:
Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition comes in a cool original Xbox-style box
There will be a limited run of Xbox One X consoles with an homage to its Project Scorpio origins. It will debut on November 9, 2017. It includes a 1TB hard drive and features the name "Project Scorpio" on both the console and controller. The controller has all black buttons and the console has a slightly different woven texture than the vanilla Xbox One X.
What's in the box:
- Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition 1TB Console
- Project Scorpio Edition Wireless Controller
- Xbox One X Vertical Stand (stand not included with the regular Xbox One X package)
- 1 month Game Pass subscription trial
- 14-day Xbox Live Gold trial
- HDMI cable (4K capable)
- AC Power cable