by Anton Shilov
01/21/2013 | 11:51 PM
The yet-not-officially-announce next-generation video-game systems from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. are projected to utilize microprocessor technology that is not yet available for personal computers. The recent rumours about Xbox Next and PlayStation 4 “Orbis” imply that the two systems will be powered by Advanced Micro Devices’ code-named Jaguar x86 cores that will make it to the market later this year.
According to Eurogamer.net’s Digital Foundry, both Microsoft Xbox “Durango” and Sony PlayStation 4 “Orbis” are going to be based on highly-integrated system-on-chips featuring AMD Jaguar x86 64-bit cores. The SoCs are projected to be conservatively clocked at around 1.6GHz, which should ensure maximum possible yields as well as low temperature of multi-core solutions. Keeping in mind that video game consoles are designed to last for many years, it is possible that SoCs inside future PlayStation and Xbox will feature certain tweaks, optimizations and innovations that will not be available on personal computers for a while.
The idea to use AMD’s low-power/low-cost cores instead of high-performance x86 cores has both pros and cons. On the one hand, AMD’s Jaguar looks very promising on paper and has a number of advantages that may be especially valuable for game consoles, including 128-bit floating point unit (FPU) with enhancements and double-pumping to support 256-bit AVX instructions as well as an innovative integer unit with new hardware divider, larger schedulers and more out-of-order resources. On the other hand, AMD’s Jaguar is substantially behind the company’s high-end x86 cores when it comes to general-purpose performance and therefore some of the operations may take a long time to complete, unless there are not special-purpose accelerators integrated or the consoles will heavily rely on GPGPU [general-purpose computing using GPUs] technologies.
Perhaps, the main advantage of using AMD’s Jaguar for video game consoles is relatively simplistic design of the core that lets Microsoft and Sony to make chips powered by Jaguar at different foundries without major problems with porting the design to a different process technology. Yet another benefit of Jaguar is its small size (just 3.1mm2 per die, without L2 cache), which allows to integrate eight of such cores into one chip without significantly improving costs.
Based on earlier rumours, the Digital Foundry also suggests that graphics processing unit inside PlayStation 4 “Orbis” is projected to feature higher raw performance than graphics core of Xbox “Durango”. However, the web-site claims that the SoC inside Microsoft’s future console also has a graphics core incorporated. Such GPU makes sense for GPU compute as well as for multimedia graphics applications that do not require high-performance graphics (Xbox Live apps). Obviously, the same core can assist the main GPU engine when needed, hence, the actual difference between graphics processing performance of the two consoles still remains unclear.
Many media sources also reported that while Sony PlayStation 4 “Orbis” will rely on 4GB of high-speed GDDR5 memory, Microsoft Xbox Next “Durango” will feature 8GB of mainstream DDR3 memory as well as high-speed eDRAM buffer for GPU with some fixed-function logic to compensate slower memory.
It is expected that both consoles will be available this holiday season for $350 - $400. Formal announcements by Sony and Microsoft are projected to be scheduled in the first half of 2013.
Microsoft and Sony did not comment on the news-story.