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