Tech

Xbox Series X: A Closer Look at the Technology Powering the Next Generation

A few months ago, we revealed Xbox Series X, our fastest, most powerful console ever, designed for a console generation that has you, the player, at its center. When it is released this holiday season, Xbox Series X will set a new bar for performance, speed and compatibility, all while allowing you to bring your gaming legacy forward with you and play thousands of games from four generations.

Recently, along with the tech experts Austin Evans and Digital Foundry, we had the chance to take a closer look at some of the technologies that are powering Xbox Series X and talk to the team about the choices they made when defining the next generation of gaming. We spent an entire day discussing everything from the console’s custom processor and latency solutions to backward compatibility and visual enhancements.

(Editor’s Note: We’ll be using some acronyms and discussing technologies in this post without always defining them. To that end, we’ve created an Xbox Series X glossary that contains many of these terms and more. We’ll link out where applicable, and you can check out the full glossary here, as well as our features on the new Xbox Wireless Controller and how the team is reducing latency.)

The next generation of Xbox is defined by three primary characteristics: Power, Speed and Compatibility. Let’s take a look at the features and technologies of Xbox Series X delivering those three hallmarks.


The Most Powerful Xbox Ever


Early on in the design of Xbox Series X, the team was determined to deliver the most powerful Xbox ever, which opened a series of discussions about how to define “power” in the next generation of consoles. In past generations, power has been defined primarily by graphics innovation: from the transition from 8 bit to 16 bit graphics, 2D to 3D, SD to HD and finally to 4K.

Today, gamers are demanding more and more games run at 60 frames per second (fps) with high visual fidelity and precise, responsive input. Developers have come up with creative solutions, such as dynamic resolution scaling, to maintain high image quality while not compromising on frame rate, but this is often done to work around the limitations and constraints of current generation hardware. That’s all about to change with Xbox Series X. It’s not just about making games look better, though. It’s about making games play better too.

“While the Xbox Series X will deliver a massive increase in GPU performance and continue to redefine and advance the state of art in graphics with new capabilities such as hardware accelerated raytracing,” said Jason Ronald, Director of Product Management on Xbox Series X, “we don’t believe this generation will be defined by graphics or resolution alone.”

The team knew they needed to build a next generation console that could run games in 4K at 60 fps with no compromises for developers. They also challenged themselves to deliver a level of performance once thought impossible on console, including support for up to 120 fps for the most demanding and competitive games. While they believe resolution and frame rate are creative decisions best left in the hands of title developers, the team wanted to ensure the system was able to support the needs of the largest blockbusters, competitive esports, and innovative independent creators.

In order to support those needs, the team strengthened their long-term partnership with chipmaker AMD, which began working with the Xbox team over 15 years ago on the Xbox 360. Sebastien Nussbaum, Corporate Vice President & Senior Fellow, Semi-Custom Products and Technologies​ at AMD, spoke a bit about what the team created to help power Xbox Series X.

Thanks to a focus on transformational design and generational performance uplift, Nussbaum said that, for developers, “the console ends up being a playground for technical innovation.” This is due in large part to the raw power of the custom designed processor, powered by an 8 core AMD Zen 2 CPU and an RDNA 2-class GPU.

These next generation architectures deliver a new level of performance that lets developers create realistic and immersive experiences like we’ve never seen before, while also allowing the team at AMD to seed a next generation DirectX ecosystem that will continue to push the industry forward.

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