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Microsoft unveils full Xbox Series X specs with 1TB expansion cards


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Microsoft unveils full Xbox Series X specs with 1TB expansion cards



Microsoft is revealing the full specs for its Xbox Series X console today, and it includes support for removable storage and much faster load times for games. The software giant will be using a custom AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores clocked at 3.8GHz each, a custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU with 12 teraflops and 52 compute units clocked at 1.825GHz each. This is all based on a 7nm process and includes 16GB of GDDR6 RAM with a 1TB custom NVME SSD storage drive.


Microsoft is using two mainboards on this Xbox Series X compact design, and the entire unit is cooled through air being pulled in from the bottom and pushed out at the top via a 130mm fan.


Developers will be using the overall 16GB of memory in two ways: there’s 10GB for fast GPU optimal memory, 3.5GB for standard memory, and 2.5GB reserved by the OS. All of this power will include the ability to expand storage through 1TB expansion cards at the rear of the console, with USB 3.2 external HDD support and a 4K Blu-ray drive. Microsoft is targeting overall performance at 4K 60fps, up to 120fps.


One of the most obvious improvements that Microsoft is demonstrating with the Xbox Series X today is load times. In one tech demo (above), State of Decay 2 loads a full 40 seconds quicker on the Series X compared to the Xbox One X. That’s a massive improvement over current consoles.


Microsoft is using a solid-state drive on the Xbox Series X, and the focus is on speed and load times for next-gen games. The Xbox maker is using something called “Xbox Velocity Architecture,” that is designed to improve the integration between hardware and software for streaming of in game assets. The result will be seen in large open world games, where developers can use this system to create high fidelity environments that load dynamically using the processing power and SSD of the Xbox Series X.


This new SSD support will also allow Xbox Series X owners to resume multiple games instantly and even resume titles after the Series X is rebooted for a system update. Game states will be saved directly to the system’s SSD, so you can resume days or even weeks later. Microsoft is demonstrating this quick resume feature, using what looks like the existing dashboard for the Xbox One.


Microsoft is also demonstrating some ray tracing aspects of the Xbox Series X today. Ray tracing will enable more realistic lighting changes to games, with improved shadows and cinematic effects. We haven’t seen enough ray-traced games on the PC side just yet, but Microsoft is showing off how the Xbox Series X can handle ray tracing in titles like Minecraft. Microsoft is also optimizing Gears 5 with higher resolution textures, fog, and particles counts, all running in 60fps in 4K.


The next-gen Xbox will also support 8K gaming and frame rates of up to 120fps in games. Microsoft has partnered with the HDMI forum and TV manufacturers to enable Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) on the Series X as part of its HDMI 2.1 support. “The team has also been working with the industry’s leading TV manufacturers for the past two years to ensure the display ecosystem is ready for the features coming with Xbox Series X,” explains Microsoft’s Will Tuttle.


All of this should reduce latency from when you press a button on an Xbox controller to when you see that movement show up on screen. Speaking of the controller, it’s now USB-C, uses AA batteries, and supports Bluetooth Low Energy. There’s also a new share button for sending clips and screenshots to friends, and existing controllers will work just fine on the new Xbox Series X.


Microsoft has also confirmed the physical dimensions of the Xbox Series X. If used vertically, it measures 301mm tall and 151 mm in depth and width. Today’s spec unveiling comes ahead of Microsoft’s plans to fully detail the console to developers later this week. Microsoft is also planning to unveil more details about the games we’ll see for the Xbox Series X in June.



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Xbox Series X eschews storage standards for proprietary expansion “card”

USB hard drives can still be used for backup storage, though.

This morning, Microsoft dumped a massive cache of details on the Xbox Series X's internal specs and features. But the most surprising revelation buried in that info dump might be the fact that the system uses a proprietary solution for expanding its 1TB of internal game storage.


Digital Foundry's deep-dive report on the Series X, created in close conjunction with Microsoft, shows off a 1TB SSD expansion card, which the site says is "very short, quite weighty for its dimensions, and actually presents rather like a memory card." The NVMe memory on that card (which looks about half the size of a standard NVMe stick) connects through the back of the system using the same PCI Express 4.0 connection as the system's internal memory (this is the rectangular "mystery slot" seen next to the Ethernet port when images of the Series X ports leaked in January).


The Series X will still support standardized USB 3.2 hard drives, according to the Digital Foundry report, but those can only be used to natively run backward-compatible games designed for previous Xbox systems (the Xbox One, 360, and original Xbox). For Series X games, a USB hard drive can only be used as a backup solution, where you can "park" games that then need to be shuffled over to the internal storage to be played.

Gotta go fast

The use of the proprietary memory format is apparently to enable what Microsoft is now calling the "Xbox Velocity Architecture," the long-teased feature that allows for much faster loading of content than that of even high-speed solid-state drives. Digital Foundry says this custom NVMe drive system in the Series X can access data at a constant 2.4GB/s, compared to just 0.6 GB/s for a USB 3.0 hard drive or 0.75 GB/s for high-end SATA SSD drives. That allows "100GB of game assets stored to be instantly accessible by the developer," as Microsoft puts it (though the company's use of "instantly" is a bit squishy for our tastes, especially when compared with the system's much faster RAM access speeds).


Despite the exclusive format, Microsoft does not look like it wants to be the exclusive manufacturer and seller of these storage expansion cards, as it was for the overpriced proprietary hard drive format on the Xbox 360. Seagate has already announced its own 1TB Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X that it says is "built in partnership with Xbox" and "seamlessly replicat[es] the full speed and performance of the Series X's internal storage."


Neither Microsoft nor Seagate is discussing pricing for these storage expansions as of yet, but we can't imagine they'll be cheap. A 1TB Seagate NVMe drive for PCs currently sells for a $200 MSRP at retail, compared to $130 for a standard SSD or about $50 for an external USB hard drive of the same size. Microsoft's proprietary size and format for the Series X expansion could increase the manufacturing costs and pricing as well.


Proprietary storage formats in game consoles have been falling out of favor ever since Microsoft charged a hefty premium for its exclusive hard drive design on the Xbox 360. Since then, Sony's PSP and Vita portables stand out for using expensive and cumbersome proprietary memory card formats.


The Nintendo Switch uses standard MicroSD cards for game storage. On the PlayStation 4, you can replace the built-in internal hard drive with a standard 2.5 inch drive, though the process is a bit cumbersome.


Listing image by Seagate



Source: Xbox Series X eschews storage standards for proprietary expansion “card” (Ars Technica)  


(To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)

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