Rumour: Xbox One reserve power to be untapped?

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We know that the Xbox One is, without question at this point, weaker than the PlayStation 4 when it comes to pure raw hardware numbers. We’re also pretty sure that there’s no magical secret sauce that’ll ever allow the system to reach parity, but we also know that Microsoft has reserved 10% of the GPU, mostly for Kinect processing that it planned to unlock for developers to use later in the console’s life. Sooner, rather than later it seems.

Back in October last year, Microsoft confirmed that there was a 10% GPU reservation

“Xbox One has a conservative 10 per cent time-sliced reservation on the GPU for system processing. This is used both for the GPGPU processing for Kinect and for the rendering of concurrent system content such as snap mode,” Microsoft engineer Andrew Goossen told Eurogamer in an interview on the Xbox One’s innards.

“The current reservation provides strong isolation between the title and the system and simplifies game development – strong isolation means that the system workloads, which are variable, won’t perturb the performance of the game rendering. In the future, we plan to open up more options to developers to access this GPU reservation time while maintaining full system functionality.”

Now, possibly in response to the widespread media attention that the Xbox One’s worse performing, lower resolution games has been getting, Microsoft could be unlocking 8% of that cache to developers. That’s the unsubstantiated claim from Pete Dodd, known on the internet as Famousmortimer, who’s been right about a few things regarding the new consoles before.

This is good news for Xbox One owners, as it really just means there’s no overhead being used for Kinect video tracking in games that don’t use Kinect at all. It doesn’t, however, mean that the Xbox One will able to match the PS4 in performance. The bump won’t help much with resolution at all (that blasted 32Mb ESRAM is a bottleneck), but it should most certainly help with frame-rate.

Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition, out later tis month, for example, could have conceivably hit the sweet 60fps sport with this extra oomph, and could still be given a bump with a post-release patch.

I maintain though, based purely on the hardware that’s in each system, that the gap between the PS4 and Xbox One will not only be noticeable, but will actually widen as this generation goes on. It’s a sentiment seemingly shared by “industry insiders” like Ahsan Rasheed, another person from the internet who’s been known to be correct about much of the new console developments.

To be honest though, I think we need to stop focusing on the hardware; we know that the Xbox One isn’t as powerful, and this resolution and frame-rate deficit will be perpetuated through the generation. It really is all about the games, and frankly, there aren’t enough of those on either system at the moment. Whatever system you own, whatever system you plan to own; get games for it. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them.

Last Updated: January 27, 2014

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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