Xbox Processor Revealed

Today, IBM released info on the new processor they created for the new Xbox 360 gaming console. They are expected to release more info today at the Fall Processor Forum in San Jose. The implemented some new instrcutions and created high speed connection between the processor and the graphic’s processor so that the graphics hardware can read directly from what’s stored on the primary processor’s onboard memory. From,

The IBM-built chip features three customized PowerPC computing engines that can each handle two simultaneous tasks at clock speeds greater than 3 gigahertz. It was customized for Microsoft in less than 24 months from the original contract.

The original Xbox, released in the fall of 2001, used an Intel Corp. 733-megahertz Pentium III microprocessor. In 2003, Microsoft decided to switch to a different vendor for the next-generation system.

The company best known for its market-dominating Windows operating system instead turned to IBM the same company Sony Corp worked with to jointly develop the upcoming PlayStation 3′s Cell microprocessor.

But the Cell processor, which is expected to be deployed in devices beyond the PlayStation, is fundamentally different from the Xbox chip, said Ilan Spillinger, director of the IBM Design Center for Xbox 360.


IBM on Tuesday said it has begun production of a new microprocessor for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming console, due later this fall.

The company said the custom designed microprocessor is in production at the company’s East Fishkill, N.Y., fab and at Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing in Singapore.

IBM said the chip features a customized version of IBM’s 64-bit PowerPC core. The chip includes three of these cores, each with two simultaneous threads and clock speeds greater than 3GHz.

The chip features 165 million transistors and is fabricated using IBM’s 90 nanometer technology to reduce heat and improve performance. The chip’s 21.6GB-per-second front side bus architecture was customized to meet the demanding throughput and latency requirements of the Xbox 360 gaming platform software, IBM said.

Recently read an article from TG Daily, from Tom’s Hardware Guide about the Xbox and how most people will not have the video hardware to take advantage of the system yet.

The system will not be able to convince a 20-inch standard television in a 15 year-old’s bedroom to create the same breathtaking output of audiovisuals. Microsoft is calling this the high-definition (HD) era, but few people have upgraded to an HD television. Not to blame Microsoft for using the best equipment money can rent for their demonstrations, but realistically, not every gamer will have the equipment Microsoft uses in its pre-laucnh demonstrations.

I know my kid won’t in his room, but we will have it connected to my Hitachi widescreen HDTV and surround sound first I’m sure. ;)

Another problem that Microsoft may face with the launch of Xbox 360 is the simple lack of the “killer app”. There is no must-have game for Xbox 360 scheduled for release day. Project Gotham Racing 3, Perfect Dark Zero, and Dead or Alive 4 are all great games in their own right, but there is a feeling of “been there done that” with each title. The Xbox 360 will need a blockbuster game such as Halo to make the system fly off the shelves. As it stands right now, there won’t be such a game on launch day.

I think I will jump in on the Project Gotham Racing as we have never played that game, yet, but I certainly would like to see the next Halo, anyone seen or head anything yet?

When it is released, the Xbox 360 will be the most powerful videogame console on the market, there is no question about it. It just may not have the impact that gamers have come to expect from a new console. Sony’s Playstation 3 looms on the horizon of next year, but word is that its release may slip into 2007. If delayed, Microsoft has an opportunity to secure a strong install base. With a release title list bordering on average, gamers may do well to wait for things to shake out a bit before plunking down $700 or even $1000 for a package on day 1.

Good advice and bad luck for Sony. It certainly will be interesting to see the market share of both companies in a year.

On a related note, they just brought the first Xbox 360 online at Xbox Live, Click here to see the online image at Major Nelson’s blog. Major Nelson is the Xbox Live gamertag of Larry Hryb. He works at Microsoft under the title of ?Xbox Live Director of Programming? in the Xbox Live product group.