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Xbox One: Your definitive guide

By Tamoor Hussain on Wednesday 29th May 2013 at 9:30 AM UTC

One week after Microsoft's tumultuous Xbox One reveal, a clearer picture has come together of what we currently know about the next gen console.

There are clearly still vital questions that Microsoft needs to answer, but CVG has brought together all the information out there in one comprehensive, handy guide.


Console design

The shape:

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In building the Xbox One, Microsoft started from scratch to create something that suggests - more than anything else - that it's an entertainment device. It's features a broad, imposing squared-off frame that some have likened to a VCR player, while others say its sharp edges and sparing details bring it in line with the look of modern consumer devices.

"New Xbox One hardware is sleek and modern and complements any décor," Scott Dallmeyer, senior industrial designer on the Xbox One, told Wired.

"The console is shaped in the 16:9 aspect ratio and employs a horizontal orientation optimized for its high-speed Blu-ray disc player. It is moulded in a deep and rich liquid black colour and includes a distinctive beveled edge."

"We wanted [Xbox One] to really fit in with the things that are in your living room or your game room. We wanted this to be very quiet, very confident, but still very capable."

You cannot stand the console up vertically, as you could with the Xbox 360.

The surface
Not quite black and not completely chrome, Xbox One uses a specific Microsoft tint called "dark chrome". The console's finish is equally split between glossy and matte.

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The console's top panel, meanwhile, is divided into two halves; the left is plain with a glossy finish, while the right is dominated by corrugated air vents.

The face panel retains simplicity throughout. A small, silver Xbox Logo (sitting behind the glass panel, on the bottom right) will shine a crisp, bright white when turned on.

Xbox One disc and cable inputs
Replacing the traditional disc tray is an automatic optical drive similar to the original PlayStation 3's. A slit at the face of the console will eat a disc and spit it out on command.

A neatly squared-off area on the back, beneath a strip of vents, houses a collection of ports, including power; HDMI in; HDMI out; two USB 3.0 slots; a Gigabit Ethernet port; and - presumably - the input for Microsoft's new Kinect.

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Xbox One system performance

CPU and GPU
The beating heart of Xbox One is said to be an AMD-developed 8-core CPU running at 1.6GHz, based on the PC-based x86 chip architecture. During the reveal, Microsoft chose not to delve too deeply into the capabilities of its GPU, but did claim it provides "eight times" the graphical power of the Xbox 360.

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The chip powering the console is an AMD GPU, which according to Digital Foundry, offers "12 compute units providing a total of 768 threads at 800MHz, and 1.2 teraflops" depending on the unconfirmed clock-speed.

Discussing the making of the Xbox One, Greg Williams, the general manager of silicon development at Microsoft, said the console "does not target the highest-end graphics". It is instead built "in an intelligent" way for "broad entertainment play".

System RAM and three operating systems
Xbox One appears to house 8GB of DDR3 memory, though how much of this is allocated to the operating systems is not clear (It is rumoured to be as high as 3GB). What is confirmed is that the console co-habits three operating systems, each catered to a specific task.

The first is powered by the kernel of Windows 8 and is used to power applications such as Skype, Live TV services, and other non-gaming software.

Meanwhile, the second operating system is a custom framework optimised for games tasks and processes. This will provide developers more direct access to the console's hardware.

And the third is said to serve as a connective tissue between the two, integrating both OSes and commanding "deep and instant" control of the hardware. In addition to allowing users to switch between applications and games quickly, the somewhat complicated three-part operating system also allows the Xbox One to perform many tasks in the background.

Xbox One hard drives, networking, and display resolutuion
An internal hard disc carries 500GB of space, enough to store roughly ten full games (on the assumption that each game fills a 50GB Blu-ray disc to full capacity).

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Albert Penello, senior director of product planning at Microsoft, has said the internal drive cannot be replaced. However, external storage solutions can be used through the console's fast USB 3.0 port, and these are effectively capable of everything the internal storage allows.

For networking, it has been confirmed the Xbox One will carry a Gigabit Ethernet port and 802.11N Wi-Fi. It is also believed the system will support Wi-Fi Direct, which is a standard that allows devices to connect to each other without going through a router, though this has not been confirmed.

The system will not support the old standard resolution, though Microsoft communications executive Larry Hryb said it will allow 3D stereoscopy and 4K resolution standards.

Xbox One Backwards compatibility

The Xbox One will not be compatible with Xbox 360 games, be it disc based or XBLA downloads. The system architecture is so different that all 360 games would need to be coded to directly work with the Xbox One system.

"We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games - games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Close Close

There is a possible solution that could, in theory, be found through cloud computing. Microsoft servers hosting Xbox 360 games could stream content to Xbox One, much in the same way Sony wants to stream legacy PlayStation content to PS4. Although Microsoft has established a significant network infrastructure, it has not mentioned such a content policy.

However, the company has pledged to continue supporting its Xbox 360 customers: "We care very much about the investment you have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future."

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