With Sony’s PS5 pre-order fiasco still on-going, Microsoft seems to be in prime position to deliver with its next-gen consoles. The Xbox Series S is a big factor in this, due to featuring much of the same hardware as the Xbox Series X at a more affordable price. This has led to concerns about the memory bandwidth and whether the console will ultimately hold back next-gen gaming.
Speaking to The Verge, Microsoft’s director of Xbox program management Jason Ronald talked about scaling games to run on the Xbox Series S. “We did a lot of analysis of what it would really mean to run a game at 4K with 60fps and then to scale that down to 1440p at 60fps. The reality is you don’t need as much memory bandwidth because you’re not loading the highest level MIP levels into memory. You don’t need the same amount of memory as well.”
The number of techniques that developers can employ for downscaling titles is extensive, as Ronald notes. “Developers have a whole host of different techniques, whether that’s changing the resolution of their title, things like dynamic resolution scaling frame to frame — that’s something we’ve seen a lot of adoption of, especially towards the end of this generation. And obviously the ability to enable and display different visual effects, without actually implementing the fundamental gameplay.”
Though the Xbox One X may have higher TFLOPS than the Xbox Series S, those numbers aren’t equivalent considering the technology. The latter runs on AMD’s RDNA 2 which offers “basically a 25 percent performance uplift over GCN with no work by developers at all. There’s a significant amount of efficiency we’re getting out of RDNA2 relative to GCN. Then we look at other things like using float 16 or variable rate shading, and we’re seeing on the order of 10-20 percent performance benefits from there as well.” It also helps that the Xbox Series S is using its GPU power to hit 1440p rather than 4K.
Ronald also points out that the Xbox Series S will be offering features like ray tracing and variable rate shading that the Xbox One X can’t. “It is really difficult to compare raw numbers like teraflops across generations, because we think about them differently. In general on the GPU side the Xbox Series S is effectively the same performance as an Xbox One X GPU, but it brings all the next-gen features like ray tracing, VRS, mesh shaders, and obviously when you look at the massive leaps in CPU performance and I/O performance, that’s why Xbox Series S is designed to deliver that true next-gen experience just targeting a lower resolution than Xbox Series X.
“There are also opportunities where we can enhance the titles on Xbox Series S even further than what we can do on Xbox One X. If you look at the raw power of the Xbox Series S, if a title wants to go in and double its frame rates it’s actually really easy, because we’ve more than doubled the GPU performance and more than doubled the CPU performance, so it’s relatively easy for a developer to go in and enable that if they choose to update their title.”
The Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X both launch on November 10th, retailing for $299 and $499 respectively. Pre-orders for both consoles go live tomorrow so stay tuned for more details on when they become available.