Kotaku is today reporting that the Xbox360 will be made available in two versions with varying price points; however it’s not the PC/Xbox hybrid that previous rumours suggested.
Firstly the base Xbox360 will allegedly retail at $299 upon its release later in the year throughout North America, which lacks a Hard-Drive and intriguingly backward compatibility. For $399 however, you’ll get the extras and Kotaku suggests the incorporation of WebTV ? Microsoft’s Internet/Media Player for TV’s.
Naturally we’ll have to wait a little longer before this becomes a reality, however Kotaku were the first to suggest the format would be labelled with the heavily criticised tagline of Xbox360, which appears to be an almost certainty for the system; so we’ll keep our ears pressed for further details on this.
3 processor cores?
Yes, Xbox 360 will have three processor cores, each running at 3.2 GHz. On top of that, each processor is capable of running two threads a piece, meaning that the console will be able to handle six instructions simultaneously. How difficult it is for developers to code for the system is unknown, though it seems quite obvious now that Microsoft's XNA project was made for a very specific purpose.
Who's supplying the hardware?
IBM is supplying the main processors while ATI will supply the graphics chip.
Tell me about the graphics chip...
Xbox 360's GPU is based on ATI's next-generation graphics chip, putting it at least one generation beyond its current X850 card for PCs.
The GPU runs at 500MHz and features 48 shader units, which are not directly comparable to traditional pixel pipelines. Rather than having pixel and vertex shaders work as separated elements like on current PC video cards, each shader unit can perform either pixel or vertex shading as necessary. This allows the system to move performance to where it's needed, either for more effects or more raw geometry rendering.
Basically, it's fast as all hell.
How much RAM will Xbox 360 have?
The system will have 512MB of GDDR3 unified system memory and 10MB of embedded DRAM for the framebuffer.
What about video RAM?
The Xbox 360 make's use of a shared memory architecture. That means that the system's 512MB of RAM will be used for graphics and texture memory as well as things like sound, animation source and of course, the actual game code itself.
While the majority of the graphics data will be housed in the shared system RAM, like textures and the like, the video framebuffer will use NEC's dedicated embedded DRAM technology. Long story short, by embedding the framebuffer RAM directly onto the graphics chip, Xbox 360 will be able to perform post-processing features much more quickly, like anti-aliasing and motion blur. The Xbox 360 has 10MB of embedded DRAM.
Will Xbox 360 have a dedicated physics processor?
No, though each PowerPC processor core has its own 128-bit vector math unit, so these could be used for physics calculations.
Will Xbox 360 be backwards compatible?
The problem with backwards compatibility is that the original Xbox ran on an nVIDIA graphics processor. When software makes calls to a chipset to produce visuals it uses code specific to that hardware. Xbox 360 runs on an ATI graphics chip meaning that code from last generation games will need to be recompiled or emulated in order to work on the system. Does this mean that consumers will have to chuck their beloved Xbox libraries? Not necessarily. There is a chance that Xbox 360 will have the ability to
Will Xbox 360 output HD and/or 16:9 video?
Yes. In fact, at E3 this year, Microsoft is requiring anyone showing an Xbox 360 game to run said game on a display with a native resolution of at least 720p. HD Era indeed. 720p and 1080i are both supported out of the box and are the preferred gaming resolutions, though 480p and 480i will obviously be supported as well.
It's also said that every game is to be designed with widescreen in mind.
What about standard analog 4:3 TV owners?
Analog TV owners needn't fret. 480i will continue to be a supported output resolution; it would be suicide not to have it. But even when playing on a 4:3 display, games will run in widescreen by default, though gamers will have the option to switch to 4:3 should they so choose. Designers are very much encouraged to design their games so that they're playable in a 4:3 ratio, with dialog text, HUDs and those sorts of things appearing properly at 4:3.
What sorts of video connections will be available?
Composite video, S-Video and component are all obvious. We're still unsure of DVI or HDMI connections as of yet. Both provide an even better signal than component, and being that Microsoft is being very, very aggressive with image quality at the moment, we expect some sort of DVI and/or HDMI connection to be available.
Will we still need a separate box for S-Video, component or better connections?
Yes, and they will be different than those of the original Xbox.
Will there still be "jaggies"?
No. Partly due to the high resolution output and partly due to the quick full-scene antialiasing the system is capable of, video will be razor-sharp.
What sort of surround sound support will Xbox 360 have?
The Xbox 360 will support in-game Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Pro Logic II. DD, DPLII and DTS output during DVD playback is also a given.
What kind of audio connections will be available?
Both RCA stereo and optical like the OG Xbox.
What bit and frequency rate will the audio play at?