Microsoft surprised by Xbox One’s ESRAM backlash, calls ESRAM an evolution of Xbox 360’s eDRAM

Speaking with Digital Foundry, Microsoft’s hardware architecture team manager Nick Baker said that they were surprised by the backlash that started regarding Xbox One’s ESRAM and it being difficult to work with; he also called the Xbox One, an evolution of Xbox 360’s design philosophy.

The Xbox One has been difficult to work with especially if compared to its competitor PlayStation 4. Many sources have claimed that it didn’t take them long to get their engine up and running with stable performance on PlayStation 4 while Microsoft’s Xbox One required a lot more optimization to get up and running properly. At the center of all these news was Xbox One’s ESRAM, which was called a hindrance since it required a lot more focus and attention to extract a stable performance compared to the 8 GB GDDR 5 on PS4.

Digital Foundry recently got to talk with Microsoft’s hardware architecture team manager Nick Baker and asked him about the design philosophy of Xbox One.

“This controversy is rather surprising to me, especially when you view as ESRAM as the evolution of eDRAM from the Xbox 360. No-one questions on the Xbox 360 whether we can get the eDRAM bandwidth concurrent with the bandwidth coming out of system memory. In fact, the system design required it,” explains Andrew Goosen.

“We had to pull over all of our vertex buffers and all of our textures out of system memory concurrent with going on with render targets, colour, depth, stencil buffers that were in eDRAM. Of course with Xbox One we’re going with a design where ESRAM has the same natural extension that we had with eDRAM on Xbox 360, to have both going concurrently. It’s a nice evolution of the Xbox 360 in that we could clean up a lot of the limitations that we had with the eDRAM.

“The Xbox 360 was the easiest console platform to develop for, it wasn’t that hard for our developers to adapt to eDRAM, but there were a number of places where we said, ‘gosh, it would sure be nice if an entire render target didn’t have to live in eDRAM’ and so we fixed that on Xbox One where we have the ability to overflow from ESRAM into DDR3, so the ESRAM is fully integrated into our page tables and so you can kind of mix and match the ESRAM and the DDR memory as you go… From my perspective it’s very much an evolution and improvement – a big improvement – over the design we had with the Xbox 360. I’m kind of surprised by all this, quite frankly.”

Sony has learned a lot from the hard to work with approach of PS3 and has created a efficient and easy to develop architecture for PS4, which we can see from the praise it has gotten so far. Xbox One, on the other hand, has evolved on the design philosophy of Xbox 360 but compared to PS4, which is now far more easier to develop for, the developers are finding it perhaps a bit hard to focus on optimizing their code for Xbox One when they can get it up and running on PS4 easily. In other words, we are in the same situation as we were with PS3/Xbox 360 in previous generation.

Stay tuned to GearNuke to get the latest news and info on this topic.

Danial Arshad Khan

Founder of GearNuke.
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