Exclusive: Xbox One – Potential Impacts of DirectX 12, Asynchronous Compute and Hardware Specifications Explored; Compared with Sony’s PS4


Answering the DirectX 12 Question for Xbox One and Something to Ponder

In this editorial we have successfully established the following:

  • The Xbox One uses the DX 11.X API
  • The Xbox One API has low level access and capable of ASync Compute via 2 ACEs.
  • DX 11.X already has a significantly higher number of draw calls than DX 11.
  • Therefore DX 11.X already possesses most of the significant updates present in DX 12 API.

The vast majority of performance improvement in DirectX 12 comes from either the low level access or the asynchronous compute - both of which are already present on the console. As far as the draw calls go, the Xbox One API DX11.X already supports draw call bundles - the same as DirectX 12. In short, it already has a multitude of DirectX 12 features present.

Armed with this information, we can safely say, that (Xbox One) gamers should not expect any significant performance upgrades (where significant is defined as the Xbox being able to run games at higher resolutions than now) with the arrival of the DirectX 12 update

However, DX12 will bring a plethora of features - most of which will probably be visible only to the devs. How soon these trickle into games; will be up to the devs. Sony's PS4 is an exceptionally powerful machine and already has full to the metal access and Asynchronous Compute. The API it uses is equivalent to or better than the DirectX 12 API - which means that neither does it need the update, nor will the update give the Xbox One any sort of edge.

Since we are now at the end of this editorial, I wanted to mention something that has very little documentation present currently. As we saw, the "Exclusive OS" present in the Xbox One is based on Windows 8. [TBC] There is supposed to be a Windows 10 update coupled with the DX12 update (since the new API can only run on Windows 10). If that is true than one thing that I am particularly interested in is whether the Exclusive OS will be updated as well. Will it be replaced with a "lean and mean" version of Windows 10, or will Microsoft stick with Windows 8 and make the DX12 API (for Xbox) backwards compatible. The answer to that is any body's guess. As far as performance upgrades go, this could result in a more streamlined process and code execution - although I still doubt it will result in any significant gains (nothing which might magically allow the Xbox One to run games on 1080p, that it previously ran on 720p). [/TBC]

Both Microsoft and Sony have made incredible consoles. On paper, and in terms of hardware specification, the PS4 is the superior console. That said, consoles have hosted AAA titles and absolutely immersive games when they had as little as 64 MB of memory and a piss poor GPU/CPU combo.

Hardware power is simply not a good enough metric to solely judge gaming consoles by

The games that arrive on each consoles are nothing less than works of art - and you can absolutely count on the fact that the artist knows the limitations of his medium. Working with polygon budgets and pushing the available hardware to the limit is exactly what developers are used to doing.

In real life, this hardware difference might translate to the PS4 being able to run higher resolutions - but does this also automatically equate to better games? No. The answer to that, in its entirety, rests with the game developer.