The Xbox Series X console design is unlike anything we have seen for consoles up until now, and it's likely that the bulkier design is due to increased power consumption, rather than the actual size of the components. The increased power consumption is a given due to how powerful the GPU will be, as it will more performant and feature-rich than any Navi component released by AMD this year, according to a fresh analysis of the upcoming console.
Digital Foundry released today an in-depth analysis of the next-generation Microsoft console, highlighting how the console's GPU frequencies are likely higher than those seen in AMD's Navi based GPUs due to everything we know so far.
Two of the key aspects in system set-up are being pushed beyond what we currently know as reasonable limits for console design - 12TF suggests a processor at the upper end of the kind of size we've seen in an AMD-based console, possibly larger - and this would be a significant achievement from the new 7nm fabrication process.
It would also suggest frequencies that are appreciably higher than those seen in AMD's Navi-based GPUs - which reverses the situation with the current-gen machines, which are typically underclocked compared to equivalent PC parts. Increasing both area and frequency inevitably pushes up power consumption way beyond anything we've seen in a home console. Our measurements for the first-gen PlayStation 3 currently top the power consumption charts at 209W during gameplay. Based on what we know of Navi GPUs from the existing, seemingly less capable Radeon RX 5700-series, not to mention the size of the Series X casing, I wouldn't be surprised to see the new console move beyond 300W.
The analysis also takes a look at other Xbox Series X features that may place the console ahead of the competition, such as Variable Rate Shading technology, GDDR6 RAM, and solid state storage. All this will likely make the console manufacturing and shipping costs higher, and for the first time, we may be getting a console that does away with the usual balancing between price and performance.
The size of the Series X processor represents a significant cost just on its own - and that's before we factor in other pricey parts such as solid-state storage, GDDR6 memory and what is likely to be an innovative (and likely costly) cooling solution. In fact, simply increasing the size of the box alone increases manufacturing and worldwide shipping costs. The conventional wisdom is that a console balances price against performance with inevitable compromises, but there's strong evidence here that Series X subverts this, with more of a push towards getting as much state-of-the-art tech into a console box as possible.
Judging from what is known so far, it seems Microsoft is doing everything possible to truly release the most powerful console ever made, with a GPU that is more performant than anything we have seen so far.
There is no compromise in CPU performance in the next-gen design: we're getting a customised rendition of a high-spec PC part. Meanwhile, the PS5 GPU may be shrouded in mystery, but if the indications are true for Series X, Microsoft has developed a console GPU that is more performant and more feature-rich than any Navi part AMD has shipped in 2019.
The Xbox Series X console will be released next year worldwide.