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Microsoft Xbox - No Real Xtras

by Rainier on Nov. 21, 2001 @ 11:27 a.m. PST

Chipworks Inc., a world-class leading supplier of reverse engineering services for the semiconductor and electronics market, today comments on the technical innovations, or lack of, in the Microsoft Xbox.

Almost a year after the introduction of Sony's Playstation 2, Microsoft has entered the game console market with its' much anticipated Xbox. "The Microsoft XBox game console is built around an Intel Pentium III processor running at 733 MHz," stated Julia Elvidge, vice president, marketing and sales for Chipworks. "The whole console is in fact a stripped down medium end PC with high end graphics."

Produced by nVIDIA, the graphics processor is a custom chip starting from a GeForce3 core running at 250 MHz. The system memory consists of 64 MB DDR-SDRAM (Double-Data-Rate) running at 200MHz. nVIDIA's graphic chip performance is 125 Mpolygon/sec with a memory bandwidth of 6.4 GB/sec. These values are notably better than both Sony Playstation2 and Nintendo Game Cube. According to Ms. Elvidge, "this is the only significant difference of the Xbox from its competitors."

The second chip from nVIDIA's chipset has an IDE interface capable of Ultra DMA 100, a serial interface for 4 USB ports (the controller ports) and an Ethernet 10/100 interface. The 8MB memory cards share the USB bus with the controllers. The IDE bus connects a 10GB hard disk and a DVD reader. The disk contains a modified version of Microsoft's XP OS but cannot be read if hooked to a regular PC IDE interface.

An additional PIC microcontroller produced by Microchip handles the front panel and some control signals for the IDE drive and DVD. The highest video resolution is 1920x1080 with HDTV capabilities and 64 audio channels with 3D support.

The Xbox does not have a shared bus as it is a system with a strong interaction between only two chips: the Intel processor and the XGPU nVIDIA chip (as a North bridge chip).

Despite the hype and considering its late arrival in the marketplace, one would have expected more enhancements of the Xbox," stated Ms. Elvidge. "We analyze many down stream products looking for new and innovative technology for our technical analysis reports. We were hoping for more once we cracked the lid."

"There are many game developers who started creating new games for the Xbox or porting existing games from other consoles. Despite this large number, and Microsoft's active support, it will be hard to catch up with the competitors market which are already consolidated," said Ms. Elvidge.

Chipworks has presently completed analysis on a number of consumer products such as the Sony Playstation 2, Nintendo Game Cube, Nintendo Game Boy Advance Game Console, Tickle Me Elmo, Furby, and various cell phone and DVD offerings.

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