Will Xbox One’s eSRAM be the Death of the Console?


Why is the eSRAM becoming a target for the Xbox One? Is this going to cause the death of the console? One thing is certain that the Xbox One’s eSRAM is no where close to the unified architecture of the PS4. Last month, industry insider, Pete Dodd aka ‘Famousmortimer’, said

ESRAM in Xbox One is faster than DDR3 but not as faster as GDDR5, “its Bottleneck, Plain and Simple

Let’s do a quick run through the systems memory – The PlayStation 4 uses GDDR5 8GB, running at 1375MHZ ( 4 banks, 5500MHZ effective) on a 256 bit memory bus, giving you a  total memory bandwidth of 176GB/s. The Xbox One memory system uses DDR3-1066 (2 banks, 2133MHZ effective) also on a 256 bit memory bus, providing 68GB/s. ESRAM has a theoretical maximum speed of 218GB, but that’s only in one direction, effectively halving the effective speed of the ESRAM. Coupled with the size of it, it ends up being quite a bottleneck, requiring clever programming tricks to make up for it.

Microsoft says eSRAM is in there for peak performance. Really?

Microsoft says eSRAM is in there for peak performance. Really?

According to Gaming Blot, who recently interviewed Jean-Baptiste Bolcato, the Senior Producer on the upcoming Sniper Elite 3, had this to say:

It was clearly a bit more complicated to extract the maximum power from the Xbox One when you’re trying to do that. I think eSRAM is easy to use. The only problem is…Part of the problem is that it’s just a little bit too small to output 1080p within that size. It’s such a small size within there that we can’t do everything in 1080p with that little buffer of super-fast RAM.

“It means you have to do it in chunks or using tricks, tiling it and so on. It’s a bit like the reverse of the PS3. PS3 was harder to program for than the Xbox 360. Now it seems like everything has reversed but it doesn’t mean it’s far less powerful – it’s just a pain in the ass to start with. We are on fine ground now but the first few months were hell.

Now lets take a step back and re-look how the Xbox One’s doomsday may not certainly be at hand. If you think about the PS3, as Bolcato mentioned too, it was very hard to program for. A LOT of the initial set of games that came out, were actually Xbox 360 ports. Why? Because the latter was easier to program for. Eventually, the consoles did hit their stride and delivered stunning games and visuals. Optimal graphics for the PS4 and Xbox One, are still some time away, but what’s odd with this generation is that everything somehow seems to be about the graphics, and the 1080p @ 60fps madness. Let’s face facts, while it’s great to have stunning visuals and ultra smooth fluidity, it’s not the only success mantra.

Look at Devil May Cry, no not the one that came out last year, but the very first Devil May Cry, that made it’s debut on the PS2. The PS2 sucked, when it came to graphics, no proper AA or no AA at all, tons and tons of jaggies in every game, it was more like a slightly refined PS1. At the end of the day, look how well it turned it. Coming back to Devil May Cry, when I first saw the trailer, I was blown away – there was too much action on the screen, but what caught my eye was the fluidity of the game-play. Smooth! Like a baby’s behind!. That for me, was the decider between the PS2 and Xbox. No doubt, the Xbox had better graphics back then. Does anyone remember WWE RAW for the Xbox? I was so damn sure back then, that the Xbox’s graphics could not get better than this. Hell, I thought gaming visuals would never get better than that. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So what’s the bottom line?

The Bottom line is that the Xbox One’s eSRAM will NOT be the death of the console. As we’ve mentioned in several of our posts earlier too, both consoles will need time to develop, and will need developers to get them into a more refined shape. While there’s no doubt the PS4 is more powerful, there’s no reason that the Xbox One will never catch up. Even if it doesn’t, EVER catch up, what is it that matters to you as a gamer? The Console itself? the company? the games? or the experience?

Let’s look at all of these aspects:

The Console itself, is not chopped liver. It’s a monster, with a LOT of potential. I’m not going to get into the specs of it, because that’s been done to death in several other posts and you can find that almost anywhere now. The Xbox One is more of a unified entertainment unit. Targeting not just gaming, but extending it with television capabilities and the like. Especially with the Kinect being bundled with it. True that the PS4 is a more powerful in all aspects, but time will tell on which one lasts the race.

The Company, Microsoft, who made the Xbox One (you should already know by now), will only stand to gain across sales from the PC and Console platforms. Sony on the other hand have it across the consoles and the PS Vita, tablets and so on. The game changer here could be the PS NOW service. How will MSFT over a period of time handle this, time will tell. OR…will they even need to? Who know if the PS NOW will even be successful.

When it comes to games, both sides have some real stunners – again, the lists of games are available across several sites, but just to name a few, on the Xbox One, Forza, runs at a full 1080p and at 60 FPS. The experience on that is a stunner! Then there’s Ryse of Rome, terrible game, but looks brilliant! Don’t forget Titanfall and Halo on Xbox One when it’s out.

The overall experience. Now whichever side of the fence you’re sitting, you need to start thinking about how well both these consoles bring their ‘A’ game to you as a consumer. This is the real decider, the final experience at the end of a long drawn era is what defines which console will ‘win’ the war. Although that might be a bit harsh, in calling it a ‘war’, its more like a bloodbath, with all the fan boys going at it.

The bottom line is that the eSRAM which is being made out to be quite an issue with the Xbox One, will NOT kill the console before it’s time. As with the PS2 (though it launched 18 months earlier), easily won that round, the PS3, started late, had to deal with poor ports initially and a pain in the ass, Cell architecture, won the previous generation. This time, around, there’s no doubt that the Xbox One is looking at tough times ahead, but if you need to pin the death of the console on something, don’t pin it on the eSRAM.