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Microsoft chooses AMD Fusion II for XBox 720

OK, the chances of the next XBox being called 720 are 50:50 at best but, for now, at least you all know what we're talking about. While the name and final design for the box and packaging might still be up in the air, the internals appear to have been locked down. KitGuru investigates.

Microsoft launched its original little black XBox in 2001. Famously, the press sheets on the chairs at the seats in the announcement hall had AMD specifications the evening before, but Intel ones the morning of the actual launch. nVidia was always a lock on the graphics etc, but last minute dealing had meant the CPU was a Pentium surprise for most people.

Golden oldie - still useful as a media node

Also famous was Intel's complaining that no money could be made from the CPUs being sold to Microsoft and that it was having to mark the whole project as a marketing and brand awareness exercise. Bear in mind that, in most years, Intel can sell almost everything it makes – so having production lines running to make ‘chips without profit' is frowned upon.

There were some heated debates between Microsoft and nVidia during the project. Probably the most famous is when, near the end of the project, Microsoft asked for the list of issues raised and fixed with the hardware and nVidia refused to release it, reportedly saying that it was ‘nVidia's intellectual property and not to be shared with outsiders'.

Against that background, Microsoft ignored Intel and went with an IBM designed, triple-core Xenon CPU that is actually manufactured by Global Foundries. Originally a 90nm part, it is now only 45nm. More on this in a second.

Intel must love IBM - official. It's the one shadow that Intel can't seem to escape from. In terms of relationships, we're thinking Charlie and Martin Sheen.

Graphically, both Sony and Microsoft raised the bar significantly from previous generations. While nVidia provided Sony with a chip similar to the DX9 7600GT card (which today would have graphics performance similar to a GT220 for £30), Microsoft went with an R600 derivative from ATI called the Xenos. Performance is close to a Radeon HD 1900, but with DX10 features from the R600. Both choices have worked out well and game sales for both consoles are good.

Xenos chip provided the graphics processing for the 360

For our story, the kicker is the summer release of the XBox 360 ‘s'. From the outside, everything looks the same. However, the CPU and GPU have now been integrated onto a single chip from Global Foundries. Sound familiar?

One last strike against Intel in the decision to go with AMD on the new console would be a ‘control' issue between Microsoft and Intel. Once dubbed WinTel, there are now some pretty clear divides between the two companies.

For Intel and Microsoft, DirectX is the San Andreas Fault Line. No doubt that Microsoft's use of an API like DirectX to sit between complex hardware and the operating system itself, has meant stability for everyone. It's also generated tons of fun with driver writers around the world. But do you still need DirectX?  It's possible to conceive of a world where Intel offers TeraScale computing to the masses at low, low prices and all programs are written, and executed, in pure x86. Ex-Intel VP Pat ‘Kicking' Gelsinger said as much when interviewed in 2007. “All your computer are belong to me” is what we heard.

The biggest ‘win' that Radeon and GeForce will ever have over Intel's Larrabee is the driver. The best graphics driver teams already work for AMD and nVidia, so Intel is playing catch-up, which it does not like. The ‘power model' for business gives you another option. Radically change the environment. That's what getting rid of DirectX would do. We're not sure that Microsoft wants to give up that wonderful middleware which allows its operating systems to remain essential for all the best games.

So, choosing Intel is unlikely for CPUs and Microsoft's experience of working with nVidia was less than stellar. At the same time, Microsoft now has a single chip, Fusion processor (version 0.9 ?) in the XBox from Global Foundries and it's shipping by the million.

Having agreed to the Global Foundries' single-chip XCGPU, AMD Fusion was a done deal.

Initial AMD Fusion designs will work, but the full potential won't be realised until the end of next year. Based on comments by people like Chekib Akrout, of all the likely designs to be targeted at the XBox 720 product, we think there's a good chance that it will be the AMD Krishna product. This will be produced on Global Foundries' 28nm ‘high-k gate first' process (originally introduced in 2007 by co-inventors IBM, Toshiba and, ironically, Sony). The only real technical challenge for the first XBox 360 consoles was heat/noise, for which the AMD Krishna product could be the answer.

If it is AMD's Krishna product, then that brings another tantalising possibility to the table. More on that later.

What will XBox 720 look like (or be called!)

Given how slowly things move in the world of console gaming, we'd expect a new XBox 720 product (assuming no major issues with Global Foundries) to be launched in 2012.

KitGuru says: There have been a TON of speculative designs for the XBox 720. Drop yours into the forum over the next couple of weeks – we'll pick a winner by Xmas and send you a little something in the post. If you drop in a pic from another site, then it would be nice to link back to them. PLEASE feel free to speculate as to whether Kinect etc will be integrated into the same unit and what colours will be most popular.

Comments below, ‘What will it look like' competition entries in the KitGuru Forums.

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  1. lol sorry had to laugh, I had a captcha word there ‘boner’. seems like someone is taking the piss 🙂

    This is an interesting story, its far too early to tell what is going to happen, but it makes sense for AMD to be involved on some level, especially with their new APU design.s

  2. Unclear to me–did you guys actually have any source for the headline “Microsoft chooses AMD Fusion II for XBox 720”, or was it entirely based on the analysis and speculation in the article?

  3. probably have a source they cant divulge. they have been right quite a few times in the past here, even when people said they werent!

  4. more mindless gibberish, the only source this site has is A1.

  5. “Based on comments by people like Chekib Akrout, of all the likely designs to be targeted at the XBox 720 product, we think there’s a good chance that it will be the AMD Krishna product. ”

    The above quote seems to say that it is purely based on analysis and speculation. But it does seem to make a lot of sense. Other reasons why this could be the case is that Intel is in short supply of its latest chips, (currently 32nm), whereas AMD probably has some extra capacity available and would be willing to produce chips for rock bottom prices. In addition the fusion chips are a real win especially in terms of price, since the CPU, GPU, and most of the motherboard are on a chip the size of a quarter.

    Also a very interesting read, taught me a bit about the ps3 and 360. Its funny how far behind technologically these consoles are. The 7600 (ps3) and 1900 (360) video cards are way outdated.

  6. I dont think that krishna would fit in the “xbox 720” performance need, thta architecture its beign designed for UMPCs and tablets (i bet 9-3w TDP -for the 2 low lvl APUS from this year “brazos” with the same perfomance than todays arch).
    Bulldozer would be the “natural” choice, but with some performance improvements and a HD6700-like gpu.

  7. It’s good to be sceptical – remember that AMD lost the original XBox on the morning it was to be announced. You could build a ‘720’ with the first of the Fusions, but the Krishna-generation will pack way more punch. Longevity is crucial here, so that’s where the clever money is going.

  8. What i don’t get is, why these consoles don’t also get lounged in a 43cm/17″ version that will fit nicely whit the rest of you AV equipment.

    Would be nice to fit in, instead of having those things standing loos, also would be a good sales point for people looking for a BR player to buy a console is stead of a player.

    But how am i, there are people how are better over payed then me to think up these things 😉

  9. Are you serious?

    Microsoft betting the farm on unproven silicon?

    I wouldn’t put it past them.

  10. What kind of stupid idiot could gather this kind of information? The performance of RSX the PS3’s GPU G7x is faster than 7900GT, that’s what Jen Hsun Huang the Co-founder, president, CEO Nvidia Corporation said to the interview with PSM. More than that, the RSX can render graphics with enabled Antialiasing(AA) and High Dynamic Range(HDR) simultaneously, which ANY of Geforces can do, EVEN the GX2(which is dual GPU)!!So please, get prepared first then write some article like this!
    BTW the Xenos as the RSX are hardware limited to similar API to DX9! But still, THIS IS NOT DirectX!!! Direct X is library for windows!!!

  11. ** Any of Geforces 7XXX

  12. oh NOES!!! hardware expert alert. ‘theonewhoknows’ is a guru.

    Of course the PSU’s GPU is faster than 7900GT, its running in an SLI configuration, you muppet.

    The rest of your gibberish is hardly worth the effort to reply.

  13. Unproven silicon??? No release is proven. But oem samples are in the wild for months prior to the launch and it either works or it doesn’t. But in general the silicon usually works. By the time it is “proven” it is obsolete

    The name of the game is betting the farm. Tech innovation is about betting the farm. Todays performance leader is obsolete in a year.

    As the XBOX becomes more than a game console then the more it needs to be bleeding edge. DirectX 11 and 1080p are necessary. If Intel does not support Microsoft DirectX then why would Microsoft consider Intel? Just a thought.

  14. im sure nintendo came foward and said they would use AMD FUSION APU at the very least

  15. The PS3’s RSX Graphics Processor is Based on NV47 Chip (Nvidia GeForce 7800 Architecture). It’s not a standard 7800 though.


  16. didn’t microsoft say kinect will extend the xbox 360’s life for a good few more years..?

  17. muppet .. i used to love those as a kid .. faggot

  18. I stopped reading when you said that the name ‘Xbox 720’ had a 50:50 chance at best,
    At best I’d say that would be no more than a 10% chance.
    The name 360 came from it being able to encompass a variety of media and gaming capabilities. Naming it 720 would just be implying that it’s just circled round again and using the same method, a strategy that I highly doubt ANY company would use.

  19. Tech innovation is about betting the farm?im sure nintendo came foward and said they would use AMD FUSION APU at the very least??

  20. The name of the product is unimportant and a side issue. The really interesting part is the hardware inside. I think it makes a lot of sense for fusion to be incorporated.

  21. Microsoft asking AMD to integrate the CPU and GPU onto a single chip (through Global Foundries) for the present version of the XBox 360 is a big clue as to their intention.

    As far as proven technology goes, the second generation of Fusion will be just that – the second generation. Whether Global Foundries can nail the process is a different question.

    You guys seem interested – so we’ll run a follow up article on the processes involved 🙂

  22. Never mind the Xbox. There’s only one console to look forward to.


  23. I have also been following the PS4 for awhile now on http://sonyps4.com seems to be a lot of rumors going around now, i honestly think the playstation 4 could be announced as early as 2012

  24. The new CPU/GPU in the Xbox 360 is not a single chip you idiot. It’s two chips in one package. Totally different than say… AMD fusion or Sandy Bridge. Why can’t you console retards get your technical facts straight. You report this stuff for a living Jules yet you don’t know WTF your talking about when it comes to hardware. You can clearly see two silicon wafers in the package yet you call it a single chip. Do you not know the difference between a chip and it’s package jackass?

  25. i think that this design would be perfect, its different and looks really cool! if anybody important ever reads this or someone who will actually send the idea in, the console should be wirelessly connected to the tv, i dont know if they would do that cause i personaly would be fine with a hdmi cable, anyways this is my opinion.

  26. Wow…. Some very cool looking console designs! Although, are any of these based on any factual information?

  27. Dude… The Xbox 720, or whatever it is they will call it, is going to rock! This thing is going to kick some major butt… I can’t wait.

  28. Playstation 4 Reviews

    My oh my do the rumors keep coming… Doesn’t matter how many times Sony announces that no announcement will be made this year! But of course, who knows if they are true or not. As Sony sure isn’t let the competition know it’s plans.

  29. I recently heard rumors that the PS4 is also going to use an AMD processor. I’m not sure if it’s really true, especially since they dumped billions into their cell processor technology. But the counter argument is from ease of programming – the cell processor is notoriously hard to program, but the AMD is more of a normal computer chip which is well understood. But I guess that’s what could make the rumor believable. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  30. playstaion 2 and 3 was both very hard to develop for the only company i ever heard speak of making hardware easy for the devlopers to use was nintendo with the gamecube.. was just let down by spec. but all this aside i honestly do beleive they will use an amd based chips but heres the interesting bit.. it probly wont be running DIRECTX cus thats a microsoft product .. 🙂 rofl.

  31. okay firstly it looks like a cd player just a more modern version. secondly the xbox 720 is a completely pointless idea as the xbox 360 fits the needs at the moment. there is absolutely no point in releasing this “yet”. (when i say yet i mean until everyone has 3D tvs and more updated things then make the xbox 720 compatible with it). by the way no one should say if things like “not everyone needs a 3D tv” because look at the older tvs and then look at flat screen and plasma tvs. I’ts only a matter of time before people change. like there is no need for the xbox 720 yet. in time you will not yet.