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Defining the Next Generation: An Xbox Series X Technology Glossary

Reading Time: 9 minutes

As we enter
a new generation of console gaming with Xbox Series X, we’ve made a number of technology
advancements across hardware and software that will take your gaming experience
to the next level. We’ve created the below guide to help familiarize yourself with
some of the new terms we’re introducing to describe the tech and functionality
of Xbox Series X.  

Auto Low
Latency Mode (ALLM)

– As part of commitment to responsiveness for the next generation of console
gaming, Xbox Series X supports Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) with capable
displays. ALLM automatically enables your display’s lowest latency mode when
you start playing. This functionality exists on Xbox One consoles today

Backward
Compatibility
– At
Xbox, we’ve made a promise to compatibility: you can expect thousands of your favorite games across
four generations of gaming, your Xbox One gaming accessories, your Xbox gaming
legacy, and industry-leading services like Xbox Game Pass to work with
Xbox Series X. Backward compatible games will benefit from the power and performance
of Xbox Series X, resulting in steadier framerates, faster load times, improved
resolution and visual fidelity. Fans and game creators can feel confident they
will be able to play and create the best version of their games on the Xbox
Series X.

DirectML – Xbox Series X supports
Machine Learning for games with DirectML, a component of DirectX. DirectML
leverages unprecedented hardware performance in a console, benefiting from over
24 TFLOPS of 16-bit float performance and over 97 TOPS (trillion operations per
second) of 4-bit integer performance on Xbox Series X. Machine Learning can
improve a wide range of areas, such as making NPCs much smarter, providing
vastly more lifelike animation, and greatly improving visual quality.

DirectStorage
– DirectStorage is
an all new I/O system designed specifically for gaming to unleash the full
performance of the SSD and hardware decompression. It is one of the components
that comprise the Xbox Velocity Architecture. Modern games perform asset
streaming in the background to continuously load the next parts of the world
while you play, and DirectStorage can reduce the CPU overhead for these I/O
operations from multiple cores to taking just a small fraction of a single core;
thereby freeing considerable CPU power for the game to spend on areas like
better physics or more NPCs in a scene. This newest member of the DirectX
family is being introduced with Xbox Series X and we plan to bring it to
Windows as well.

Dynamic
Latency Input (DLI)

–Another innovation we are making to reduce latency for Xbox Series X is Dynamic
Latency Input (DLI). With DLI, developers can more accurately synchronize the
player’s input with the game’s simulation and render loop, even further
reducing input latency while playing the game.

GPU Work
Creation
– Xbox
Series X adds hardware, firmware and shader compiler support for GPU work
creation that provides powerful capabilities for the GPU to efficiently handle
new workloads without any CPU assistance. This provides more flexibility and
performance for developers to deliver their graphics visions.

Hardware Accelerated
DirectX Raytracing (DXR)
– From improved lighting, shadows and reflections as well as more
realistic acoustics and spatial audio, raytracing enables developers to create
more physically accurate worlds. For the very first time in a game console,
Xbox Series X includes support for high performance, hardware accelerated
raytracing. Xbox Series X uses a custom-designed GPU leveraging the latest
innovation from our partners at AMD and built in collaboration with the same
team who developed DirectX Raytracing. Developers will be able to deliver
incredibly immersive visual and audio experiences using the same techniques on
PC and beyond.

Hardware Decompression – Hardware decompression is a
dedicated hardware component introduced with Xbox Series X to allow games to
consume as little space as possible on the SSD while eliminating all CPU
overhead typically associated with run-time decompression. It reduces the
software overhead of decompression when operating at full SSD performance from
more than three CPU cores to zero – thereby freeing considerable CPU power for
the game to spend on areas like better gameplay and improved framerates.
Hardware decompression is one of the components of the Xbox Velocity
Architecture.

Intelligent
Delivery
– Microsoft’s
developer facing technology to reduce the size of game installs. Intelligent
Delivery empowers developers to only install the pieces of the game you need,
thereby minimizing the amount of content that needs to be installed or
downloaded to the SSD.

Latency – Latency refers to responsiveness
of the console and controller, including the time it takes for your input to be
registered by your console and then displayed on your screen. Reducing latency
results in a more connected and immersive experience. Xbox Series X will be our
most responsive console ever featuring ultra-low latency with advanced
technology that minimizes latency at every stage of the gaming pipeline so that
you instantly see the impact of your actions on the screen.

Mesh Shading – Mesh shading will enable
developers to dramatically improve the performance and image quality when
rendering a substantial number of complex objects in a scene. As an example,
mesh shaders could enable the player to experience asteroid belts and fields of
flowers in more pristine detail without seeing a loss in performance.

Native
Resolution
– Native
Resolution is an Xbox Series X backwards compatibility enhancement for select Xbox
One games that allows them to render at native 4K even if they weren’t
originally designed for 4K.

Optimized
for Xbox Series X –
Games built using the Xbox Series X development kit and designed to
take advantage of the unique capabilities of the Xbox Series X. These include new
titles built natively using the Xbox Series X development environment as well
as previously released titles that have been rebuilt specifically for Xbox
Series X. They will showcase unparalleled load-times, visuals, responsiveness
and framerates up to 120 fps.

Parallel
Cooling Architecture

– Parallel Cooling Architecture is the name of the innovative system design used
to cool Xbox Series X. Building a console that delivers four times the
processing power of Xbox One X in the most quiet and efficient way – something
that is critically important with all the extra power of our next generation
console – led to its unique vertical design.

Project
Acoustics
– Incubated over
a decade by Microsoft Research, Project Acoustics
accurately models sound propagation physics in mixed reality and games,
employed by many AAA experiences today. It is unique in simulating wave effects
like diffraction in complex scene geometries without straining CPU, enabling a
much more immersive and lifelike auditory experience. Plug-in support for both
the Unity and Unreal game engines empower the sound designer with expressive
controls to mold reality. Developers will be able to easily leverage Project
Acoustics with Xbox Series X through the addition of a new custom audio
hardware block.

Quick
Resume
– A new
feature powered by the technical capabilities and the innovative Xbox Velocity
Architecture in Xbox Series X, Quick Resume enables players to seamlessly
switch between multiple titles and resume instantly from where you last left
off.

RDNA 2 – The custom designed processor in the
Xbox Series X leverages RDNA 2, the latest next generation graphics
architecture from our partners at AMD. RDNA 2 provides a significant
advancement in performance and efficiency as well as next generation graphics
features such as hardware accelerated raytracing and variable rate shading.

Sampler
Feedback Streaming (SFS)
– A component of the Xbox Velocity Architecture, SFS is a feature of the
Xbox Series X hardware that allows games to load into memory, with fine
granularity, only the portions of textures that the GPU needs for a scene, as
it needs it. This enables far better memory utilization for textures, which is
important given that every 4K texture consumes 8MB of memory. Because it avoids
the wastage of loading into memory the portions of textures that are never
needed, it is an effective 2x or 3x (or higher) multiplier on both amount of physical
memory and SSD performance.

SDR to
HDR Conversion
– With
Xbox Series X, existing Xbox games, including recent titles within the ID@Xbox
program, that don’t already have native HDR support will get the next-gen
treatment. Xbox Series X is able to leverage an innovative HDR reconstruction technique
to enhance existing SDR games with no work from developers and no impact to
available CPU, GPU or memory resources.

Smart
Delivery
– Smart
Delivery is a new technology introduced with Xbox Series X that will ensure you
always play the best version of the games you own for your console, across
generations. All Xbox Game Studios titles that are optimized for Xbox Series X,
including “Halo Infinite” will support Smart Delivery, providing the best
available version for whichever console you choose to play on. For example, this
means if you purchase the Xbox One version of a supported title, we will
identify and deliver the best version of it to your Xbox One, as usual. If you
decide to jump into the next generation with Xbox Series X, we will
automatically provide the Xbox Series X optimized version of the game at no
additional cost if and when it becomes available. Smart Delivery is available
to all Xbox developers.

Spatial
Audio
– Spatial
Audio delivers deeply immersive audio which enables the player to more
accurately pinpoint objects in a 3D play space. With full support for Dolby
Atmos, DTS:X and Windows Sonic, Xbox Series X has custom audio hardware to
offload audio processing from the CPU, dramatically improving the accessibility,
quality and performance of these immersive experiences.

TFLOPS
(Teraflops) –
TFLOPS (or “teraflops”) stands for
Trillion Floating-point Operations Per Second and is a measure of raw
mathematical performance of a GPU. While Xbox Series X delivers 12 TFLOPS of
32-bit float performance, two times that of the Xbox One X, the architectural
efficiency improvements brought by AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture plus our next
generation features such as Variable Rate Shading (VRS) and hardware
accelerated DirectX Raytracing means that Xbox Series X will deliver well over
twice the effective graphics performance of Xbox One X for games.

Variable
Rate Shading (VRS)

Variable Rate Shading increases GPU efficiency by
concentrating shader work where it’s most needed and reducing shader work in areas
where it won’t be noticeable. With minimal developer effort, VRS significantly
improves GPU performance resulting in more stable and higher resolutions and
frame rates with no perceptible loss in visual quality.

Variable
Refresh Rate (VRR)

Variable Refresh Rate is a new addition to HDMI 2.1 which enables capable
displays to refreshed as fast as the console can render images, thereby
eliminating tearing, increasing smoothness, and reducing latency. We have been
working with the industry’s leading TV manufacturers to ensure the display
ecosystem is ready for the features we are bringing with Xbox Series X.

Xbox Series X Storage Expansion Card –  Built in partnership
with Seagate, this 1 TB custom storage solution expands storage capacity of
Xbox Series X with the full speed and performance of the Xbox Velocity
Architecture Previous generation Xbox titles can
still be played directly from external USB 3.2 hard drives. However, to receive
all the benefits of the Xbox Velocity Architecture and optimal performance, Xbox
Series X, optimized games should be played from the internal SSD or Xbox Series
X Storage Expansion Card.

Xbox Velocity Architecture – The
Xbox Velocity Architecture is the new architecture we’ve created for the Xbox
Series X to unlock new capabilities never-before seen in console development.
It consists of four components: our custom NVMe SSD, a dedicated hardware
decompression block, the all new DirectStorage API, and Sampler Feedback
Streaming (SFS). This combination of custom hardware and deep software
integration allows developers to radically improve asset streaming and
effectively multiply available memory. It will enable richer and more dynamic
living worlds unlike anything ever seen before. It also effectively eliminates
loading times, and makes fast travel systems just that: fast.

Xbox Wireless Protocol
One of the first points to reduce latency is within the communication between
your controller and your console. By bringing our existing high-bandwidth,
low-latency wireless protocol on the Xbox One family of devices to Xbox Series
X, we’re able to not only reduce latency in your gaming experience but also
ensure all of your existing Xbox One gaming accessories will be compatible with
Xbox Series X.  

Zen 2 – The custom designed processor in the
Xbox Series X leverages AMD’s latest Zen 2 CPU architecture. Zen 2 provides a
significant advancement in CPU performance delivering more than 4 times the
performance of an Xbox One X.

120 FPS – With support for
up to 120 frames per second (FPS), Xbox Series X allows developers to exceed the
more traditional 60 FPS in favor of heightened realism and more precise
controls for fast-paced action.

Related:
Xbox Series X: A Closer Look at the Technology Powering the Next Generation
Xbox Series X: Making Gaming’s Best Controller Even Better
Xbox Series X: What’s the Deal with Latency?

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