This year's E3 has been, overall, a pretty big letdown. The show itself hasn't been very interesting simply because it's mostly current-gen titles and hardware. For the E3 just before the launch of Microsoft's Xbox 360, we were a bit disappointed not to see any working hardware at the show outside of the ATI booth.

With a relatively light schedule thanks to the small size of the show, we were able to spend quite a bit of time digging deeper on the two highlights of this year's E3 - ATI's Xbox 360 GPU, and NVIDIA's RSX, the GPU powering the PlayStation 3.

Given that both of the aforementioned GPU designs are very closely tied to their console manufacturers, information flow control was dictated by the console makers, not the GPU makers. And unfortunately, neither Microsoft or Sony were interested in giving away more information than their ridiculously light press releases.

Never being satisfied with the norm, we've done some digging and this article is what we've managed to put together. Before we get started, we should mention a few things:

1) Despite our best efforts, information will still be light because of the strict NDAs imposed by Microsoft and Sony on the GPU makers.

2) Information on NVIDIA's RSX will be even lighter because it is the more PC-like of the two solutions and as such, a lot of its technology overlaps with the upcoming G70 GPU, an item we currently can't talk about in great detail.

With those items out of the way, let's get started, first with what has already been announced.

The Xbox 360 GPU, manufactured by ATI, is the least PC-like of the two GPUs for a number of reasons, the most obvious being its 10MB of embedded DRAM. Microsoft announced that the 10MB of embedded DRAM has 256GB/s of bandwidth availble to it; keep this figure in mind, as its meaning isn't as clear cut as it may sound.

The GPU operates at 500MHz and has a 256-bit memory interface to 512MB of 700MHz GDDR3 system memory (that is also shared with the CPU).

Another very prominent feature of the GPU is that it implements ATI's first Unified Shader Architecture, meaning that there are no longer any discrete pixel and vertex shader units, they are instead combined into a set of universal execution units that can operate on either pixel shader or vertex shader instructions. ATI is characterizing the width of the Xbox 360 GPU as being 48 shader pipelines; we should caution you that these 48 pipelines aren't directly comparable to current 16-pipeline GPUs, but rest assured that the 360 GPU should be able to shade and texture more pixels per clock than ATI's fastest present-day GPU.

Now let's move on to NVIDIA's RSX; the RSX is very similar to a PC GPU in that it features a 256-bit connection to 256MB of local GDDR3 memory (operating at 700MHz). Much like NVIDIA's Turbo Cache products, the RSX can also render to any location in system memory, giving it access to the full 256MB of system memory on the PS3 as well.

The RSX is connected to the PlayStation 3's Cell CPU by a 35GB/s FlexIO interface and it also supports FP32 throughout the pipeline.

The RSX will be built on a 90nm process and features over 300 million transistors running at 550MHz.

Between the two GPUs there's barely any information contained within Microsoft's and Sony's press launches, so let's see if we can fill in some blanks.

More Detail on the Xbox 360 GPU


View All Comments

  • finbarqs - Saturday, May 21, 2005 - link

    perhaps that's why they were very *hush* *hush* regarding their PS3 GPU. For all we know, the Sony demo's is very possible on the XGPU Reply
  • Illissius - Saturday, May 21, 2005 - link

    It'd have been nice to have some specs for current desktop GPUs in there for comparison purposes... how many shader ops/sec can they do? 16 + 6 = 22? Reply
  • ksherman - Saturday, May 21, 2005 - link

    DAmn they cant count! they just explained what the transisters are doing, and last i checked 232million+100million != 232million! Reply
  • Low Roller - Saturday, May 21, 2005 - link

    IGN posted an update to their Xbox 360 specs:

    "Lastly, we were sent updated spec numbers on the Xbox's numbers, and we spoke with Microsoft's Vice President of hardware, Todd Holmdahl, about the Xbox 360's final transistor count.

    Another bit of information sent our way is the final transistor count for Xbox 360's graphics subset. The GPU totals 332 million transistors, which is spit between the two separate dies that make up the part. The parent die is the "main" piece of the GPU, handling the large bulk of the graphics rendering, and is comprised of 232 million transistors. The daughter die contains the system's 10MB of embedded DRAM and its logic chip, which is capable of some additional 3D math. The daughter die totals an even 100 million transistors, bringing the total transistor count for the GPU to 232 million."
  • Low Roller - Friday, May 20, 2005 - link

    OK, I did a bit more hunting around on the transistor count in the Xbox 360's GPU, and the only thing I've found comes from Microsoft's Major Nelson.(Xbox Live Director of Programming)

    According to his blog, the Xbox 360's GPU has 330 million transistors.

    I'm not sure how credible either IGN's or Major Nelson's figures are on this, as their not even close to each other.
  • ksherman - Friday, May 20, 2005 - link

    WOAAA, so Sony is manufacturing nVidia's GPU? really weird.. hope sony got a discount on the price of the core then... Reply
  • Calin - Friday, May 20, 2005 - link

    Just remember that video chipsets developers have multiple teams working on different generations - they have one chip in early development and one in late development/near production. This means two teams at least (to keep up with the 6 month product launches that were the norm starting from some 3 years ago) Reply
  • Cygni - Friday, May 20, 2005 - link

    With the memory controller functions ALSO on the 360 GPU, 150 million is pretty darn out of reach, im thinking. The 360 GPU almost sounds like an integrated single chip north bridge. It will be interesting to crack an Xbox360 open and get a peak at the insides when it ships. Should be interesting.

    I couldnt help but wonder if perhaps this is a tile based arch... any info on that? If so, it would answer a few of my questions about the system.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, May 20, 2005 - link

    Low Roller

    Jarred is correct, the IGN figures have to be wrong. Remember that R420, a 16 pipe design, was already around 160M transistors. The Xbox 360 GPU has 48 pipes, although they are unified shader pipes. Add in the additional logic to deal with handling both vertex and pixel instruction streams and you are already dealing with a GPU that is larger than the R420.

    Not to mention the 10MB of embedded DRAM, which will not be tiny.

    Take care,
  • IceWindius - Friday, May 20, 2005 - link

    I think im gonna give up on the upgrade race for PC's, im so tired of it. Think i'll go buy Xbox360, PS3 and come out money ahead. Reply

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