Xbox 360 – Paging Steve Jobs…

May 13, 2005

If you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, you might have missed all of the speculation over the past few weeks leading up to the Xbox 360 “announcement” on MTV last night.  I’ve mostly ignored it, mainly because a) I’m not much of a gamer, and b) this thing isn’t due to hit the streets until just in time for my 18 & 22 yr old to demand one for Xmas.

Now that “real” specs have been released however, I was glancing at Kotaku’s excellent overview and spotted this little gem:

“The Xbox 360 is a quantum leap forward in technology, sporting three symmetrical cores running at 3.2 GHz and a 1 MB L2 cache that can perform 9 billion dot product operations a second.

The 360 will sport a custom 500 MHz ATI graphics processor with 10 MB of embedded DRAM. The processor will be able to produce 500 million triangles a second and have a pixel fill rate of 16 gigasamples a second.

The console will also have 512 MB of GDDR3 RAM operating at 700 MHz. The systems overall floating-point performance will be 1 teraflop.

It’s hard to compare the current Xbox to the 360, but Rob Smith, editor-in-chief of Official Xbox Magazine, said they certainly tried. The magazine handed the specs over to Maximum PC editors and had them crunch the numbers.

“The bottom line was, between the GPU format and cores, and 512 memory, the Xbox 360 will be significantly faster than the fastest PC,” he said.”

Unless I’ve missed a meeting somewhere along the way (a distinct possibility), this thing is running a custom version of IBM’s PowerPC (the “three cores” spoken of above, I assume), the same processor family that Apple labels as the G4 and the G5 over on the Mac.

Granted, I take Microsoft PR-speak with a grain of salt (something on the order of “Lot’s Wife”), but if they’ve really got a 3-core PowerPC box that’s “significantly faster than the fastest PC” and has an estimated street price of $300 – $400, then somebody at Apple or IBM needs to step up to the plate and do some serious upgrades to the Mac lineup.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Macs to pieces, but faster than (or fast as) a fast (let alone the fastest) PC, they ain’t.  I’d far rather use a Mac on my desktop, but when it comes down to raw horsepower (such as doing video and HTPC stuff), cheap Intel and AMD based systems have the Mac beat seven ways from Sunday on a price/performance basis.

We’ve all put up with slow Macs because “fast PowerPC yeilds aren’t there yet” and the G5s take more cooling than jalapeno barbeque consumers in a Texas summer, but this thing is running THREE PowerPC cores, is in a cheap plastic box without a garden hose attached to cool it, and sells for less than a high-end iPod?

If this is all true (and again, I’m not holding my breath to see if it is), then somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do. 


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