The Xbox Velocity Architecture is the direct response from the Xbox Series X to the core improvements made by Sony to the PS5. The improved speed offered by the decompression chip had to be answered somehow, and this new custom setup is how Microsoft plans to do that. The release of the new consoles looms large over 2020, and fans want to know what to expect. Should they save their money for a high-end PC, or should they rely on the metrics we have and spend the ~$600 or so on a new console?
Both Sony and Microsoft have put a ton of time into detailing core counts, clock speeds and teraflops, but what does that all mean. With all of the techno-jargon floating around, it’s easy to get lost in the details. So here’s a guide on what Team Xbox is planning to do with their new console. The new system of improving performance is called the Xbox Velocity Architecture and Microsoft claims that these improvements offer a level of performance that is 100x better than the Xbox One X in some areas.
The Xbox Series X hardware and the software and other improvements of the Xbox Velocity Architecture allow for better cooperation between the hardware and the software running on it. It helps that consoles are purpose-built for one thing, and the Xbox Velocity Architecture helps immensely with that. The core goal here is to speed up the delivery of data from game disc to your screen, and to do it at higher levels of detail and polish.
Let’s take a look at the four components that make up the Xbox Velocity Architecture.
Custom NVME SSD
Xbox Velocity Architecture features a custom, 1TB NVME SSD, delivering 2.4 GB/s of raw I/O (input/output) throughput, which is more than 40 times the throughput of Xbox One. This will allow the Xbox Series X to take advantage of the customized AMD APU and the extreme speed of the fastest memory lanes on the hardware to exponentially increase the data being processed. This will also allow Xbox consoles to offer a stunningly high, and consistent level of performance, to all developers working with the console.
Hardware Accelerated Decompression
The hardware-assisted decompression of the PS5 is a big part of what allows it to speed up load times. The Xbox Series X and its own Xbox Velocity Architecture will make use of some similar ideas in their own way. The LZ decompressor from previous iterations returns, but is now assisted by a new, proprietary algorithm specifically designed for texture data named BCPack. This new algorithm can massively speed up the delivery of textures and detail levels across an entire game.
New DirectStorage API
A new Direct Storage API has been added to DirectX, which allows for better control of I/O operations through better application of multiple I/O queues. This means that overall I/O performance has become even more important, and it will allow developers to scale the loading times of their game to faster levels than ever before on consoles.
Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS)
This new technology will speed up the loading of textures and mipmaps, applying details and resolution scaling much quicker than consoles ever did before. It could be that SFS leads to a negating of texture and model pop-in that console gamers have become used to. The SFS tech could also help improve draw distance as detailing can be applied faster at a distance and have the loaded mipmaps stored in memory. This would be further aided by the increased I/O speed of the new storage solution as well.
Why should you care about any of this?
While it’s true that Terflops in particular is a very poor measurement for performance, being a measure of how good a microprocessor is at one instruction set, they do give us some indications of what performance can mean in the gaming space. The other revealed details show a massive leap forward in one area in particular, load times. Console loading times are atrocious in the modern era.
The combination of a custom SSD solution and hardware aimed specifically at data decompression means that loads should be much faster on the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The clever ways that both manufacturers have found around problems indicate that the performance gap between consoles and PCs is narrowing. The inclusion of vastly improved draw distances and better detailing and particle effects should make for consoles in 2020 having a much smoother gaming experience.
The better headroom for performance optimization and visual quality should give developers more freedom as well, making things much more creative and engaging for the end-user.
Although there is the consideration of price. It’s getting more and more likely that AAA games will jump up in price in 2021 and beyond, we will just have to wait and see. But if they do, that’s another problem for many gamers to consider when thinking about buying a new console.