Microsoft already talking performance boost for Xbox One without Kinect

Launching an Xbox One without Kinect could mean developers are able to use previously fenced-off system resources for increased console performance§

14 May 2014
Microsoft Xbox One

Following yesterday's surprising (yet inevitable) announcement from Microsoft that it would be launching a version of its Xbox One console without the Kinect depth-sensing camera, the company is reportedly talking to developers and publishers about reclaiming system resources in order to increase performance.

Speaking to Polygon, Microsoft's corporate vice president for devices and studios Yusuf Mehdi said that the development team is reexamining the Xbox One's hardware architecture in order to see whether a Kinect-less console could free up some previously reserved system resources for improving frame rates or resolutions in games.

Because Kinect was such an integral part of Microsoft's original vision for the Xbox One, the company reserved around 10% of all system resources for Kinect functionality. At the launch of the console, Microsoft's Andrew Goossen said "Xbox One has a conservative 10 per cent time-sliced reservation on the GPU for system processing. This is used both for the GPGPU processing for Kinect and for the rendering of concurrent system content such as snap mode.

"In the future, we plan to open up more options to developers to access this GPU reservation time while maintaining full system functionality." That future may have come earlier than Microsoft expected.

Reserved system resources is only part of the reason why the Xbox One lags behind Sony's PS4 in terms of performance, with developers struggling to utilise the Xbox One's small amount of high-speed ESRAM effectively compared to the PS4's larger pool of GDDR5 memory. Just today, Ubisoft confirmed that Watch_Dogs would run at a higher resolution on PS4, and many other multi-platform titles have taken a similar approach.

With Kinect-less Xbox Ones soon to go on sale, Microsoft can hopefully come up with a method of freeing up these resources and putting them towards games, in order to restore the balance between the current crop of next-generation consoles.

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