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Custom PowerPC Drives New Xbox 360 To Teraflop Performance

Microsoft shifted up from the X86 to a custom triple-core, dual-threaded PowerPC for its Xbox 360 which the company claims delivers 1-teraflop performance.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Microsoft Corp. shifted up from the X86 to a custom triple-core, dual-threaded PowerPC for its Xbox 360 which the company claims delivers 1 teraflop of system-level, floating-point performance. The system marks a further step in the evolution of video game consoles into powerful home entertainment servers.

Officially launched Thursday (May 12), the Xbox 360 uses three custom 3.2 GHz PowerPC cores, each handling two threads. Each core includes a 128-bit vector graphics unit sporting a full 128 registers and 1-Mbyte cache.

In addition, the console includes a graphics chip from ATI Technologies that processes 500 million triangles per second. The ATI chip packs 10 Mbytes of embedded DRAM and 512 Mbytes of external GDDR3 memory running at 700 MHz.

Both chip partners are new to the Xbox. NVidia Corp. provided the graphics chip in the original Xbox that used an Intel X86 CPU.

The Xbox 360 incorporates a broader array of home multimedia features than its predecessor including 16:9 high definition DVD playback at resolutions of either 720-line progressive and 1,080-line interlaced. It also includes built-in communications for instant messaging, voice chat and links to an online Xbox Internet gaming guide and merchandise site.

The system can stream digital audio files and store and show photos. It also includes an FM tuner and built-in links for streaming media from Windows Media Center PCs.

Xbox 360 includes a 20-Gbyte hard disk and a DVD-ROM player. It does not include Wi-Fi, a read/write optical drive or a video camera, but those devices can be added on as options.

Three companies, including Microsoft, announced a total of seven games for the system. It ships before the end of the year in Europe, Japan and North America and early next year in Asia and Latin America.

Microsoft unveiled the system in a widely anticipated broadcast on MTV on the eve of the E3 conference in Los Angeles. At the conference, Sony and Nintendo are expected to reveal details about their next-generation consoles which are not likely to ship until 2006.