Why Xbox One’s eSRAM Feels Limited Despite Potential To Store 6GB of Tiled Textures Using DX 11.2

What limits the console’s eSRAM and how can it effectively be used?

xbox one amd
There’s been a lot of discussion about the Xbox One’s 32 MB eSRAM and how it is a limiter to the console’s overall performance. Although some developers such as Capybara Games deny any bottlenecks with the technology, there is still a feeling of it being limiting despite potentially being able to store up to 6 GB of tiled textures when used in conjunction with DirectX 11.2.

Interestingly, for a normal forward renderer, 32 MB is the exact amount of space necessary to store one 4x MSAA 32 bpp 1080p frame buffer. However, due to the need to output more than just the pixel colour with the renderer, you’ll require multiple buffers. This explains why the anti-aliasing and resolution needs to be turned down for some games on the Xbox One – the 32 MB eSRAM is somewhat of a limiting factor.

The Xbox 360 had the same trouble with eDRAM and solved it by rendering only specific portions of a scene at a time, exchanging different buffers as necessary. Tiled resources are better, since you can avoid drawing your scene twice, but are difficult to properly implement. So a creative approach in the case of first person shooter games, would be to render the bottom half of your screen, which features more objects, using eSRAM while the top half – which is usually empty using the normal VRAM. This allows you to effectively remove less intensive portions from the frame buffer in order to have the eSRAM working on the more complicated bits.

Will this be the de facto solution for the Xbox One, especially since it took developers a while to implement the same approach on the Xbox 360 using eDRAM? It’s unlikely in the beginning stages of the Xbox One’s life cycle, resulting in a drop of resolution and AA, but given a couple of years, we could see some creative use of the eSRAM without a serious hit in performance or visuals.

Why include eSRAM at all if it becomes a limiting factor? Simply due to its bandwidth for tiled texture middleware, which is reportedly 192 GB/s. Also, it appropriately helps make Cloud gaming more possible on normal internet connections thanks to its LZ encode/decode compression abilities. So whether we believe so or not, Microsoft knew what it was doing when it included eSRAM into the Xbox One. We’ll just have to wait and see if devs can deliver the best visual experience possible while taking advantage of the eSRAM’s many benefits.


  • HalfBlackCanadian

    Thanks. You balanced the line between making up pie-in-the-sky assumptions about the consoles capability while also providing technical reasons for why the design philosophy makes sense.

    • http://www.techreviewshop.com/ JP

      This^. Microsoft could have saved a ton of backlash if they would have just shown a brief tech demo (3-5 seconds even) showing the “cloud” in action. Even if they said this won’t be ready for 1-2 years, this is what you can expect. Square Enix showed something similar earlier this month and it helped keep expectations in check.

    • d0x360

      They did. It’s called Forza. The ai is phenomenal and better than any racing game out there and it gets better every single day. Give Devs time to expand on these ideas. In time we will see more ai and physics done on the cloud which will free up CPU and GPU resources for better graphics.

    • cozomel

      Yeahm, cuz Forza’s graphics are just so incredible, NOT!

    • GameonAll

      thanks clown

    • Lubriderm

      I agree, well said.

    • cozomel

      Wow, you fanboys are the biggest idiots on the face of the planet. This is nothing more than Gamingbolt assuming (very stupidly i might add) You people will believe any bullshit your fed. Sad!

    • Mikeherp Derp

      It doesn’t matter how many GBs of textures you have in RAM, if your GPU
      can’t render the polygons, fill them with those textures, then your ROPs
      can’t composite the final image, those textures are worthless.

      Similarly,
      it doesn’t matter how much memory bandwidth or size you have if your
      GPU and ROPs are limited. You could have 1000000GB RAM running at
      100000GB/s and the GPU and ROPs still won’t be any better than before at
      rendering.

  • cubs223425

    I agree with the Canadian fellow, good analysis for explaining the issue, and even-better analysis for offering a potential solution.

  • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

    this better not result in Halo 5 being 720p; Halo 4 was 720p so I’d like to see an improvement this time around in that, beyond going towards 60fps.

    • Dylan Harris

      if your that much of a resolution whore, go for the ps4 which is supposedly so much better….otherwise, these 720p graphics will still look very nice. Just look at BF4. higher resolution, looks worse in some spots.

    • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

      to be honest, I’m really not. sure I am getting PS4 first and then Xbox One as soon as Halo hits, but ultimately it’s just the games that matter. As for BF4, I think DICE just should’ve abandoned current gen so they could focus on tapping the potential out of PS4 and Xbox One instead of giving us a game with frame drops and too much contrast, which can get annoying while playing a game if you know what I’m saying. I don’t doubt 720p is nice; hell Halo 4 looked great actually in my opinion at that resolution. I was just hoping since it’s new hardware they’d be able to raise the bar beyond framerate and also accommodate resolution as this time around 343 has more at their disposal to make it not just play better, but look better also. I mean it’s a new gen so they ought to have room to add stuff that wasn’t possible last time around but I guess since optimization is most important in the beginning, I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining. as long as the game looks great and 343 makes it look the best it can with the tools they have, I don’t care what resolution it is; I’m just tired of devs compromising on certain of aspects of games such as resolution or game play or just basic content because of the tech, a la Halo’s 720p@30fpson360. Did I manage to convince you that graphics aren’t my biggest priority for playing a game?

    • TheDude

      No offense, but I have a hard time seeing how anyone who says, “it’s just the games that matter”, picks the PS4 over the Xbox One at launch. The Xbox One hands down has the better launch lineup. Just saying. The PS4 has one of the worst launch lineups in recent memory. Keep in mind that multiplatform games can be found on both systems. Xbox kills it with the exclusives.

    • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

      Personally, at the moment, PS4 has more games that interest me and that I prefer than Xbox One. and honestly, the only exclusive at the top of my list right now for Xbox One is Halo with everything else being a secondary purchase so when Halo is out that will be my cue to go for the system, while with PS4 there’s already games such as Knack, Shadow Fall, and Second Son that are imminent so PS4 right now is the bigger draw for me. I don’t doubt Xbox One will have plenty of exclusives by the end of 2014, but what PS4 offers is more my taste right now so that’s what I’m going for first. I take quality over quantity btw, that is the quality I look for, I’m seeing it more in PS4 right now but I know people have different views on what quality is but that’s just mine. I want Xbox One also-but also one of the reasons also is the price difference also, besides Halo and the titles at launch so I’ll wait so that by the time next year comes around I can just spend as much as I am going to spend on PS4, so that I save more money for more games. If MS had made Xbox One same price as PS4-and not had the whole DRM fiasco and how they put up paywalls for things that shouldn’t have them- I would get Xbox One but right now PS4 has just won me over-ever since February in fact. Sorry if my logic isn’t sound but that’s what I want. No doubt Xbox One will be great but I just want PS4 more. Actually, I just entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win Xbox One, 3 exclusives, and 12 months XBL so maybe then I will get it, as only 3 winners will get all that and the winners will be announced December 18. Beyond that, nothing can change my mind about getting PS4 first now.

    • SotehPR

      honestly the only game worth playing right now on the Xbone is Forza… the rest are a bunch of unknown tuned down games to save the frame rate…. Developers are to vague to develop for two consoles, they will develop for PS4 first because from what im seeing right now is the easier of the two to develop for… It’s a fact go see the next-gen review of games ad all it says is PS4. I will get an Xbone… maybe, but in this case PS4 has the better games, more varied and are a sure thing. Sony Studios rarely disappoint.

    • d0x360

      I don’t agree. I bought Forza, ryse, battlefield, dead rising and assassins creed. All good games. Ryse gets a bad rap but honestly if you like hack and slash its a lot of fun. The combat is simple but at the same time has some depth to it. You can’t just mash buttons. The executions are cool and if you want perfeft combos you have to really watch the animations and hit the buttons BEFORE the color highlights come up. Its not easy and it adds a layer to the combat that I quite enjoy. I hope they make another cause they laid some really good groundwork.

    • cozomel

      Dude are you serious? Sony is known to have way more exclusives and studios than MS, and you’re just gonna sit here and act like its all about the launch games, like thats all there will be? Talk about both dumb and shortsighted. But i know thtas just a normal symptom of fanboyism. And what good games does X1 have? KI?! DR3? Ryse? please all weakly mediocre games at best, with all unimpressive performance

    • Gabrielsp85

      Halo 5 have been confirmed to be 1080p60 since the reveal

    • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

      True that…could never forget Halo..love Halo. thanks for reminding me :) as I plan to get Xbox One when Halo hits. Unless Quantum Break comes before it..what killer app do you plan to get for the system?

    • Gabrielsp85

      All its exclusives, right now I’m only missing DR3 (and Zoo Tycoon but i got no interest in that game) but looking forward to play QB and Titanfall ASAP. I just play Multi-plats on PC

    • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

      Yeah, Zoo Tycoon no. I’d personally take Animal Crossing: New Leaf over that any day, just saying. Anyway, I wish I had a high end rig. I usually play first party on Wii U and then do most of my multi plat on 360 and then more exclusives on PS3.

    • d0x360

      I hesitantly picked up dead rising 3 the other day. I’m glad I did. Thousands of UNIQUE zombies on screen…it’s intense. So much going on its just insane and no 2 zombies are the same. It might not be the best looking game out there. Its certainly better than it could have been on 360 but the sheer number of zombies makes up for any short comings. It’s ttruly impressive

    • Gabrielsp85

      DR3 is packed with fun, I bought it last week and i haven’t played anything else since then, simply the funnest game I’ve played in a long time. The insane amount of zombies on screen make this game more next-gen than resolution or cutting edge graphics that’s hundreds of different textures and hundreds of AI’s which are very CPU intensive, there’s no way this game could be made on last gen exactly how it is on X1.IMO I prefer the hundreds of zombies on-screen than the 1080p everybody have been bragging about

    • cozomel

      Stop being so gullible. The X1 is a complete and utter overpriced disappointment

    • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

      It’s not my favorite next gen console but I will get the exclusives that matter.

    • spideynut71

      I said the same thing about your mom last night, after she wiped my load off her chin….and she threw the $5 I paid her right back at me.

    • cozomel

      And I said the same thing about your mom last night, after she wiped my load off her chin….and she threw the $5 I paid her right back at me, go figure.
      But thats pretty pathetic and childish to resort to saying things like that because of what i said about your beloved disappointing X1. It hurt you that much eh? Silly little fangirl

    • thrasha666

      lol they can confirm all they want, until they have proof that means nothing, also keep in mind that they never said that that was native, hmmm….im guessing its gonna be 900p (or worse as usual) upscaled

    • thrasha666

      the xbone cant even handle PvsZ:GW at 1080/60, what makes anyone think that it can handle halo at that

    • Omar

      Halo 5 wasn’t confirmed to be 1080p. Only 60FPS. We don’t know the resolution just yet. Either way, it’ll look way better than Halo 4. Resolution isn’t graphics. Its resolution. Graphics is something else entirely.

  • Mike Greenway

    I guess all the Xbox developers need to do is hire you to explain it to them.

  • Minecraft Greek

    While true, a 1080P buffer really only NEEDS about 8MB of space without 4xMSAA. So 1080P/60 is certainly possible, but devs are going to have to use other types of AA to be memory efficient. According to the Tiled resources presentation, having 16MB of space is efficient enough for a 1080P scene for tiled textures using on-board compression will accelerate and increase space. So that leaves about 8MB of ESRAM to be used as whatever the developer needs it for. Larger Tiled Texture cache, CPU coherent RAM for ray-tracing, shadow or Z-buffers or some new or different AA technique. It really comes down to them getting the hardware and pressing it.

    I just hope 343 is going to utilize all that MS has to offer in Software engineering to make Halo 5 it’s proof of concept for DX11.2 and 1080P/60fps gaming on Xbox One.

    • Jacob S

      My Xbox1 hasn’t disappointed gameplay wise yet- it looks great and plays so smooth. This also make me believe that it is being underestimated, because a lack of understanding hardware/software and just how advanced it really is. I also believe switching from a ‘connected’ system pushed MS to be forced to use a not close to perfected SDK. I think by the time Halo5 releases w/ a truly MS backed game we might get to see what the Xbox1 can really do.

  • Minecraft Greek

    I still think that as we push graphics further power-wise, the resolutions on both consoles will suffer for better pixel quality. Just look at Battlefield 4…

    I would offer the best quality setting for Xbox One may be 1920×720, I know it’s an odd resolution, but the renderer just needs to draw using the proper aspect ratio stretched vertically.

    Why is this the best resolution for Xbox One? 1920 uses the full Native HD width resolution of your television, and the height resolution is bare minimum native HD. This is a great balance compared to standard native resolutions out there. Why? Because a 4xMSAA configuration requires 21.09MB for the frame buffer at that resolution, and DX11.2 Tiled resources states that the optimal minimum memory for PRT would be 10.66 MB roughly. This just happens to be about 31.75MB in total.

    I would lay down my prediction now that the math-happy people at 343 Industries will realize this phenomena and pull out 1920 x 720 at 4xMSAA for Halo 5. I would argue it is the best resolution choice for sharpness, and best choice for the least amount of aliasing coupled with 4xMSAA. Using tiled resources to keep the textures screaming, and maxing out the geometry and shader engines at that resolution at 60FPS.

    They can also use a couple of other tricks as well, since the Xbox One has multiple rendering planes, they could also render the HUD and Gun/hands/weapon in Full 1080P and overlay it right in the scaling engine at no cost to the scaler. They also have the ability to give it resolution parameters allowing the native resolution to fluctuate between a range on the fly instead of dropping frames when the heat is on. They could say 1920w standard, but if fps is going to drop below 60, then adjust to 1600 x 720 until the fps goes back up to help lock in at 60 fps no matter what is happening on screen. I would rather see a game lose some resolution briefly when there is a lot going on than watch a 15fps game not being able to really track objects and such.

    It will be exciting to see what they can do with this. I would also offer that the human eye will have a lot of trouble comparing 1920×720 to 1920×1080 side by side, especially since horizontal resolution is identical.

  • Randall Sealy

    You may want to add.

    None of the launch games are using tiled resources.Period.

    Once games actually start using it the esram the proper way it was designed for, then you will see the tangible evidence that 32gb is going to be enough,Ms didnt drop 4.2 billion to be hamstrung by 32megs of ram.

    Using launch games as a definitive point of reference for console performance is ot a good idea, so either you dont what your talking about, or just a xbox basher, either way your wrong

  • d0x360

    You have to give Devs time. Ps4 is more straight forward to dev for because its just a PC but like the 360 the Xbox one has some custom features that will make a big difference but developers need to use these features effectively and that takes time that launch titles don’t have. Look at halo 3 and 4 or far cry 2-3 or tomb raider compared to legends. Massive difference with visuals nobody thought possible on the 360 and it was all thanks to that wonderful ondie edram. Don’t worry; resolution and frame rate won’t be an issue on the Xbox one for long. Games will all run 1080p soon enough and look fantastic.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      Well, it has been stated by some ananymous sources that Halo One will NOT be native 1080p. And this was stated back in July. Seeing what has happen lately with launch titles, that particular source is now being considered to be legit. Don’t know if you read it:

      http://pastebin.com/qW6LVdFx

      In any case, you are right. Even if PS4 is straight forward and easy to develop for (due to boring architectural design, and lack of unique graphical technologies). Without a doubt Xbox One will have some AMAZING game features and great graphics utilization than PS4. Remember, it was a last minute decision made in 2012 to go from 4 to 8gbs of memory. Shows how imcompetent Sony was. But boy did they make some tasty kool-aid since E3. All of these doubter will feel it’s crash once the Kool-aid runs out.

    • d0x360

      I really don’t care if its 1080p or not as long as its fun. I have a feeling it will be 1080p/30fps. Even if its not Ryse shows a game can look absolutely fantastic at sub 1080p. Resolution isn’t as important (past 720p) so long as your effects and shaders are done well

    • JerkDaNERD7

      Yes, very true. Remember almost everyone could care less about resolutions and frame rates, now it’s a big deal?! LOL!

      Anyways, expect some HUGE things next year with Xbox One. Some amazing things, Quantum Break at VGX is just the beginning.

      Also, another proof to the graphical technology Xbox One’s eSRAM is prepared for:

      http://gamingbolt.com/granite-sdk-v2-0-now-available-reduces-ps4-pc-xbox-one-memory-usage-by-75-for-texture-streaming

  • Gabrielsp85

    Not a single game to date use dx11.2 and tiled resources, when engines get ready for this you will see the real difference. X1 is been designed to support HW Tiled Resources whcih will be more efficient than SW TR like PC or maybe PS4 will use, It will be like let’s say Nvidia HW Physx compared to SW difference

  • marc berry

    Come on now !!! So far the best looking games are on Xb1… Ryse at 900p looks better than KzSF at 1080p, WOW!! BF4 on XB1 looks just as good as a BF4 PS4.
    NEXT UP THE 1080P HALO 5.
    To :GamingBolt
    *It’s not 32 bytes per pixel, it is 32 bits. That means a single 1080p framebuffer takes up about 8 MB, not 32 MB. So the size of the ESRAM is not the limiting factor for forward rendered games.” google it GamingBolt, i did http://n4g.com/news/1400641/how-to-set-color-depth-bits-per-pixel-on-xbox-one

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  • Guest

    Yep, $0N¥ Paupers look like losers, no matter what article.

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