Why did MS leave power on the table with Xbox Series X and S?

It appears that Microsoft came up with the 12tflop for X, and 4tflops of S, and just stopped when they reached that target.

We all know RDNA 2 clocks really high, alot higher than either Series console is. Both consoles are quiet, cool and don’t seem to be pushing the thermal envelope at all.

So why didn’t MS up the clocks to get as much power as they could?

If they had of upped the clock on series x to 1950mhz they could have got an extra tflop of conpute, a much higher pixel fill rate and all the other benefits that come with a higher clock. I also think the cooling system currently on the Series X would have been able to handle the extra heat.

Similarly, the Series S is only clocked at 1.565ghz, which is really quite slow, needlessly I would say. By increasing the clock speed to 1.8ghz, it would have given the Series S a 4.6tflop GPU.

The Series S was initially sold by MS as a 1440/60 machine, however in alot of cases it can barely keep 1080P, with alot of games going well below that. Infact its CPU is more capable than the GPU, and the memory. That extra .6tflop may well allow the Series S to keep games at least 1080P, which in 2021 is a minimum.

So why did MS leave the extra performance on the table with both consoles, but especially so with the Series S? Is it possible down the track for MS to give the Series S a clock increase through a firmware update, like they did to the OG Xbox One after launch?


I would have loved to see Series S have at least 2 more gigs of ram. That’s the biggest complaint most developers have had. It was especially awkward to see two iD software devs talk about it on twitter only for Zenimax to get acquired soon haha. Hopefully they can find ways to still squeeze out as much as possible from the SS while not feeling held down by it.

As for why they settled for the power the consoles have, I just think its cost and engineering concerns mostly.


Because they work to a thermal, power and cost budget. Saying it’s cool and quiet doesn’t mean much. The series X expels a lot of very hot air. It’s not exactly hard to imagine the fan is at the limit of what can be achieved in a box of that design and size. Then you’ve got a power budget and given gears already draws 205W in tests it’s likely that you are close to the limit there already.


Because they valued consistency in design and value. They could overclock the Series X for a flex, but it could screw shit up in the long run. I mean, the PS5’s overclocking caused a logistical nightmare for them with yields iirc.


Having a clock speed of 1950mhz isn’t overclocking by any stretch on RDNA 2 cards.

You either go wide and slow or you go narrow and fast. Microsoft chose the former while Sony chose the latter. That’s why Xbox has slower clocks witch high CU number while PlayStation is the opposite.

Then you set your price target and do your best. Anything different that it is wouldn’t work for these prices.

Every Herz up means different power envelope, different thermal issues, different yields etc. If they could, they would. As simple as that. They didn’t leave that power because they were incompetent or lazy or whatever, it simply isn’t feasible.


my theory is a bit tinfoil hat but I think they are sandbagging the series S so that in a few years time, (And a few zen+RDNA iterations later), they will release a portable console that plays all the xbox games released on the series consoles.

One of the main reasons I think this is because the series S is iirc, the lowest clocked RDNA 2 GPU part out there, by a decently large margin. And if you look at the power consumption to clock speed graph of RDNA 2 you can see that they could have increased the clockspeed without raising power consumption much at all

I have included a pic of the graph, it is not a complete graph as you can see but it shows how steep the tail is for power consumption

These sorts of things scale on an S curve

So I think they are sandbagging, and in a few years time will release a PSP/ PS Vita style handheld that has none of the drawbacks. No need to make games just for the handheld, and it would already have a massive library of games to chose from

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I think they target a low-power consumption so that it is easy to sustain and scale their hardware xCloud infraestructure. Electricity is expensive.

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The reason why Xbox engineering team selected the specs they did is pretty simply.

  1. Target compute

  2. Components

  3. Thermal

  4. Cooling (fan sound)

  5. Wattage

Sure, clocks can be raised. It will result in more power usage. Which will raise temperature. To cool those temperatures fan speed need to be up.

So now fan speed is the final variable. They may increase it but it may make the sound unpleasant.

Now the only argument which can be made is that series X and S both are very quite so fan speeds can be increased. But by how much?

Console can’t go out and perform like a PC component where user can decide that i am okay with this level of sound.

Boost mode may exsits but it will be troublesome for devs in the end as Jason talked about why they didn’t include that smartshift like PS5.

Anyways, a lot can be done. There are simple reasons for why frequency are kept at what they are kept. But also the argument of increasing them is also fine.

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Let me join you with my hat.

Here is the power consumption of the xbox consoles. Via DF test:

Series S can perform on par with Xbox one X. So let’s assume microsoft is able to make a new chip( Xbox series S chip) which can produce the same results as one of there previous console (Xbox one X). Now they are trying to make another chip which can produce results similar to Xbox series S but consume less power.

Looking at the stats there. From Xbox one X to Xbox series S, reduction in power is about half ( 170 to 85 ). So if they achieve the same for portable Xbox chip, they might reach 40-45 wattage for the whole compute system.

Let’s say 40 watt is the compute system target.

I have seem a portable called Aya Neo. It can sustain 30 watt APU package at good temperatures. Now i can only assume that complete compute system could be upto 40 watts there. Which is great because it matches the compute target for the series S chip as well.

But, a handheld will also require power for its screen and controller. So we might be looking at a overall device package with a wattage of around 50 watts.

But 50 watts will be too much on the battery life. Eve aya Neo comes with 15 watt tdp package of APU out of the box which gives around 3-5 hours of battery life.

It will be intresting to see what microsoft will do to make portable Xbox possible if they wish to do so.

Yield, higher clocks, less usable chips per wafer leading to increased costs. Sure there were many other considerations but that’s one.

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Series X is already the most powerful console. They did not need to further mess with the specs


As a project manager, I will say that the difference between a project and a process is that a project has an end. MS had targets for the Series X and S. They also were dealing with a budget, which is part of the triple constraint. If they kept on shooting higher, we would not be playing with the Series S/X now. It would also be more expensive.

One only has to look to the PS5 too see just how much cooling is needed to facilitate this higher clock. The machine is massive, With every bit of clock squeezed out the returns diminish. So while a bigger chip also uses more power, a higher clocked chip is almost always more power hungry at similar performance outputs. So while a slightly higher clock might make sense to the lay person? This higher clock comes at a very much increased power usage and thus thermal footprint. A thermal footprint that needs to be cooled again and thus either requires more space, or a bigger fan or something else to facilitate it.

As of the people talking about a handheld: I don’t think an X86/X64 console would then be the way to go. AMD has an ARM license, so the S’s Graphical Compute units + ARM64 cores rather than Ryzen… would be the way to go.

Now before you might think: But that would mean programs won’t run out of the box!

Microsoft’s console OS’s run on top of a hypervisor. This means that instruction calls are translated to the hardware below. This has been the case since the Xbox 360, and was expanded with the Xbox One. All they need to do is to properly port the hypervisor part to the ARM64 architecture (And I’m sure that Microsoft has internal systems like that already) and the console would just run any of the Xbox Series and One games.

Now the problem is performance, an X86 architecture is very wide and in order. This means that you know that Instruction A will finish before Instruction B if it was in line to do so. ARM architectures are not. They just finish and it’s up to the programmer of the OS to facilitate this concurrency. But that should not be a big issue for Microsoft to solve, and performance wise it should be fine as well… there are ARM solutions out there that can keep up with AMD’s Zen 2 at a lower power draw.

And like said: AMD has an ARM license to produce ARM based architectures as does Microsoft themselves.

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They may have left the power upon the table

So they could go create another Fable



Yes, let’s overclock them like the PS5 so it gets weird GPU issues and a broken OS like PS5. Great idea. According to Bloomberg, the reason PS5 isn’t compatible with external SSDs is overheating, in fact.

Would be louder, hotter, bigger, more expensive. If you want that, just build a pc :woman_shrugging:

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I have to agree. This is a very logical next step. A mobile version is incoming.

They could create an ARM emulation of OneS right now, and when the generation moves ahead, create an ARM emulation of SeriesS later – -maybe, with the SeriesS2 and SeriesX2 versions.

The OneS would already be a build target for the GDK. Much simpler for them to create a mobile version based on the OneS right now. Include DLSS style improvements, and play natively.


Wait for a year to release an ARM version of SeriesS.

I really appreciate this post.


The Series consoles expel quite a lot of heat. They maxed out the clocks as high as they could go with their sandwiched cooling solution and vapour chamber. They got comfortable with the amount of heat that the Series X can generate at sustained clock speeds. It’s a delicate balance.