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Chipworks Analyzes Xbox 360 Innards

Semi-conductor and system reverse engineering firm Chipworks have announced that they are analyzing the key chips for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, and have made some ini...

Simon Carless

November 24, 2005

2 Min Read

Semi-conductor and system reverse engineering firm Chipworks have announced that they are analyzing the key chips for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, and have made some initial conclusions, with more detailed analysis available directly from the company. "Microsoft has developed creative relationships with some of the leading-edge chip suppliers in order to meet the performance needs of the Xbox," said Gary Tomkins. manager of Technical Intelligence at Chipworks. "We wanted to see how advanced the process technology is that is being used, considering the pressure to keep the component costs down." "The extensive use of state-of-the-art technology in the Xbox illustrates the trend that the consumer market is driving technology these days," continued Tomkins. Dick James, senior technology analyst, also commented: "Earlier press announcements revealed that the Xbox's custom microprocessor was being fabbed by IBM, and the graphics processor was designed by ATI, both using 90-nm processes. Later, NEC announced that they were supplying the embedded DRAM to work with the ATI chip, and Infineon has also declared they will have parts in the console. ATI has used TSMC as a high performance foundry at the 130- and 110-nm process nodes, so we're curious to see if the relationship has continued." "Most of the dedicated parts have the Microsoft X-logo on them, including the silicon die markings, not the design or IDM origin. We could call this 'Microsoft inside'," added Tomkins. "So far we have identified the IBM, ATI, and NEC parts, Samsung GDDR3 SDRAM, Hynix NAND flash, and other chips whose origin we are investigating." The Chipworks website includes a page with pictures of the custom markings on the Xbox 360 chips. Chipworks also reports that the NEC embedded DRAM is co-packaged with the ATI processor, rather than being integrated into the same piece of silicon. This allows the processes to be optimized for the separate devices, without forcing a compromise to achieve what could be a false economy.

About the Author(s)

Simon Carless

Blogger

Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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