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AMD’s New 20nm APU Could Lead to Xbox One Slim Model

Reports indicate that AMD (NYSE: AMD) has just finalized a cheaper and smaller variant of the Xbox One’s APU, making a slim console variant a real possibility.

The news comes straight from a Beyond3D user named mosen who spotted something interesting on the LinkedIn profile for AMD’s senior system-on-chip (SOC) physical design manager, Daniel McConnell. The profile has since been taken down at the time of writing.

The curious segment claims that McConnell had “successfully planned and executed the first APU for Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Xbox One game console in 28nm technology at a cost-reduced derivative in 20nm technology”.

This indicates that AMD has indeed successfully shrunk the Xbox One’s processor from its original size of 28nm to a more compact 20nm.

Xbox One ifixit

iFixit’s teardown of the Xbox One revealed all of its internal hardware.(Photo: iFixit)

As Eurogamer notes, the reduction of size can improve transistor density, thus boosting overall power consumption. And a smaller manufacturing process translates directly to a smaller processor die size and lower manufacturing costs.

The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)–who manufactures the processors for Xbox One and PS4–notes that the reduction to 20nm can improve speeds by 30 percent, while also lowering power by 25 percent at 1.9 times the density of the original 28nm variant.

On top of the 20nm deriviative being potentially faster and more cost-effective, the reduction in power draw will in turn make the system run cooler and reduce overheating.

This drop in temperature could lead to big changes in the Xbox One’s current brobdingnagian shape. The cooling system and outer casing could be redesigned to a thinner form–thus leading to the Xbox One slim.

Xbox One

It makes sense for Microsoft to want to shrink costs as much as possible, especially given that the Xbox One isn’t selling nearly as well as Sony’s (NYSE: SNE) PlayStation 4. But it might be some time before we see an Xbox One slim.

TSMC is currently belting out 20nm A8 and A8X processors for Apple’s iPhone 6 smartphone, with AMD and Nvidia waiting their turn for their respective upcoming GPU’s.

Right now the technology has been successfully designed, but Microsoft probably won’t pull the trigger on the new shape until it becomes economically feasible, so we shouldn’t expect anything soon.

The frameworks for a slim Xbox One are there, and so is the evidence that Microsoft is thinking about a change. This change might just be for a more efficient console, but given the trends of a down-graded cheaper console variant (the Xbox 360 Slim, for instance) springing up a few years after a console’s release, it’s only a matter of time before the Xbox One gets its turn.

As a disclaimer, it is worth reminding you all that this is very likely just a die shrink done by Microsoft and not to expect anything like it from AMD any time soon, if ever.

  • Random

    Both CPUs in Xbox and PS4 are sourced from AMD, so this could leads to thinner PS4 right?

    • 100% correct!

      I’m not sure if AMD is more motivated towards Microsoft or Sony, but considering the PS4 has raked in some serious cash for them, I would imagine they’d favor Sony more.

      Then again Sony is pretty busy with Project Morpheus and working the kinks out of PS Now, but I think a slim PS4 is definitely on their radar.

  • hi

    I predict Microsoft will have a slim version available just after the 2015 holiday season. Microsoft is desperate to cut costs. The fact that PS4 is currently a hot seller adds more pressure to bend the cost curve. The constraint is TSMC’s ability to produce enough chips -its priority is Apple. AMD, Nvidia, Sony, Microsoft, & everyone else must wait in line. Sucks to have only one supplier and not be the big dog. I am not sure Microsoft can add Global Foundries either due to chip IP portability issues:http://chipdesignmag.com/display.php?articleId=5024&issueId=45

    On another note -how dumb is McConnell to call out Microsoft in his efforts to explain past accomplishments? This is just as dumb as a teenager posting embarrassing photos on Instagram.