The Latest on Lockhart

Posted on June 30, 2020 by Brad Sams in Xbox, Xbox Series X with 12 Comments

Microsoft has an interesting strategy at the moment for its upcoming consoles. The company has announced what is already the most powerful console for the next generation, a few titles that will be released, and more details but the one thing everyone keeps talking about is Lockhart.

Is this a brilliant marketing move or is it simply because we don’t know all the details which makes it more interesting? Either way, much of the gaming world is waiting to hear from Microsoft about its more affordable console but it does look like we might have to wait a bit longer than anticipated.

Initially, the console was going to be announced in June but the latest reports say August, but I can’t independently verify that yet. Here’s a fun fact though, the original launch plans for Lockhart was that it was going to be released in Mid-October. That may not sound all that surprising, but Anaconda, the series X, was going to release in late August; clearly plans have been adjusted since the conception of the hardware.

No surprise that those dates have slipped and the announcement timeline for Lockhart has been far more fluid than we have seen in previous years. That’s why it’s a bit hard to lock down the exact date but the announcement should be coming sooner, rather than later.

But what will the console look like? That’s a good question; the popular idea that it is a smaller cube fills the hearts of many as it reminds them of the Game Cube but that may not be logical.

Why? One thing that Microsoft mandates is when they let employees/third-parties travel with the hardware, they ask them to disguise the product. This is a standard practice in the industry but for the Anaconda, Microsoft recommended employees put the hardware in a PC tower, subwoofer, or something else that is quite large. For Lockhart, Microsoft has said that the hardware should be disguised by using Durango or Scorpio covers which means the device is not the same shape as the series X.

Another consideration is that for the series X, Microsoft is using a split motherboard design. The company is doing this to maximize cooling but this is a more expensive approach. First, you have two PCBs, you need two manufacturing lines, and twice the testing of the product – it’s not the cheaper route but the X is performance-focused. With the series S, using a single PCB would reduce manufacturing complexity and the price but on the other side of the coin, you could make the argument that by using a split design, the same as the X, it would make the overall cost of the next-gen platform less expensive. But, to make a split motherboard and to make it smaller than the series X to achieve the smaller design, would increase cost, not reduce it.

One of the misconceptions about Lockhart is that it is going to hold back next-generation games. It’s a valid concern and the idea sprung up about a year ago when details were murky about the path ahead for the next generation consoles. Specifically, developers were not fully versed in how development (or profiling as it is now called) was going to actually work on the hardware which resulted in myself, and others, hearing mixed messaging from those briefed early on the plans.

As we have learned more during the past year, those concerns have faded as Microsoft has built a strategy of using the same base components across both devices (like Raytracing support and CPU specs) that should make it easier for developers to target the same visual fidelity for both consoles but at different resolutions. Meaning, the series X will be optimized for 4k gaming while the series S is optimized at 4TF for 1080P displays.

But the big unknown will be the pricing. If the consoles were only $50 difference, even though consumers are typically very price sensitive, the overhead of launching two consoles with that difference doesn’t make much sense. The minimum price difference needs to be $100 or more to create enough of a gap to make the additional marketing and the cost of educating the consumer worthwhile.

Tagged with , ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (16)

16 responses to “The Latest on Lockhart”

  1. ChobPT

    I'm still confused on why launching a console that seems to be less powerful than the One X

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to ChobPT:

      I could be wrong but I think about it this way— Series X is the replacement for the One X, Series S is the replacement for the One S; so you have a premium option and an entry level option.

    • BucksterMcgee

      In reply to ChobPT:

      "seems to be less powerful" you're correct in using "seems" as actually it will range from about the same graphical power as Xbox One X to quite a bit more powerful.... but also with significantly better CPU, SSD, memory bandwidth, and has advanced features not available on Xbox One X, like ray tracing, and all the new hardware advances that increase performance by rendering/processing less, but producing the same or better quality, e.g., machine learning anti-aliasing.

      The confusion comes from 4Tflops < 6Tflops, but The Xbox One X GPU was from a much older generation GCN where Xbox Series X/S are from RDNA2. Digital Foundry did a comparison where they took an equivalent 6Tflop GCN GPU and matched it against a 4Tflop RDNA GPU, and the RDNA GPU outperformed the old but "higher" Tflop GCN card.

      Xbox Series X and Lockhart using RDNA2, which yet another advancement over RDNA 1.0. This likely means even though it only has "4.2TFlops" GPU, Lockhart will perform even better than the RDNA 1.0 version that was more powerful than a 6Tflop GCN Xbox One X equivalent GPU.

      In the end new architectures with more efficient designs and new hardware advances make the number of "Flops" not exactly directly comparable and thus less meaningful. When it comes to actual graphical output, fidelity, performance, Lockhart will be more powerful than Xbox One X, but it is also is specially designed for a 1080p 60-120fps output, whereas Xbox One X, was intended to be a 4k 30fps machine.

    • tripleplayed

      In reply to ChobPT:

      This console will be much more powerful than the One X.

  2. mebby

    I thought Lockhart was a hoax and/or Brad's delusion. At least that is what I hear from Paul on the FRD podcast. ;)

    Way to keep the dream alive, Brad!

  3. yoshi

    I know I'm being super petty, but ever since the Mixer/FB thing I am less excited about Xbox in general. I know Mixer had to go, it didn't make sense to keep it around. But to partner with FB, ugh. At first I thought it was a suggestion for Mixer streamers to use FB, but it's the whole deeper partnership stuff that Spencer talked about that sucks.

    I get it. Microsoft's goal is to reach 2 billion gamers worldwide. FB is a huge help to reach that goal. But... it's FB.

  4. madthinus

    There is many ways to save money on Lockhart. Storage is one area, it could come with 500Gb storage. 1Tb of NVMe storage is about $100 retail so there is that. The Chipset for the Xbox / PS5 I am doubting that it is a monolith chip. If it is Zen, it makes more sense that this is a chiplet design, where the CPU cores is one cluster and the GPU is another all linked with Infinity Fabric and a central IO-hub. Then I could see they use the same CPU chiplet, and different GPU's One GPU has more CU's than the other. If you have the same IO speed and CPU speed, you just have to tailor the assets and manage the memory. 8gb might be longer term an issue, considering that Raytracing introduces memory overhead.

    Also, Smart delivery means more than just the right game for the right generation. I think it also means right set of game assets for the right next gen console.

  5. olavgm

    This, to me, makes no sense from a marketing standpoint. Why would you buy Lockhart if One X is 4K and will cost the same-ish. Yes, new games and blahblah, but probably most of first games (all first party confirmed) will run on One X for a couple of years.

    4K TVs are getting so cheap that everybody can get one soon. Going 1080p makes no sense.

  6. ron f

    You should invite Jez Corden to your pod/videocast (and vice-versa) so we could watch you two trading leaks on the next Xbox.

  7. reason42

    I'm a PlayStation gamer. I have a passing interest in Xbox, but I have to admit - the naming of these devices are so confusing to the point that I can't make out what is what. This naming convention surely damages potential entry into the Xbox brand.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Interesting. I think the names makes sense. Today we have Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Tomorrow we will have Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. This is a fairly obvious progression, no?

Leave a Reply