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What is Xbox Series X Velocity Architecture?

Xbox Velocity Architecture
Xbox Velocity Architecture (Image credit: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

Xbox Series X enters the next generation with a suite of advancements, the focus of those centered on speed. Microsoft's upcoming home console is undoubtedly faster than predecessors, whether its bleeding-edge Zen 2 CPU, 12TF floating-point performance, or custom NVMe solid-state drive setup. That ties together with Xbox Velocity Architecture, marrying Xbox Series X hardware with Redmond's software know-how.

Xbox Velocity Architecture explained: The basics

Xbox Series X Teardown

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft frames the Xbox Velocity Architecture as a fundamental component of Xbox Series X, comprised of both hardware and software, poised to "unlock new capabilities never-before-seen in console development." Beyond the marketing, the moniker refers to a new architecture designed for Xbox Series X, streamlining storage and processing on the console.

Velocity Architecture improves how Xbox Series X loads game assets from storage, known as asset streaming, while reducing the space those assets occupy on the drive. The solution tackles two key challenges modern titles face, with installation sizes rapidly on the rise and more computationally demanding than ever. The upshot is a backbone to support complex next-generation games, while also reducing loading times.

Taking Xbox Series X beyond the SSD

Xbox Series X Board

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Xbox Velocity Architecture may sound complicated to the everyday gamer, but best understood when broken into just a few fundamental components. Microsoft describes the technology as the culmination of four crucial modules, featuring two custom hardware components inside Xbox Series X, with software to complement.

Microsoft's new custom SSD storage is central to Velocity Architecture on Xbox Series X, adopting an in-house NVMe solution, delivering unseen speeds in past generations. That provides 2.4 GB/s raw I/O throughput — or 4.8 GB/s compressed, enabled by a custom decompression block. Compared to the 120MB/s offered by Xbox One X, quick maths reveals up to 40 times increases could be a reality.

The hardware decompression block plays a vital role, allowing games to consume less space via compression on the SSD. That hardware is devoted to tackling run-time decompression, keeping games running smoothly without giving more work to the CPU. It uses Zlib, a general-purpose data-compression library, and a mysterious new system named "BCPack," geared to GPU textures.

We also have DirectStorage, building upon DirectX, and aimed at further reducing CPU workloads. The new Microsoft-built API seeks to optimize the efficiency of Xbox Series X asset streaming, with plans to expand to Windows devices moving forward. That couples with Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS), streamlining GPU usage and loading only portions of textures demanded by a setting. Both provide software solutions that enhance the efficiency of games on Xbox Series X, taking full advantage of CPU and GPU gains.

What does Xbox Velocity Architecture mean for you?

Red Dead Redemption 2

Source: Rockstar Games (Image credit: Source: Rockstar Games)

So, what does Xbox Velocity Architecture ultimately mean for you and your games? Microsoft has already discussed the expected impact on open-world games, with their large environments and variables primed for those processing gains.

"The CPU is the brain of our new console, and the GPU is the heart, but the Xbox Velocity Architecture is the soul," stated Andrew Goossen, Technical Fellow on Xbox Series X at Microsoft via Xbox Wire (opens in new tab). "The Xbox Velocity Architecture is about so much more than fast last times. It's one of the most innovative parts of our new console. It's about revolutionizing how games can create vastly bigger, more compelling worlds."

Microsoft provides examples of games in those categories, including Final Fantasy XV, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and Red Dead Redemption 2. Such titles were notorious for lengthy initial loading screens, sometimes taking minutes to get started. And for games that mask loading by slowing players, whether elevators or hallways, Xbox Series X may provide additional creative freedom to avoid those limitations.

Xbox Series X/S

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Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

11 Comments
  • In their article Digital Foundry quotes Andrew Goossen on SSD speed amd hardware decompression with: "Our second component is a high-speed hardware decompression block that can deliver over 6GB/s,". how does that fit with the 4.8 GB/s? Some other people on the web wondered about that statement, too. Can you explain, whether Goossen actually meant transfer rate or something else? https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2020-inside-xbox-serie...
  • Interesting... Odd though, as I am sure the official spec sheet states 4.8GB/s
  • Yeah, it's the decompression block that can handle upto 6GB/s. This is so it ensure there is never a bottleneck at the decompression block.
  • But the I/o is 4.8, compressed. Don't shoot me, I'm not knowledgeable enough to know much beyond the spec sheet. Were rumours, via Redgaming tech (YouTube), that they had a little more secret sauce I. Terms of textures and compression too. I still think that both consoles are powerful animals,.and have yet to decide which I thing is "most powerful", as I understand they are taking slightly different approaches. I've seen the more compelling arguments from the Sony fanboys, and I suspect it could be the one to get the most performant exclusives. And any advantage MS have will be limited by the fact that I doubt that as many gamers will switch platforms this time, as they are likely hooked into the ecosystem.
  • The I/O is 4.8GB/s. The decompression block is 6gb/s. It's to guarantee no bottleneck. The block can handle more than it needs to. At this point, there isn't any doubt where the advantage lies. Sure there are some internet fanboys on big Sony forums like VGChartz or some youtubers calling special sauce. But all they are doing is going to create disappointment. https://www.vgchartz.com/article/442856/former-sony-game-designer-differ...
  • Yay. Velocity Architecture is a big deal. And Series X is utilizing every aspect of its design as to ensure no bottlenecks at all. The whole design is done to maximize the power of the GPU and CPU. And the SSD will stream assets instantly on the fly. Something we have never seen before. It doesn't replace the Ram. It compliments it. The ram is still Vitaly important. And it's the fastest we have ever seen in a console. And faster than the top current PC GPUs. All on a 320 bit bus. Which again is another perfect design decision. As more created bottlenecks of its own. Which MS also confirmed. Literally every aspect of this console is balanced beyond belief. Expect really incredible changes to how games look and feel. Unlike anything we have ever seen. Even on PC to date.
  • The final paragraph could just as easily apply to the fact that the system has an SSD, it's not necessarily anything to do with XVA. A perfect example is Sea of Thieves, on my Xbox One X it takes well over a minute to load into the game, on my HP tablet, with its I5 and integrated GPU, but a NVME SSD loads the game in ten seconds from pressing the a button.
  • Yeah it's a little muddled. Basically the SSD will improve load times across the board. But also it will change game design in as much as drawing assets on the fly. Something not possible with HDD. And I believe only 1 PC title uses this method of game design. Star Citizen on PC. It basically means you don't have to store assets on ram for use. Freeing up the ram. A 4K texture roughly averages 8mb. With this Console design the SOC can draw those 8mb assets only as it needs them. Allowing for much bigger words filled with more things. More AI, etc etc. It's a pretty big deal.
  • I mean, drawing assets from HDD or SSD technically isn't new (you run out of ram the system uses drive space to accommodate) but what I'm assuming this system does is it intelligently decides what needs to go into RAM and what can get away with being loaded direct from the SSD. So your less essential assets and data don't take up precious RAM capacity and instead the system takes them direct. That seems like the most obvious way to make this work. But I'm purely guessing here.
  • I'm exactly with you. This is my understanding as well.
  • Appreciate the article Matt! I think a lot of the community interested in this stuff want to hear more about BCPack and how the 10GB of available immediately on the SSD works. Hopefully as Microsoft reveals more details, you guys will be able to expand on it.