Xenon (processor)

Microsoft XCPU, codenamed Xenon, is a CPU used in the Xbox 360 game console, to be used with ATI's Xenos graphics chip.

Microsoft XCPU (codenamed Xenon)
Picture of the microprocessor (XCPU-ES shown).
General Info
Designed byIBM
Common manufacturer(s)
L1 cache32/32 KB
L2 cache1 MB
Architecture and classification
Instruction setPowerPC
Physical specifications
  • 3 cores

The processor was developed by Microsoft and IBM under the IBM chip program codenamed "Waternoose", which was named after Henry J. Waternoose III in Monsters, Inc..[1] The development program was originally announced on 2003-11-03.[2]

The processor is based on IBM PowerPC instruction set architecture. It consists of three independent processor cores on a single die. These cores are slightly modified versions of the PPE in the Cell processor used on the PlayStation 3.[3][4] Each core has two symmetric hardware threads (SMT), for a total of six hardware threads available to games. Each individual core also includes 32 KiB of L1 instruction cache and 32 KiB of L1 data cache.

The XCPU processors are manufactured at IBM's East Fishkill, New York fabrication plant and Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing (now part of GlobalFoundries) in Singapore.[5] Chartered reduced the fabrication process in 2007 to 65 nm from 90 nm, thus reducing manufacturing costs for Microsoft.



The Xbox 360 S introduced the XCGPU, which integrated the Xenon CPU and the Xenos GPU onto the same die, and the eDRAM into the same package. The XCGPU follows the trend started with the integrated EE+GS in PlayStation 2 Slimline, combining CPU, GPU, memory controllers and IO in a single cost-reduced chip. It also contains a "front side bus replacement block" that connects the CPU and GPU internally in exactly the same manner as the front side bus would have done when the CPU and GPU were separate chips, so that the XCGPU doesn't change the hardware characteristics of the Xbox 360.

XCGPU contains 372 million transistors and is manufactured by GlobalFoundries on a 45 nm process. Compared to the original chipset in the Xbox 360 the combined power requirements are reduced by 60% and the physical chip area by 50%.[10][11]

Illustrations of the different generations of processors in Xbox 360 and Xbox 360 S.


  1. "Learning from failure - The inside story on how IBM out-foxed Intel with the Xbox 360", Dean Takahashi, Electronic Business, May 1, 2006
  2. "IBM News room - 2003-11-03 Microsoft and IBM Announce Technology Agreement - United States". ibm.com.
  3. "Processing The Truth: An Interview With David Shippy", Leigh Alexander, Gamasutra, January 16, 2009
  4. "Playing the Fool", Jonathan V. Last, Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2008
  5. "IBM News room - 2005-10-25 IBM Delivers Power-based Chip for Microsoft Xbox 360 Worldwide Launch - United States". ibm.com.
  6. Jeffrey Brown (December 6, 2005). "Application-customized CPU design: The Microsoft Xbox 360 CPU story". Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
  7. César A. Berardini (August 21, 2006). "Chartered to Manufacture 65-nm Xbox 360 CPUs". Archived from the original on January 23, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2008.
  8. Patel, Nilay (June 14, 2010). "New Xbox 360 looks angular and Ominous". Engadget.com. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  9. "Xbox360 security system".
  10. Jon Stokes, Ars Technica (August 24, 2010). "Microsoft beats Intel, AMD to market with CPU/GPU combo chip". Retrieved August 24, 2010.
  11. PC Perspective (June 21, 2010). "The New Xbox 360 S "Slim" Teardown: Opened and Tested". Archived from the original on June 25, 2010. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
  • Xenon hardware overview by Pete Isensee, Development Lead, Xbox Advanced Technology Group, written some time before June 23, 2007
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