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Report: Microsoft working on smaller, cheaper Xbox One processor

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There's a fascinating report over on Eurogamer today about Microsoft's potential plans for a smaller, cooler and cheaper Xbox One processor and how that could result in a thinner Xbox One "Lite" console.

The story is extrapolated from a LinkedIn update from Daniel McConnell, AMD's senior manager of System on Chip physical design, who talks about how he "successfully planned and executed the first APU for Microsoft's Xbox One Game Console in 28 nm technology and a cost-reduced derivative in 20 nm technology."

Although a LinkedIn update is pretty thin sourcing material, and most of the article is speculative, it's written by Richard Leadbetter, one of the most trustworthy and well-connected writers on technology and hardware.

Leadbetter points out that Xbox One's processor is fabricated at 28 nm, meaning each transistor measures 28 thousand-millionths of a meter. A 20 nm version would lower costs and power consumption, which would have a knock-on effect on cooling systems and therefore on casing design.

"This opens the door to a much smaller cooling assembly and a thinner chassis, which in turn leads to cost benefits throughout the whole manufacturing and distribution process," writes Leadbetter. "Smaller consoles mean less packaging, meaning cost savings in physically shipping the units out from China to retail markets worldwide."

Microsoft is also hiring for engineers to work on Xbox's overall design, according to Mosen on the Beyond3D forum, who also picked up on the LinkedIn update. "We are looking for a Console Memory Development Engineer on the Xbox game console development team," states the ad. "The position involves the development, test and qualification of DRAM memory products functioning within Microsoft products."

Leadbetter points out that 20 nm design is still prohibitively expensive, and that high demand from smart phone manufacturers is likely to keep prices high for the foreseeable future. But it's a glimpse into the likely future of an Xbox One Lite and, of course, a PlayStation 4 Lite as well.