It's odd to see it—a tiny little chip—but this may be one of the secret weapons the 360 has against the PS3. The PS3 has no internal hardware scaler, which means games that are 720p native can only be shown in 720p or 480p; there is no scaling up to 1080p or 1080i. This causes people with older HDTVs to have issues with the available resolutions, and keeps them from playing the games in anything but 480p. It's a vexing problem for a system that's supposed to be HD, and this issue is one of the most challenging that Sony faces. I ask the Microsoft guys how important it was for them to include a scaler in the 360.
"It was a critical design decision; we wanted the 360 to be high-definition, not just 1080p or some other standard. That's why we included component cables in the box; there is no HDTV that doesn't have a component in," said Greenberg.
They assume that Sony didn't include a hardware scaler to keep costs down, but get a little cagey when I ask how much it costs to put Ana into the 360. "This isn't a $1,000 scaler," Henson says, "but it's a good one."
It was apparently designed at the same time as the GPU, and the effortless scaling with different televisions was something that was important from the early design stages of the system. I ask if they think this is something that Sony can fix in software.
"It'll be hard," Greenberg answers, "and compatibility testing would be tough with existing software. I think as they update the hardware they'll add a hardware scaler."
I've had the same thought before, but it certainly doesn't make me happy as a first-generation consumer. It will be very interesting to see how Sony ends up fixing this, or if they think it's a problem at all. For the time being, most games will be 720p native, so the majority of HDTV owners will be able to play them. This is an issue that you may or may not care about. Or maybe you have a 1080p set already and this doesn't bother you. It's hard to know just how many people this affects, but you should be aware of which resolutions your television can handle when choosing which system to buy.