So with the release of the Ps4 and hot on its heels the release of the Xbox One, I decided I would do a write-up with a more technical breakdown of the specifications of the two consoles, obviously power and therefore graphics aren’t everything, but when we are discussing what are intended to be ‘next gen’ consoles should 1080p resolution be expected? Baring in mind the two consoles are probably likely to last till at least 2016 where 4k should have taken firm establishment.
Microsoft has been hotly disputing that its console was less powerful than the PS4, and more recently pointing out that its console can run 60fps constant versus a lower frame rate of the PS4 (they of course fail to comment on the fact that the resolution is dropped to do this). To summarise before I go into the nitty gritty details, the PS4 is significantly faster, why is this and why did Microsoft choose to go with a slower system?
Both the PS4 and Xbox One use a custom Jaguar based AMD APU, i.e. A cpu and video processing unit all in one chip, this is both efficient, and thanks to recent advances by AMD, actually remarkably powerful when compared to previous ‘onboard’ video. The Jaguar architecture is a currently unreleased mobile aimed CPU which is expected to significantly outperform its previous Bobcat architecture, in the Xbox One and PS4’s cases, the CPU actually had 8 cores which will likely not be reproduced in the laptop parts to be released. However the CPU is almost identical between the two consoles and as such pretty boring as a discussion point, as it is likely the GPU and RAM will be the winning factor in the hardware race.
The GPU in the PS4 is reported to be up to 50% more powerful in certain areas then the Xbox One, for example the compute units, 18 vs 12 for the Xbox One. The Xbox One also reportedly reserves 10% of its GPU power for the Kinect system. These statistics seem to match the early report from developers who stated that the Xbox One had to be ran at 1600×900 vs 1080p on the PS4 for their game to have a 20+ FPS, and the recent announcement that BF4 and CoD Ghosts would both run in lower resolutions on the Xbox One. However the GPU performance alone is not the reason for the resolution differences, more important is the choice of RAM (memory) used by the consoles.
The PS4 is now confirmed to have 8gb of GDDR5 vs 8gb of DDR3 used by the Xbox one, but does the memory make that much of a difference? The PS4 is calculated to have a bandwidth of 176GB/s while the DDR3 only manages 68GB/s, this will make a huge difference to memory intense activities such as resolution and AA, making for a much more detailed and sharp picture, this will become much more apparent once the consoles are being used on 4K televisions in future years.
Realistically it won’t make a huge difference at the current time as developers will unlikely be able to utilize the full performance for a few years, as past gens have shown that later in life games always look better than launch games, but essentially Sony is future proofing a console that is fundamentally a low to mid powered mobile APU. It is worth noting that the Xbox does have some ESRAM which has been focused on by some critics as the reason for the 720p ‘cap’ that some Xbox One games are struggling to surpass.
A recent teardown by Ifixit shows both consoles appear to have significantly improved cooling solutions over the last gen, although this shouldn’t be too big an issue with the lower nanometer lithiography used by AMD and only needing to cool one ‘chip’.
Sadly for Microsoft, I believe its inability to make a console either smaller, lighter or even cheaper than the PS4 despite being up to 50% less powerful, really hurts its chances to win this generation, although it is heavily pushing the media focus of the console, I believe this will overall be a minor feature with most now expecting Netflix support and anything more is just a gimmick. The PS4 stands to gain a lot of group for Sony after the early failure of the PS3, and as a PS3 owner, I hope the PS4 can provide some great gaming experiences in the years to come.