Xbox One vs. PS4 Graphics Showdown: The Rematch
Xbox One vs. PS4 Graphics Showdown: The Rematch
August 14, 2013 by YodasBoy
Xbox One vs. PS4 Graphics Showdown: The Rematch - Blog by YodasBoy - IGN
I wrote a post a while back comparing the graphical capabilities of the next gen systems, and (spoilers!) argued that while the PS4 had an edge on paper, it wouldn't necessarily make a significant difference in actual in-game visuals.
Now, new info has come to light, and I am no longer convinced the PS4 is the more powerful of the two consoles. On the contrary, the playing field is much more level than previously thought, and the Xbox One may even have a slight edge over Sony's machine.
Item 1: Number of CPU cores dedicated to gaming
While we've known for some time that both consoles sport the same 8-core AMD CPU, a terrible reveal was made on the Xbox front: the One only allocates 6 of these cores for gaming, with 2 cores reserved at all times for the OS. This essentially reduces the CPU power of the One to 75% of that used in the PS4, where games are concerned, right? Sure, if the PS4 utilized all 8 cores for games.
A CPU profiler showing k!llzone: Shadowfall running... wait, 6 cores?
However, it turns out that the PS4 also only allocates 6 of its 8 cores for gaming, so... nevermind then. No advantage: PS4, no advantage: Xbox One, their CPU's are identical.
Item 2: Memory allocated to the OS
The collective internets had been under the impression for some time that the One's oppressive OS configuration greedily gobbled up 3 out of the 8 GB or RAM at all times, leaving 5 GB available for running games. Good Guy Sony, meanwhile, only allocate 1 GB to the OS, leaving a whopping 7 GB for developers to utilize in their games. An extra 2 GB, gosh, that could result in faster load times, larger areas, higher res textures, more polygons on the screen, and so on. A definite advantage for the PS4.
Except for one thing. The OS in the PS4 is easily just as burdensome as (and perhaps moreso than) the one(s) sported in the Xbox. Apparently only 4.5 GB is accessible to game developers at all times, in addition to an odd configuration that allows access to an extra GB that is sort of available but not really. Based on Sony's response to this leak, that extra GB is split evenly between hard drive paging (not sure that legitimately counts, since it's not actually RAM) and another half GB that is supposedly accessible to developers (but is somehow separate, and the PS4 dev kits still run at a default 4.5 GB...). Given this, PS4 game developers have 5 GB of actual RAM to work with, tops, and most likely have closer to 4.5 GB in practice. If developers can't count on that extra GB, then they can't reliably use it, and even if they could, 5.5 GB is still quite a drop from 7 GB.
This mayhem is running on 4.5 GB, ostensibly the maximum possible on the PS4. Meanwhile, the Xbox will sport an additional half gig of RAM above that.
Instead, developers have a guaranteed 4.5 GB to play with on the PS4, and 5 GB on the One. Advantage: Xbox.
Item 3: The speed of the One's eSRAM
Commentators not caught up in the anti-Xbox mob mentality have already noted that the DDR3 RAM in the Xbox One is actually faster than the GDDR5 RAM in the PS4 under certain circumstances. There is, however another asterisk to add to the RAM speed debate.
The super-fast embedded memory of the One's GPU (of which the PS4 has no equivalent) complements the (slower) main memory in the system - this we knew all along. Microsoft later revised their numbers for this eSRAM, however, increasing the theoretical speed by 88%.
Comparing the two systems' memory as 176 GB/s (PS4) to 68 GB/s (Xbox) has never been an honest apples-to-apples comparison, since it ignores the advantages of DDR3 and the eSRAM in the One. Since that hasn't stopped anyone from making those comparisons, however, let's play that game and look at the theoretical speed of the One's memory:
192 GB/s (eSRAM) + 68 GB/s (DDR3) = 260 GB/s overall.
If we are to go off of theoretical numbers (which has been fair game for the PS4 fanboys thus far), the One destroys the PS4 with 260 GB/s vs. 176 GB/s overall RAM speed.
Item 4: Xbox's GPU boost
Another recent tidbit from Microsoft's camp is that the One's GPU has been given a clockspeed increase, albeit a minor one. The next Xbox's AMD chip now runs at 853MHz, as opposed to its original specification of 800MHz.
This isn't a big bump up, but it's a bump nonetheless. This results in roughly a 7% speed boost over the PS4's GPU and may help compensate for the One's chip sporting less GCN's.
All in all, we now know that the CPU's are virtually identical, the One's GPU is faster, and the RAM comparisons are much more even than previously thought. Sony's OS occupies just as many CPU cores as its Xbox counterpart, and, as it turns out, is an even greater burden on the system memory. A few months back, it looked like the PS4 had both faster and more RAM than the Xbox, but now it appears to have neither.
With these revelations, many of the PS4's supposed advantages over its competitor are essentially moot. Perhaps now the debate will shift from memory and OS burdens to some other spec comparisons, such as the number of GCN's in the graphics chips. At this point, though, the remaining differences between the two systems are trivial. If a few extra GCN's in the PS4 are all the advantage it has, then it's time for people to stop acting like the PS4 is a vastly more powerful system.
Truth is, these two systems are virtually identical, and they are a more even match than we've ever seen in past console wars. Don't count on either system having a significant edge on the hardware level. Most likely, game developers themselves will be a much bigger variable in their games' graphics than the machines they're running on.