PlayStation V XBOX – Part 1

So, for a lengthy period of time, well not that long ago, since the release of the XBOX back in 2001 the Sony and Microsoft have been going head to head.  The first salvo has been fired, Sony announced the PS4 back in February 2013, and gave a great look at what will be possible early on with games like Killzone and the Unreal Engine 4 running.  There were teases of other games, Destiny from Bungie will be running on PS4, Blizzard has come out and announced that it will also be developing for the product.  Then just a couple of days ago, Microsoft has announced that the XBOX One will be going head to head.  The first time the consoles will be released at about the same time (if not the same time within weeks of each other).

History

The console wars is a funny one, if you visit one of my preferred gaming sites there is a forum dedicated to “System Wars”.  Where the argument over the better console has been waging for some time.  Most of the time it comes down to better graphics, gaming having better foliage (nee Alan Wake) which game was not true HD resolution.  This has Anti-Aliasing, this doesn’t this supports FXAA software and blah, blah, blah.  Absolute drivel and most of it just pure fanboyism from the most ardent fanboys on the planet. 

Understand something interesting, PSone, won its generation of the console wars, the PlayStation 2 won it’s generation of the console wars, Wii won this generation in the console wars (but an interesting turn that isn’t mentioned in the breakdown is the Wii is never really included, since it might have still been from last generation, the SD generation and the WiiU is a true to the current generation the HD generation.  In which case the PS3 won this current HD generation, by the slimmest of margins though.  As it overtook the 360 in sales come January 2013.

So, giving this history I tried, to explain the differences in the hardware to these fans, but like fans in any area, they often failed to see the real argument, or see facts.  That said, I felt this time around I will trying and put all of this down, go through the details in the hardware that I have at the moment and see if I can explain if there is a better console as as the details become more and more solidified as the month tick down to the release there should a clear winner.

There was a site, TechnoBuffalo that did a video series of  very impartial take on these console wars, looking at each console they had, The Controller, the hardware and so on, it went through at 12 rounds and in the end the PS3 came out on top.  They also did the motion controllers as well, took them through the paces, I recommend it a watch, if you are interested.

PS3 – XBOX 360

thCALBUV43It is clear now, that the hardware within the PS3 was impressive, the fact that games like Uncarted and Killzone showed just what the PS3 was capable.  The 360 was no slouch and games like Gears of Wars gave the console some good looking games.  The 360 took early points as the hardware in the PS3 was a complex mix of PPU and SPUs and to get the most out of them you really need to know what you were doing.  The 360, offered a closer to PC chip, with a Tri-core PowerPC base and early on games seemed to be made for 360 then ported to the PS3 and running on a single PPU (which was a PowerPC base chip).  We only saw the power from studios that have had the PS3 in their stable for sometime and these were often the first party studios of Sony.

But as the years went on the gaming engines developed got more savvy of the architecture of the PS3 and we started to see those triple-A titles released on both platforms come ahead on the PS3.  Also looking at the differences between Killzone 2 and 3, Uncharted 1, 2 and 3 and how much better each iteration got, the God of War 3 game, these just blew peoples mind at what was possible on the PS3 and that infamous Cell Processor.

The Next Generation

I preferred this to any of the original Star Trek series, and though I am not a massive Star Trek fan (though who know I play Star Wars games over Star Trek games certainly know) I do like the next generation.  That said, I am here to talk about the XBOX One and the PS4.  We have architectures that are as close to each other that they have been and to me this is a smart move.  The cost of making games nowadays is so prohibitive that it makes more sense to develop on a common platform and then port to any others, these ports are obviously going to suffer, but if they are in many ways glorified PCs, then the port will fair better.  Not to mention optimisation can be done much better on a closed specs system than it can on any PC game where the end platform it is running on, is an unknown, RAM speed, CPU Speed, Cores available, the plethora of graphics cards and memory speeds on those and the list is endless, which is why something like DirectX was such a great step forwards for development of games, but I will get to that.

The Processors

Apu2These are about the same.  They are AMD 8 Core processors (APU2 most likely though not explicitly stated.).  Their clock speed seems to be a coveted secret at the moment, the reason is for both it is an area of contention.  AMD release multi-core APUs that run at 4.2GHz, they also release multi-core APUs at 2.4GHz.  Sony has stated in their press event that the CPU is a “supercharge PC Architecture” x86 processor.  Microsoft merely said it was an 8 core CPU (but physically said on stage a “native 64 bit architecture”).

Microsoft said the 64 word to set it apart distinctly from Sony.  Is the CPU in the PS4 not a 64bit chip, no, it isn’t but because they said, x86.  The x86 Intel architecture evokes in the crowds that know, a 32bit world.  The fact that in software there is x86 and x64 monikers to denote the difference between the 32bit and the 64bit chips.  But to understand this, my current PC is an x86 architecture chip but support x64.  I run, 64bit Windows and Office on the machine.  I can develop applications for the 64bit architectures and compile them.  To access the amount of RAM I have 32GB, I need a 64 bit address space (well 48bit if memory serves me), it is still larger than the the 32bit max, or even 36bits that PAE can address. 

AMD-Trinity-APU_thumbSo, marketing spin they are for one of a better work similar, though Sony did use the “Supercharged” word, which is something that I personally wouldn’t use on any processor that is not running in excess of 3.5GHz.  Microsoft then talked about transistor count, 5 billion transistors.  Mmm, why would they say that, now sure many people would know what a transistor would serve within a CPU, but 5 billion that is a lot, even for today’s processors.  My current i7 has about 1.4 billion, Intel know the exact numbers.  But this is just a CPU, the GPU in my machine, Nvidia 570GTX has about 3 billion.  So combined this is 4.4 billion transistors.  So the numbers that are being touted by Microsoft in their 5 billion transistor count isn’t as advanced as they would have you believe, it isn’t a cheap knock off, but certainly not mind blowingly advanced.

The image I have included is a simple representation of how an APU is connected internally and the logical components they consist of.  This doesn’t reflect either of the processors that will be used in the PS4 or the XBOX One.

Memory

8GB, plain and simple.  Sony is using GDDR5 and Microsoft DDR3.  The difference between them is bandwidth, plain and simple.  The max at the moment for DDR3 is about 3.0GT/s (3 billion transfers per second).  GDDR5 is 6 billion transfers per second, twice as fast as that in the XBOX One.  So the PS4 seems to have a faster transfer rate, is this better, damn skippy3 it is.  If in one second I can transfer twice as much data, it means I can get it from CPU to the GPU for output twice as fast (this is merely in moving the data across the bus, nothing more).

Then about about the other elements, something more tangible.  DDR3 (XBOX One) transfers at a max (at the moment) of 24 Gigabytes per second. That is the entire length of a single layered Blu-Ray disc in 1 second.  The GDDR5 in PS4 is 48 Gigabytes per second, yes twice the amount of data.

NOTE:  These rates are indicative if, the memory runs in Dual Channel or Quad Channel configurations (DDR3), then this can affect the transfer rate.  Not in the magnitudes of double or quadruple but it can increases them.  So since a DDR3 chip can come in up to 8GB flavours, one could never know what configuration it will be in.

GDDR is a little different since it based on the number of lanes per chip, these lanes are based on the transfer pins on the physical chip.  These comparisons numbers I have listed are based on a 64 lanes (which is two 32 lane chips).  But it is not uncommon for any number of chips to be present, which could be 8 or 12 (this value is dependant on the manufacturer of the device and the RAM) chips in their configuration, the number of chips increases the total bus width.

The more I dig into this the more complex it can get.  Suffice to say, the PS4 has better memory and depending on how they configure it, they could have this at screaming rates.  The DDR3 is a 64bit bus width and no matter the number of modules of memory you use doesn’t change this.

This information is courtesy of List of device bit rates.  Once again these are arbitrary numbers and since we do not know a whole lot about the Northbridge1 and that speed or width we can’t be too sure. 

Networking

Both to have Wi-Fi (though the Sony conference didn’t mention it, but since the PS3 had it as standard it foes without saying that the PS4 will have one).  Though Gigabit has not been mentioned, it to me is one of those things that is a given.  PS3 had it, so should the XBOX One.  If it is Wi-Fi only then there will be one really annoyed person (as in me) as I have wired my house up with CAT6 and Gigabit routers and switches.

Disc Media

Blu-Ray seems to be the order of the day.  PS3 had it and this gave the game a clear advantage over the 360.  Games like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, would have been a massive headache swapping out 7 discs. (Wait, wait… 7.  If I know my maths like my calculator does, 7 x 9GB is 63GB, a game on a PS3 was max 25GB.  So, where did the additional space come from.  There would be a lot of duplicate data on each disc to accommodate the play.  Essentially the game would be broken into 7 chapters so to speak and each 9GB disc would need to have ALL game assets, textures, models and sounds, etc… on each disc so it could be played.)

So now they both have the Blu-Ray media gone are the days of disc swapping.  I am happy about this, though the only game I played that required me to swap disc recently was Lost Odyssey on XBOX 360 (it is a good game, check it out). 

GPU

Well, the PS4 has  what was called an “enhanced PC GPU” this can be anything.  If it is an APU from AMD then their best APU available today has a GPU – HD 7660D (The D is meant for Dual Graphics)  So we are talking not a bad GPU in the scheme of things not quite the same as a desktop GPU, it can’t be.  But it is still pretty decent. 

The XBOX One, well, it is unknown.  If they are using an APU anything is possible, but since they weren’t talking about it in their reveal the other day, my guess is it isn’t anything to boast about but it could be anything.

HDD

The XBOX One has a 500GB HDD that can’t be exchanged.  Once again, Microsoft likes to say, you want that nice shiney new 1TB drive for your XBOX One, sure drop us $250 and you can get it.  The PS4 has a hard drive, rumours are that it might be 160GB, nothing is concrete yet, but since the PS3 had an upgradable HDD and you could just buy a 2.5” drive and put it in yourself this might be a cost saving exercise more than anything.    There is a couple of points to note on this.  The XBOX One will require all games to be fully installed (claiming this is about the always on and always knowing of your games you have).  The PS4 will not need full installs, it will be similar to the PS3, it is done to help load times or common assets that need to be perhaps streamed, I am unsure but I believe it is optional for the developers.

This is going to make things interesting, couldn’t install too many games on a 500GB HDD if they are full installs and no simple upgrade path.  Not totally surprising from MS. 

Remainder

The rest of the stuff isn’t a real concern in my books, USB 3.0, HDMI ports, interesting there is no talk of 3D, Since Sony sell 3D TVs and 3D Blu-rays are common place now, it would be strange not to have it, but it could also be a developer item, if they want to include 3D it is up to them.  But neither Microsoft nor Sony spoke about it.

Independent Developers

xboxlivearcadeMicrosoft looked like it was going to be the champion of the independent developer, and in some manner it is with Windows.  The release of XNA and Game Studio Express ventured in a new way for game developers to look, you can create your small game using free tools and release on the XBOX 360.

Sony had their Minis and PSN games, but they require licencing to Sony and official company registration with them.  Early days, Microsoft had some wonderful games coming out on XBOX Live Arcade, but then in the later years Sony was pushing these games and had some great ones, Journey as an example.psn

Sony also announced that they would allow independent developers to self publish games, I am sure there is a process and registration to go through but this is a boon.  MS, has come out and stated they will not be allowing self publishing of titles.  In my mind this is a backwards step from Microsoft.  But in reality after watching the reveal it isn’t totally surprising since they seem to be more pushing the connection of you and your TV and devices more than ever and the games (which I am hoping will be more prevalent at E3 soon) took a back seat.

Finally

Well it is late, I have written more words than I thought I would, and I am still writing.  But I am trying to put out there information that states what is good and not so good about the specs of the new console.  This is all preliminary at the moment and there is still a lot of information missing on both sides of the fence.  I think in terms of viable power, the PS4 seems to be in front, even with the information based on GDDR5 and DDR3 alone.  But as more and more information is coming out I will add more parts to reveal more and more.

 

  1. The Northbridge is the controller that handles the transfer of data between the CPU, GPU and RAM simple.  Typically, though modern CPUs have this capability on the chip itself, therefore increase the bandwidth of the bus.
  2. APU is not Apu.  But I thought it was cute to put this in.  APU is Accelerated Processing Unit.  It is a combination of the CPU and GPU on the same die.
  3. This is an Australian term to mean “damn straight”.  Skippy was an old TV show, the Kangaroo (which was actually a Wallaby) about a Kangaroo that was much like Lassie , but he was a Kangaroo.  The Kangaroo was a goody two shoes hence the straight reference.

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Posted on May 24, 2013, in Article, Games and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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