Table of contents:
- Teraflops: first shock point
- Processor and graphics: similar, but not the same
- PS5 destroys its SSD
- Same RAM, different organization
- Price and size, two keys we ignore
Next-gen console hardware has been revealed, and we can now compare PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, to determine based on to its technical sheet which one is more powerful, although we already anticipate that it is a subject with a certain complexity.
On the one hand, we have the PlayStation 5 specifications, which seem a bit lower, and on the other is the Xbox Series X technical sheet, whose raw power is superior in graphics and processor, but staying way behind in the transfer speed of the SSD.
Sony and Microsoft have access to the same vendors, and their key components are very similar: a processorAMD Zen 2 semi-customized, and graphics based on the AMD RDNA 2 architecture, which each manufacturer has adapted to their preferences.
Therefore, before starting the comparison, you have to think that the greater power of PS5 or Xbox Series X is not a matter of Microsoft or Sony being one above the other on a technical level.
Rather this is a conscious design decision, where each brand has sought to balance performance, component price and heat generation(which impacts the design), in search of the formula that convinces consumers.
Teraflops: first shock point
Measuring the power of a computer equipment is complex, since it depends on the task to be carried out, and comparing between different platforms implies an even greater margin of error. A commonly used unit is "flops", acronym for "floating point operations per second ".
Summarizing a lot, floating point operations with a type of mathematical operation widely used in multimedia applications, such as video games.
On consoles, teraflops are often used to measure the capacity of the graphics card (leaving aside the processor), and the data for the next generation are as follows:
- PlayStation 5: 10, 28 teraflops.
- Xbox Series X: 12 teraflops.
The Xbox Series X graphics card or GPU is going to be 16% more powerful according to these figures. Additionally, Microsoft claims that the graphics speed and processor are fixed on their console, so there will be no loss of power at all.
On the other hand, on PS5 the graphics card and processor will reduce their frequency if the heat generated exceeds a limit. Sony claims that the performance loss will not be very large, but pending more details, it seems that its 10.28 teraflops will be a maximum that will not always be reached.
Processor and graphics: similar, but not the same
The "heart" of next-generation consoles is a SoC (System-on-a-Chip) made by AMD, that is, a chip where the main processor, the graphics card and other circuits that manage the memories and peripherals go.
Sony and Microsoft have worked with AMD to tailor the design to their needs and preferences, but they have essentially had access to the same technology, yet have gone somewhat different paths.
Both processors are based on AMD Zen2 architecture, built on a 7nm process, and have the following features:
- PlayStation 5: 8 cores/16 threads up to 3.5 GHz (variable frequency).
- Xbox Series X: 3.8 GHz 8 cores/8 threads or 3.6 GHz 8 cores/16 threads (fixed frequencies).
There is little doubt that the Xbox Series X CPU is more powerful, regardless of the approach of the comparison. Using the same architecture, the speed is higher, and it is something that we do not know if it will be able to compensate with the higher speed of reading data from the SSD in PlayStation 5.
We must remember, again, that PlayStation 5 will throttle the processor if it generates too much heat, unlike its rival. We lack data on how much performance drops for an exact comparison, but it is a clear disadvantage.
Regarding the GPU (graphics processing unit), we have already seen that the comparison of 10, 28 against 12 teraflops hurts Sony. It is interesting to see that, both using AMD RDNA 2 architecture, they differ considerably in the number of computing units (CUs) and their speed.
This is the configuration of the graphics card of the consoles:
- PlayStation 5: 36 CUs at 2.23 GHz (variable frequency).
- Xbox Series X: 52 CUs at 1.825 GHz (fixed frequency).
PS5 destroys its SSD
We've known for some time that SSD drives will be the big news of the next generation, making loads faster, allowing you to resume games instantly and opening up new possibilities in open world titles.
Well, Microsoft has opted for a fast SSD drive, and Sony has gone much further, since its transfer rate is more than double.
- PlayStation 5: 825 GB NVMe SSD @ 5.5 GB/s (up to 8-9 GB/s with compression)
- Xbox Series X: 1TB 2.4GB/s NVMe SSD (up to 4.8GB/s with compression).
The storage of PS5 will be smaller in size, but in return it will be easier to expand, since any M.2 type SSD stickfrom third parties will be valid, as long as it reaches the speed of the original disc. When the time comes, the manufacturer will analyze the M.2 available on the market to indicate which ones work.
Microsoft will be selling a proprietary 1TB capacity expansion card that it has created in collaboration with Seagate. In principle, it will not allow third-party cards.
PlayStation 5's high transfer rate could be its secret to making up for its lack of power in other areas. According to Mark Cerny, the console's chief architect, the transfer from disk to RAM is so fast that it could change the way games are designed, and make a game of it much larger than the rest of the hardware.
Modern games tend to load levels in chunks: as the player progresses, new parts of the stage are loaded, sometimes leading to waiting (a door that takes time to open, a long corridor, an elevator unnecessary…)
On PS5 options would appear like loading the textures of the levels according to the player moving the camera in one direction or another, which would allow make more use of RAM.
Of course we will have to see to what extent this will actually be implemented in games, especially those cross-platform ones, which are created with various consoles and PC in mind.
Same RAM, different organization
Both consoles have 16 GB of GDDR6 type RAM memory, which share both the processor and the graphics card, which makes work easier from the developers. GDDR6 is very fast memory, which is typically used by graphics cards.
- PlayStation 5: 16 GB GDDR6 @ 448 GB/s.
- Xbox Series X: 16 GB GDDR6 (10 GB at 560 GB/s + 6 GB at 336 GB/s).
Regarding the RAM memory, it is difficult to compare power, since Xbox Series X divides it into two blocks with different speeds could penalize performance, and it's a bit of an odd decision.
In addition, we know that Xbox Series X will have 13.5 GB of RAM dedicated to games (the remaining 2.5 GB is reserved for the operating system), but on PlayStation 5 that data has not been confirmed, further complicating direct comparison.
Price and size, two keys we ignore
In principle, everything indicates that Microsoft would take the lead in power of this generation, except that the SSD chosen by Sony holds surprises. But maybe PlayStation 5 will fall behind on purpose.
If the manufacturing cost of PS5 is lower, it would allow a lower launch price (or get more profit from each unit). Let's not forget the fact that PS4 was 100 euros cheaper was one of its great assets to win the current generation.
On the other hand, the dimensions of Xbox Series X are very large, which has forced it to use a vertical format that brings it closer to a PC than to a traditional console, and the main reason is that Its high power requires a reinforced cooling system to dissipate heat.
Unfortunately, we don't know the design of PlayStation 5, but a possible explanation for its lower power is that Sony prefers to limit it, generating thus less heat and achieving a more compact console.
In any case, we need to see the PS5 and Xbox Series X games for the comparison to make full sense, because the specifications They are important, but it remains to be seen how they are used in practice by the first generation of titles designed for the new consoles.
What do you think of this comparison? Do you think PlayStation 5 will potentially lag behind Xbox Series X?