A question that prospective console purchasers will ask many times over the next few years is which is the better console, the Sony PlayStation 4 or the Microsoft Xbox One? In this article we take a look at the technical details of each console and compare them against each other.
With eight core processors, a dedicated graphics chips and a huge 8GB of memory, the current generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony offer the hardware to put the previous generation’s PS3 and Xbox 360 to shame. The fairly reasonable retail prices of these consoles are also likely to make building a comparable gaming PC a very expensive excercise.
At the heart of any gaming console is its processor. It is responsible for the raw power of the unit, whilst also linking all of the other components such RAM, hard disk drive, graphics chip and optical drive together.
The PS4 and Xbox One use very similar CPUs, both using the Jaguar architecture made by AMD and consisting of two quad-core modules giving a total of 8-core units.
The Xbox One runs at 1.75GHz, although it was original specified as 1.6GHz but increased before launch by Microsoft engineers. The PlayStation’s processor speed has not been officially released by Sony, although it is said by industry experts to be running at 1.6GHz. Although this is slower than the Xbox, it is a relatively small difference that it is unlikely to provide the Xbox with any noticeable real-world advantage. There is also an indication that the Sony product has a boost feature where the CPU speed can be momentarily increased when CPU intensive demand occurs, although this has not been confirmed by the manufacturer.
A benefit of both consoles using very similar architecture is that producing games for each system doesn’t have to be approached from two difference technical perspectives. A title written for the PS4 is free to be ported across to the Xbox One without any major re-engineering. This principle also applies to PC versions of games because the CPU used is a PC derived x86 architecture whilst the graphics processing is also PC based.
Both consoles use an Accelerated Processing Unit (or APU) setup. This system has both the CPU and GPU (graphics processing unit) contained on one chip. These new-generation consoles use AMD’s third generation lower power APU architecture.
Both consoles use an AMD GPU based on the Radeon HD 7000 series of personnel computer graphics cards. Despite this there are differences between the two. On paper, the PS4 graphics processor is 40 percent more powerful with 1,152 shader processors allowing a throughput of 1.84 teraflops compared to the 768 shader processors of the Xbox One giving it a throughput of 1.31 teraflops. In an attempt to counteract this deficit Microsoft decided to increase their GPU speed pre-launch from the standard 800MHz used by the HD 7000 chip to 853MHz. It is unlikely that this small increase in clock speed would offer a noticeable improvement with the extra processing power of the PS4 allowing it to perform more tasks simultaneously, in theory allowing more impressive visual effects.
The Sony console also edges the Xbox on Random Access Memory (RAM) specification, with the PlayStation4 using GDDR5 RAM, whilst the One has more conventional DDR3 memory. Both units have 8GB of RAM.
The GDDR5 RAM is designed for use in intensive applications such as graphics cards because it has a much higher bandwidth of up to 100GB/sec more than the DDR3. To counter this deficit, the Xbox One also has a 32MB eSRAM frame buffer to help bridge the gap between the two RAM types.
With a more powerful GPU and faster memory it would appear that the PS4 marginally outdoes the Xbox One for pure graphics power. Despite these advantages, the Microsoft product comes back with a slightly faster processor (by around 10 percent) and the addition of an eSRAM buffer to free the load on the console’s main memory.
Taking all of these factors into account, it is difficult to proclaim one console clearly better than the other. The question as to which is the best console would, in reality, depend on the consumer’s personal preference on matters such as the feel of the controller, software features and exclusive games. This reader would be of the opinion that the PS4 offers a better selection of games, especially after it announced numerous great looking exclusive titles at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo. Truth be told though, it really boils down to one’s own personal taste in that regard, so it is impossible to declare one console an outright winner.