The first stage of the next generation console race has finally started. Within just one week, we witnessed both a full-scale presentation of the Xbox Series X, and a modest conference with the disclosure of the specifications of the Playstation 5, after which the new Sony console was rushed to write down to the outsiders of Next-Gen gaming. But is the power and superiority of the Xbox Series X over the PS5 really that obvious, or does Mark Cerny's emphasis on innovative SSD and other architectural solutions make up for less impressive specs? And in the end, how will the new hardware affect the price of the console and when to expect the next generation of consoles? We will answer these and other questions in detail in today's article.
Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 Features Brief
In general, the specifications of the consoles are similar and many device elements use technologies from the same manufacturer. For example, both consoles are equipped with an RDNA 2 GPU with hardware ray tracing technology and an eight-core processor based on AMD's ZEN 2. In addition, the consoles boast a solid-state SSD drive and 16 gigabytes of GDDR6 RAM.
A quick glance at the specs of both consoles undermines the PS 5, which loses out to the competition in CPU clock speed, RAM bandwidth and hard drive capacity. But most importantly, the total GPU power of the PS5 is noticeably weaker than the solution from the Xbox SX: 10.28 teraflops versus 12 teraflops. A gap of 1.8 TF (and this, for a second, the power of one Playstation 4) looks like an unambiguous defeat for Sony's main competitor.
The "dry" power of the next-gen Xbox is indeed higher, but it's fair to say that the potential 16 percent difference is not as dramatic as the current generation, when the Xbox One was actually 50 percent less powerful than the PS4. ... In addition, the power gap can be reduced by improved versions of GPU computational units, which on PS5 are 36 versus 52 in Xbox Series X. With fewer computational units, each chip works with cache and command buffer 22% faster, and also has a 22% increase clock frequency.
As for the clock frequency of GPU blocks, we add that due to the incorrect translation of the Playstation 5 conference, some USA-speaking gamers got the impression that in reality the speed of each block is not 2.26Ghz, but much lower, which reduces the power of PS 5 to 9.2 TF. This is indicated, you see, by the use of a variable frequency that reduces the speed depending on the heating of the console. That's just, according to Mark Cerny and the Digital Foundry material, almost all the time the PS 5 graphics processor operates at a peak frequency of 2.26Ghz, and in case of severe overheating, the system will only need to reduce the clock frequency by only 2-3%, which is why even in critical cases, the total power of the PS5 must not drop below 10 teraflops.
The DNA mode is also designed to compensate for the shortage in teraflops, which provides a direct path for the PS 5 SSD to RAM or GPU, so that the bus and the clock frequency of the central processor are not loaded. In total, this technology should save the power of one or two processor cores.
Separately, we note the organization of the RAM pool in the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5. Both consoles have 16 GDDR6 memory on board, but operating at different speeds. On a Sony set-top box, 16GB of RAM has an equal speed of 448GB / s, when in a Microsoft device, 16GB of RAM is split into two pools: 10GB at 560GB / s and 6GB at 336GB / s. Time will show whose solution will be more productive in the end, but it is already known for sure that 2.5 GB of slow memory on the Xbox SX is reserved for background processes, such as CPU support, audio processing, etc.
Unusual technical solutions of the new generation console from Sony are able to reduce the lag in teraflops, but how much is still difficult to say. Obviously, Microsoft used the principle of brute force in the case of the Xbox Series X, inserting advanced hardware into the console at maximum speed and clock frequency. It's hard to compete against such a beast on equal terms, although the Playstation 5 still has the main ace in the Next-Gen sleeve - the fastest SSD on the market.
SSD - why so much noise and what is the real benefit for gaming
SSD, SSD, SSD. If you watched the recording of the PS5 presentation for GDC, then you definitely noticed how often Mark Cerny used the abbreviation solid-state drive, turning it into a new meme. The reason why the Playstation 5 chief architect is so focused on SSDs is that, according to him, the SSD is the main innovation of the new generation, and that it is precisely the addition of an SSD that numerous developers from various game studios have asked Cerni to add. Microsoft understands this, too, not forgetting to equip the Xbox Series X with a solid-state drive, but noticeably less fast: the data transfer rate when compressed is up to 4.8 GB / s, versus 8-9 GB / s on the SSD in the PS5. On the other hand, the size of the hard drive in the Xbox SX is larger: 1 TB versus 825 GB, but this will not affect the performance of the console.
Another advantage of the drive, designed by Mark Cerny, is the presence of a controller that connects to the main chip via a four-lane connection and is equipped with twelve hardware blocks that are used to level the problems of SSD zones. In simple terms, when working with PS5, developers can choose the priority for loading certain data.
So why do you need an SSD? The main advantage of the technology is the speed of downloading data, which is why all information about objects and textures of the surrounding world stored in 16 GB of RAM can be downloaded in 2 seconds on PS 5 and in 3 seconds on Xbox SX. Sounds good, but what's the real use? In reality, the use of SSDs, with download speeds a hundred times faster than the current generation of consoles, could fundamentally change the way developers approach game design.
From now on, it is no longer necessary to hide downloads behind hectic elevator rides, straight-line levels or dozens of loading screens (hello Bethesda Softworks). In addition to the banal lack of downloads, the SSD allows you to create much more detailed worlds, which ultimately will affect the quality of graphics in the next generation of games. Of course, photorealism can be achieved without an SSD, but in this case, game creators have to use much more productive hardware and spend an unacceptable lot of time and effort on optimization and looking for bottlenecks in current consoles and PCs in order to realize the conceived universes. Therefore, there is hardly any doubt that the addition of the SSD by Mark Cerny was most often asked by game developers.
“Okay,” some of the readers may say, “I have had an SSD on my PC for about 8 years now, and there’s no noticeable increase in performance and download speed, what am I doing wrong?”. That's right, but none of the modern games are designed with SSDs in mind due to the widespread use of HDDs. However, there is one game that today on a PC will allow you to experience all the delights of using an SSD - Star Citizen, where the presence of a solid-state drive on a PC will allow you to get a tangible increase in performance.
Still want to see additional and clear benefits from using SSD, you can:
See how SSD is used on the example of Xbox Series X:
See how SSD is used on the Playstation 5 example:
And now the main question: will the more efficient SSD in PS5 be able to compensate for the teraflops lag in new games compared to the Xbox Series X? Until we saw a large number of games developed for fundamentally new technologies, it is impossible to say in the affirmative. Unless, we note that multi-platform developers are unlikely to use the full potential of a solid-state drive from Sony and will limit themselves to creating games, versions of which for different consoles use approximately the same SSD speed. So, by making equal use of the potential of SSDs, a powerful GPU can make multiplatform games look better on the new Xbox than on PS5.
Sony exclusives are another matter. The teams at Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica have already established themselves as some of the best techies in the industry, so when building a game with all the capabilities of a custom SSD up to 9GB / s, we expect to see visually impressive games. Perhaps they will be the answer why, according to Cerny and some other representatives of the gaming industry, teraflops are no longer an indicator of the actual power of a gaming device.
What about ray tracing in Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X
Along with SSDs, the next generation of game consoles threatens to bring us yet another graphics revolution - the ubiquitous use of Ray Tracing, which Nvidia has been aggressively promoting since 2018. A promising technology can significantly save the efforts of developers and make the picture much more realistic by simulating light rays in accordance with the physical laws of the real world. In the right hands, ray tracing can dramatically transform the look of even the most unassuming games, as seen in Minecraft.
Both consoles are equipped with RDNA 2 Navi based GPUs that support ray tracing in hardware. And one could dwell on the fact that the implementation of the technology on competitive consoles is identical, but the conversation has already begun on the Internet that due to the larger number of computing units, the GPU Xbox Sweries X copes 44% better with ray tracing. As confirmation of this theory, they also cite reduced attention to Ray Tracing at the PS5 conference, where technology was given only a tiny place on one slide instead of a visual presentation of technology in the case of the Xbox Series X.
But will we know if this is so only when AMD decides to officially talk about the principle of implementation of ray tracing technology in RDNA 2 Navi. Perhaps the number of GPU compute units will not play a leading role in supporting Ray Tracing.
Playstation 5 & Xbox Series X Release Date & Price
The release date for the next generation consoles is seemingly obvious - both platform holders are planning to release consoles for the festive period of autumn 2020. A strategy like this has worked well for the fall release of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One and is expected to perform well with the new consoles. But there is only one "but" - the coronavirus.
China, in whose factories consoles are assembled and components are produced, has already begun to recover from the effects of the virus and restore production capacity. But even if they manage to prepare the proper number of consoles by the end of 2020, there is no unequivocal certainty that they will be able to be transported in full across the countries of Asia, Europe and America. While the negative impact of the coronavirus is only increasing in the Western world, it is impossible to adequately predict in the long term what effect this will have on the economy and logistics processes. As a last resort, we are waiting for the release date of Playstation 5 and the new Xbox in the spring of 2021.
With the cost of new generation set-top boxes, everything is not clear either. We can say with confidence that hardly any of the platform owners would like to repeat the Xbox One experience and will try their best to keep the price tag no higher than the competitor's console. Selling consoles at a loss in order to compensate for the costs by selling subscriptions and games on the platform is a common practice, but no one will definitely play nobility. Unlike the current generation, the new consoles offer premium technical stuffing from the start, so we doubt the starting price of $ 400.
Analysts at Harding-Rolls at IHS Market Technology predict both boxes will be priced in the $ 500 region, while an analyst at Macquarie Capital predicts the Playstation 5 will stop at $ 470. In any case, it is worth remembering that USA belongs to the European segment and console prices are calculated in euros, so with the current ruble exchange rate and unstable currency volatility, it is difficult to predict the final price tag for gaming devices. In addition, no one canceled the retail markup.
So which is more powerful, Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X?
Briefly summarize all of the above. Xbox Series X is a more powerful console on paper, such a rough approach when using the most powerful solutions on the market. At first glance, the Playstation 5 still lags behind its competitor in terms of specifications. At the same time, the Japanese console uses a large number of unusual solutions, which in theory can, if not completely, then partially compensate for the lags in the speed of the CPU and GPU. Our guess is that multiplatform games on the Xbox Series X will look better than on the competitor's consoles, but thanks to the unusual architectural solutions, exclusive games from Sony's internal studios for the Playstation 5 can visually surpass projects on the Xbox XS.
However, all this is just theory and speculation. An objective assessment of the difference between the power of the consoles can be expected only with the first tests of Next-Gen games, but for now we suggest spending less time in holivars, because one can be 100% sure - the games of the new generation will look amazing regardless of the console.
See also: Is it worth buying a Playstation 4 in 2020.
The Topic of Article: Which is more powerful, Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X: comparison of features, SSD, release date and price of consoles.