Sour grapes

There’s a new generation of gaming, and it’s looking pretty fine. The PC platform though, will always be able to one-up consoles when it comes to pure graphics. And that’s something that the boss of hardware manufacturer Nvidia, feels pretty strongly about.

“It’s no longer possible for a console to be a better or more capable graphics platform than the PC,” Nvidia executive Tony Tamasi said to PC PowerPlay.

Certainly with the first PlayStation and PS2, in that era there weren’t really good graphics on the PC. Around the time of the PS2 is when 3D really started coming to the PC, but before that time 3D was the domain of Silicon Graphics and other 3D workstations. Sony, Sega or Nintendo could invest in bringing 3D graphics to a consumer platform. In fact, the PS2 was faster than a PC.

By the time of the Xbox 360 and PS3, the consoles were on par with the PC. If you look inside those boxes, they’re both powered by graphics technology by AMD or NVIDIA, because by that time all the graphics innovation was being done by PC graphics companies.

NVIDIA spends 1.5 billion US dollars per year on research and development in graphics, every year, and in the course of a console’s lifecycle we’ll spend over 10 billion dollars into graphics research.

Sony and Microsoft simply can’t afford to spend that kind of money. They just don’t have the investment capacity to match the PC guys; we can do it thanks to economy of scale, as we sell hundreds of millions of chips, year after year.

And according to Tamasi, PC hardware has gone in a new direction over the last couple of years. A direction that involves pushing its hardware to the bleeding edge of what’s possible. “The PC graphics industry wasn’t operating at the limits of device physics and power. If you wind back the clock, a high-end graphics card at that time was maybe 75W or 100W max. We weren’t building chips that were on the most advanced semiconductor process and were billions of transistors,” Tamasi said.

Now we’re building GPUs at the limits of what’s possible with fabrication techniques. Nobody can build anything bigger or more powerful than what is in the PC at the moment. It just is not possible, but that wasn’t the case in the last generation of consoles.

Taken to the theoretical limits, the best any console could ever do would be to ship a console that is equal to the best PC at that time. But then a year later it’s going to be slower, and it still wouldn’t be possible due to the power limits.

I’ll agree with Tamasi on the technological side of this debate. PC will always have a visual edge over consoles. But it’s an edge that few can afford. All that hardware costs quite a few pretty pennies, something that consoles can bypass with their more affordable pricing models. That, and it’s not a headache to have to constantly keep your hardware up to date.

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That, and Tamasi sounds a tad bitter about the fact that the Playstation 4 and Xbox One will only be using hardware from its main rival, AMD.

Last Updated: September 25, 2013

Summary
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was reviewed on PC

Darryn Bonthuys

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