Is the PS4 really 50% faster than the Xbox One?

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Many people believe that the PlayStation 4 is significantly faster than the Xbox One. that comes down to the PS4’s GPU having 18 compute units to the Xbox Ones 12 compute units, and the PS4’s faster GDDR5 memory when compared to the One’s DDR3. Perhaps though, the gulf between the systems isn’t quite as great as pure numbers suggest.

In a post on neoGAF. Xbox’s very vocal of late Albert Penello posted a lot of technical stuff to try and clarify everything. while yes, he’s probably a corporate mouthpiece – but he’s trying very much to put talk of the disparity between the systems to rest. Here’s what he had to say, in handy-dandy bullet-point form.

  • 18 CU’s vs. 12 CU’s =/= 50% more performance. Multi-core processors have inherent inefficiency with more CU’s, so it’s simply incorrect to say 50% more GPU.
  • Adding to that, each of our CU’s is running 6% faster. It’s not simply a 6% clock speed increase overall.
  • We have more memory bandwidth. 176gb/sec is peak on paper for GDDR5. Our peak on paper is 272gb/sec. (68gb/sec DDR3 + 204gb/sec on ESRAM). ESRAM can do read/write cycles simultaneously so I see this number mis-quoted.
  • We have at least 10% more CPU. Not only a faster processor, but a better audio chip also offloading CPU cycles.
  • We understand GPGPU and its importance very well. Microsoft invented Direct Compute, and have been using GPGPU in a shipping product since 2010 – it’s called Kinect.
  • Speaking of GPGPU – we have 3X the coherent bandwidth for GPGPU at 30gb/sec which significantly improves our ability for the CPU to efficiently read data generated by the GPU.

It’s interesting – but not entirely factual. The AMD Radeon HD 7850 has 16 compute units compared to the 7870’s 20 compute units, and the difference in performance (and price!) between them is pretty significant. The bit about each of the compute units getting a 6% increase; probably true.

His point about the memory bandwidth though, is completely fallacious misinformation. You can’t just add the memory bandwidths of the ESRAM and DDR 3 together to get a theoretical maximum. Tech just doesn’t work that way. Penello also says that the Xbox One will have a 10% faster CPU than the PS4, despite previously saying that he has no idea what the PS4’s final specs are (rumours suggest it’s 1.6Ghz; the Xbox One’s CPU is now 1.75Ghz). As far as the GPGPU stuff, maybe, maybe that’s true – but I doubt the PS4’s GPGPU bandwidth is only 10Gb/s.

In the end though, none of this spec stuff really matters; It’s all about the games. From what I’ve seen with my own eyeballs, the differences between the systems are minor and multiplatform games will hardly be different.

Last Updated: September 11, 2013

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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