The point of a gaming console is to play games.  The PC user in all of us wants to benchmark, overclock and upgrade even the unreleased game consoles that were announced at E3, but we can’t.  And these sorts of limits are healthy, because it lets us have a system that we don’t tinker with, that simply performs its function and that is to play games. 

The game developers are the ones that have to worry about which system is faster, whose hardware is better and what that means for the games they develop, but to us, the end users, whether the Xbox 360 has a faster GPU or the PlayStation 3’s CPU is the best thing since sliced bread doesn’t really matter.  At the end of the day, it is the games and the overall experience that will sell both of these consoles.  You can have the best hardware in the world, but if the games and the experience aren’t there, it doesn’t really matter. 

Despite what we’ve just said, there is a desire to pick these new next-generation consoles apart.  Of course if the games are all that matter, why even bother comparing specs, claims or anything about these next-generation consoles other than games?  Unfortunately, the majority of that analysis seems to be done by the manufacturers of the consoles, and fed to the users in an attempt to win early support, and quite a bit of it is obviously tainted. 

While we would’ve liked this to be an article on all three next-generation consoles, the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Revolution, the fact of the matter is that Nintendo has not released any hardware details about their next-gen console, meaning that there’s nothing to talk about at this point in time.  Leaving us with two contenders: Microsoft’s Xbox 360, due out by the end of this year, and Sony’s PlayStation 3 due out in Spring 2006. 

This article isn’t here to crown a winner or to even begin to claim which platform will have better games, it is simply here to answer questions we all have had as well as discuss these new platforms in greater detail than we have before. 

Before proceeding with this article, there’s a bit of required reading to really get the most out of it.  We strongly suggest reading through our Cell processor article, as well as our launch coverage of the PlayStation 3.  We would also suggest reading through our Xbox 360 articles for background on Microsoft’s console, as well as an earlier piece published on multi-threaded game development.  Finally, be sure that you’re fully up to date on the latest GPUs, especially the recently announced NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX as it is very closely related to the graphics processor in the PS3. 

This article isn’t a successor to any of the aforementioned pieces, it just really helps to have an understanding of everything we’ve covered before - and since we don’t want this article to be longer than it already is, we’ll just point you back there to fill in the blanks if you find that there are any. 

Now, on to the show...

A Prelude on Balance

The most important goal of any platform is balance on all levels.  We’ve seen numerous examples of what architectural imbalances can do to performance, having too little cache or too narrow of a FSB can starve high speed CPUs of data they need to perform.  GPUs without enough memory bandwidth can’t perform anywhere near their peak fillrates, regardless of what they may be.  Achieving a balanced overall platform is a very difficult thing on the PC, unless you have an unlimited budget and are able to purchase the fastest components.  Skimping on your CPU while buying the most expensive graphics card may leave you with performance that’s marginally better, or worse, than someone else with a more balanced system with a faster CPU and a somewhat slower GPU. 

With consoles however, the entire platform is designed to be balanced out of the box, as best as the manufacturer can get it to be, while still remaining within the realm of affordability.  The manufacturer is responsible for choosing bus widths, CPU architectures, memory bandwidths, GPUs, even down to the type of media that will be used by the system - and most importantly, they make sure that all elements of the system are as balanced as can be. 

The reason this article starts with a prelude on balance is because you should not expect either console maker to have put together a horribly imbalanced machine.  A company who is already losing money on every console sold, will never put faster hardware in that console if it isn’t going to be utilized thanks to an imbalance in the platform.  So you won’t see an overly powerful CPU paired with a fill-rate limited GPU, and you definitely won’t see a lack of bandwidth to inhibit performance.  What you will see is a collection of tools that Microsoft and Sony have each, independently, put together for the game developer.  Each console has its strengths and its weaknesses, but as a whole, each console is individually very well balanced.  So it would be wrong to say that the PlayStation 3’s GPU is more powerful than the Xbox 360’s GPU, because you can’t isolate the two and compare them in a vacuum, how they interact with the CPU, with memory, etc... all influences the overall performance of the platform. 

The Consoles and their CPUs
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  • jwix - Tuesday, July 05, 2005 - link

    Creathir - the article was reposted on other forums around the net. Here is the story in summary - Sony & Microsoft have both overhyped the processing power of their cpu's by using clever marketing speak. It turns out the processor designs are uneccessarily complicated, inefficient at crunching today's game code, and unlikely to be useful when game code finally becomes fully multi-threaded in the coming years. Why microsoft and sony didn't go with an Intel or AMD design, I don't know. The article speculates that both companies wanted IP rights to the cpu, maybe that's the reason.
    The GPU's on the other hand look plenty powerful. They should both be relatively equivalent in performance to the R520 and the current 7800 GTX.
    Bottom line - the new consoles will be quite powerful compared to the previous generation. However, PC's will still be more powerful, and wil remain the platform of choice for high end gaming. Something I was glad to read as I just built a new pc.

    Reply
  • steveyoung123456789 - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    wow your so smart! faggit Reply
  • creathir - Saturday, July 02, 2005 - link

    jwix:
    I had read a good portion of the article, but had been pulled away (thought to myself I'll just reread it later) and was upset to find it was gone. I have never seen this here at Anandtech, and Anand has not made a single comment on his blog about it. I suppose some fact was incorrect? Maybe Sony/Microsoft decided they would SUE him over the article? I bet the most logical answer is this, Tim Sweeney saw the article, and even though Anand referenced the "anonymous developer", he had earlier mentioned in his blog he had been waiting for some answers from Tim. I would bet this "outed" his source, much like the LA Times outed their source recently for a Grand Jury. This outing probably was followed by a request by Tim to pull the article. I would have to bet we will see it soon enough, reworked, reworded. Whatever the case, Anand, it was a good article, you should be sure to repost it.
    - Creathir
    Reply
  • steveyoung123456789 - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    o someone can read!! yay! Reply
  • linkgoron - Thursday, June 30, 2005 - link

    blckgrffn, THIS IS NOT i repeat NOT the article you think it is. Reply
  • blckgrffn - Thursday, June 30, 2005 - link

    Yes it is back up! :D

    Nat
    Reply
  • jwix - Thursday, June 30, 2005 - link

    Last night, around 10:00pm EST, I surfed over to the Anandtech home page to see what was happening. I was greeted by Part II of the article (Xbox 360, Sony PS3 - a hardware discussion). Did anyone else read this article last night. I was only able to read the first 2 pages before the article was pulled off the website. Why would they post it and then pull it so quickly? And why has not been reposted since?
    The story it told was unbelievable - basically, the floating point processing power of both the Sony and Xbox processor was less than half of your average Pentium 4. Anand went into detail on how and why this was the case. His sources apparently were confidential, but definitely industry insiders (ie...game developers). I wish I could have finished reading the article before it was pulled. Did anyone read the whole article?
    Reply
  • ecoumans - Thursday, June 30, 2005 - link

    Physics Middleware will be Multithreaded and heavily optimized for Cell's 7 SPE's. This makes life easier for gamedevelopers, and it changes the story about CPU usage... Same story for sound etc. Reply
  • Houdani - Tuesday, June 28, 2005 - link

    29: In order to turn off the "sponsored links" go to ABOUT in the top left menu and turn off INTELITEXT.

    I think this setting is stored in a cookie, so you will need to do this everytime you clear your cookies.
    Reply
  • BenSkywalker - Sunday, June 26, 2005 - link

    ""One thing is for sure, support for two 1080p outputs in spanning mode (3840 x 1080) on the PS3 is highly unrealistic. At that resolution, the RSX would be required to render over 4 megapixels per frame, without a seriously computation bound game it’s just not going to happen at 60 fps." -- Quote from page 10"

    First off 1080p doesn't support 60FPS as of this moment anyway, and there are an awful lot of games on consoles that aren't remotely close to being GPU bound anyway. Remember that the XBox has titles now that are pushing out 1080i and the RSX is easily far more then four times the speed of the GPU in the XBox.
    Reply

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