Final Words

It’s nearly impossible for the Xbox One not to be a substantial upgrade over the Xbox 360. The fact that Microsoft could ship a single integrated SoC instead of a multi-chip CPU+GPU solution this generation is telling enough. You don’t need to integrate anywhere near the fastest CPUs and GPUs to outperform the Xbox 360, something closer to the middle of the road works just fine.

Microsoft won’t have any issues delivering many times the performance of the Xbox 360. The Xbox One features far more compute power and memory bandwidth than the Xbox 360. Going to 8GB of RAM is also a welcome upgrade, especially since it’s identical to what Sony will ship on the PlayStation 4. As AMD is supplying relatively similar x86 CPU and GCN GPU IP to both consoles, porting between them (and porting to PCs) should be far easier than ever before. The theoretical performance comparison between the two next-gen consoles is where things get a bit sticky.

Sony gave the PS4 50% more raw shader performance, plain and simple (768 SPs @ 800MHz vs. 1152 SPs & 800MHz). Unlike last generation, you don't need to be some sort of Jedi to extract the PS4's potential here. The Xbox One and PS4 architectures are quite similar, Sony just has more hardware under the hood. We’ll have to wait and see how this hardware delta gets exposed in games over time, but the gap is definitely there. The funny thing about game consoles is that it’s usually the lowest common denominator that determines the bulk of the experience across all platforms.

On the plus side, the Xbox One should enjoy better power/thermal characteristics compared to the PlayStation 4. Even compared to the Xbox 360 we should see improvement in many use cases thanks to modern power management techniques.

Differences in the memory subsytems also gives us some insight into each approach to the next-gen consoles. Microsoft opted for embedded SRAM + DDR3, while Sony went for a very fast GDDR5 memory interface. Sony’s approach (especially when combined with a beefier GPU) is exactly what you’d build if you wanted to give game developers the fastest hardware. Microsoft’s approach on the other hand looks a little more broad. The Xbox One still gives game developers a significant performance boost over the previous generation, but also attempts to widen the audience for the console. It’s a risky strategy for sure, especially given the similarities in the underlying architectures between the Xbox One and PS4. If the market for high-end game consoles has already hit its peak, then Microsoft’s approach is likely the right one from a business standpoint. If the market for dedicated high-end game consoles hasn’t peaked however, Microsoft will have to rely even more on the Kinect experience, TV integration and its exclusive franchises to compete.

Arguably the most interesting thing in all of this is the dual-OS + hypervisor software setup behind the Xbox One. With the Windows kernel running alongside the Xbox OS, I wonder how much of a stretch it would be to one day bring the same setup to PCs. Well before the Xbox One hits the end of its life, mainstream PC APUs will likely be capable of delivering similar performance. Imagine a future Surface tablet capable of doing everything your Xbox One can do. That's really the trump card in all of this. The day Microsoft treats Xbox as a platform and not a console is the day that Apple and Google have a much more formidable competitor. Xbox One at least gets the software architecture in order, then we need PC/mobile hardware to follow suit and finally for Microsoft to come to this realization and actually make it happen. We already have the Windows kernel running on phones, tablets, PCs and the Xbox, now we just need the Xbox OS across all platforms as well.

Power/Thermals, OS, Kinect & TV
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  • Ramon Zarat - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Seriously? LOD, rendering distance, anti-aliasing level, texture filtering level, post processing level, tessellation, shadows and every other conceivable GFX parameters can be turned up or down on the fly by ANY modern game engine. Even fluid and particles are now fully visualized and not fixed, prerendered object and so their level of complexity can be easily adjusted up of down.

    PS4 would be displaying GFX on high or very high and XB1 only on medium. Same identical textures, same number of polygons etc... The foundation would remain the same, but PS4 would display more complex scene at higher quality. You don't need 2 different sets of games to produce drastically different results, it's all built in the engine already. It's only a matter of processing power and the PS4 GPU and GDDR5 are just that, more powerful.

    The only real inherent limitation would be the number of items/accessories simultaneously on screen (trees, cars, spectators, chair, cup, book etc...) in a given scene that would fixed by the game developers and even then, they could build some flexibility into it to allow the more powerful system to display more stuff.
    Reply
  • Majeed Belle - Sunday, September 8, 2013 - link

    I don't think it will be just exclusives perse. If we think about what types of games both systems will get then we will see likely see better performance on the PS4 for games that are graphic intensive.

    Think about RTSs for example that tend to have tons of stuff happening on screen or something like Dungeon Defenders.

    Skyrim, Dragon's Age, Dragon's Dogma etc also all have tons of lighting and graphical effects going on at the same time that should see benefits from the difference in ram.

    Anyone who has played Dragon's Dogma on the PS3 and uses a Mystic Knight with 3 great cannons firing all at the same time has seen slowdown happen and that's because of the lower amount of ram. This should be a problem with the PS4.
    Reply
  • Majeed Belle - Sunday, September 8, 2013 - link

    -edit
    This SHOULDN'T be a problem with the PS4
    Reply
  • jeffkibuule - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    "Why didn't they just match X?" Because the design of these chips to have them tested, validated, and shipping on time is on the order of years, not weeks. Reply
  • dysonlu - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    "Finish off Sony" is a big overstatement considering that PS3 surpassed Xbox360 in some recent reports. Reply
  • FearfulSPARTAN - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I hate it when websites get info wrong or interpret it badly, sony matched shipped numbers not sales numbers. I fyou go to vgchartz you will see the xbox was still up around a million units last time I checked. Reply
  • blacks329 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I think when both systems are hovering around the same numbers and are off by 1 million. It's fairly negligible in the grand schemes of things. It's impressive for Sony how close they are, considering how colossally Sony screwed up early in this gen and started a year after the 360. Reply
  • beuwolf - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    You checked a long time ago then: http://www.vgchartz.com/ - they are equal. And that's despite Xbox having 1 extra year...

    If you look at the global year to date, then PS3 is outselling 360 by more than a million this last year.
    Reply
  • c1979h - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Kind of sorry for Sony, it took them that long to get even, remember they had Asia all to themselves. It also happens to be the biggest continent in the world. Reply
  • blacks329 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Biggest continent in the world doesn't mean anything. Their purchasing power pales in comparison to the US and Europe.

    Although their purchasing power is increasing, which is more beneficial for Sony in the long term, but even then it still pales in comparison to what the average North American can purchase.
    Reply

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