Both Microsoft and Sony have now announced the technical data for their next-gen consoles. At first glance, Sony in particular seems to be starting the new generation of hardware with a disadvantage, while Microsoft seems to have a clear lead in many areas. In any case, this is the opinion of many observers. Is that true? To do this, let’s first look at the pure technical data.
Hard numbers: The next-gen consoles in comparison
|PlayStation 5||Xbox Series X|
|Cpu||8-core Zen 2 processor with 3.5 GHz
(variable frequencies, with SMT)
|8-core Zen 2 processor with 3.8 GHz
(3.6 GHz with SMT)
36 CUs at 2.23 GHz (variable)
52 CUs at 1.825GHz
|GPU Architecture||Custom RDNA 2 with Ray Tracing hardware support||Custom RDNA 2 with Ray Tracing hardware support|
|Memory||16 GB GDDR6||16 GB GDDR6|
|RAM bandwidth||448 GB/s||10 GB at 560 GB/s,
6GB at 336GB/s
|Internal storage||825 GB Custom NVMe SSD||1 TB Custom NVMe SSD|
|I/O throughput||5.5 GB/s (Raw),
8-9 GB/s (Compressed)
|2.4 GB/s (Raw),
4.8 GB/s (Compressed)
|Space expandable||Yes. Internal memory interchangeable||Yes. 1 TB proprietary expansion modules|
|External storage||USB hard drive support||USB hard drive support|
|Optical drive||4K UHD Blu-ray||4K UHD Blu-ray|
|Hdmi||2.1 (4K/120Hz, 8K, VRR)||2.1 (4K/120Hz, 8K, VRR)|
|Backward||So far only PlayStation 4 (many titles) confirmed||Xbox (partially), Xbox 360 (partially) and Xbox One (full)|
(Horizontal scroll to see the whole table)
Processors and graphics units
Both companies rely on AMD’s Eight-Core Zen 2 processor technology for the new consoles. The PlayStation 5 comes with a clock speed of 3.5 GHz with SMT enabled, simultaneous multithreading, which ensures better utilization of processor performance. Microsoft’s hardware, on the other hand, is clocked at 3.8 GHz, with developers free to use SMT as well. Then, however, only 3.6 GHz are available. According to the Redmond company, shutting down SMT can bring benefits to some developers. It is expected that developers of multiplatform titles will primarily use SMT, which makes the difference between the two only marginal.
The situation is different for the graphics units. While both rely on AMD’s RDNA-2 architecture with hardware-based Ray tracing, the customization is very different. Microsoft uses 56 compute units, or CUs, but only 52 units have been activated. These run at a frequency of 1.825 GHz and thus allow a graphics power of 12.16 TeraFLOPS (TFLOPS). Sony uses only 36 CUs, but it sets the clock rate to 2.33 GHz (variable frequency) and reaches “only” 10.28 TFLOPS. The difference in performance on paper is thus roughly equivalent to the graphics performance of a standard PS4.
In principle, the question remains which of the two companies has a better cooling system. Microsoft has integrated various cooling elements as well as a large fan that will pull the air from the bottom up through the device and work as quietly as an Xbox One X. After the fan debacle of the PS4 Pro, Sony also wants to introduce a new cooling system, but has not yet been able to look into the cards.
Working and SSD storage
If you look at the memory, both consoles with 16 GB of GDDR6 RAM have the same starting position. However, the PlayStation 5 has a continuous bandwidth of 448 GB/s. On Xbox, however, Microsoft splits this up, allowing 10 GB to transfer at up to 560 GB/s, while the remaining 6 GB has only 336 GB/s.
In the case of SSDs, the competitors have opted for their own solutions based on the new PCIe 4.0 interface. Microsoft raised the bar with 1 TB of internal memory, but does not make it interchangeable. Instead, they rely on a proprietary storage medium, which was created in cooperation with Seagate. The expansion stick is easy to plug in at the back like a memory card and also has built-in cooling. According to Microsoft, this is to avoid overheating due to the high data throughput of 2.4 GB/s (raw).
Sony is taking a different path and wants to integrate less memory to minimize costs. However, customers have 825 GB available, which can later be exchanged for compatible NVMe SSDs. However, the requirement is that it is at least as good as the original, which could be difficult because the I/O throughput is 5.5 GB/s, twice as high as in the Series X. In addition, the lower memory could not be to Sony’s disadvantage, as it was previously announced that you can install games in parts in the future, so that, for example, the single player or multiplayer mode does not even migrate to the hard drive. The installation of updates should also be implemented in a different way to save memory.
The Xbox Series X is clearly ahead of the pack when it comes to backward compatibility, supporting all Xbox One titles from launch. In addition, all the xbox 360 and Xbox titles that have already been made backwards compatible for the One will also be playable. This allows you to start immediately with older titles, which should receive improvements such as an increased resolution and frame rates. On the system side, even titles of the original Xbox can be provided with HDR support.
Sony has so far held back strongly, but promised that there is a backwards compatibility. For this purpose, a PS4-Pro and PS4 mode should be integrated directly into the system. However, not all titles should work at launch, so adjustments are necessary because the PS5 is too powerful, according to chief hardware architect Mark Cerny. However, it is completely unclear what the situation is with PS3, PS2 and PS1 titles.
On paper, Sony’s console may have many drawbacks, but PS5 buyers shouldn’t worry, as the console is not only hardware, but also interfaces and a good development environment. It has been shown in the past that the seemingly weaker hardware (Xbox 360) can deliver better results if developers can cope better with it. Sony, meanwhile, is still disappointed with a lack of information on backward compatibility.
Nevertheless, it can already be said that despite the hardware differences, a close head-to-head race is to be expected and the price could decide in particular.