Jun 152013

Trying to decide between the Microsoft Xbox One ($499) and Sony PS4 ($399) for your next-gen console? Let’s have a look at the most important comparison points between them so you can better make your decision. The overall system architecture is very similar with both systems using an AMD APU solution. An APU is a chip that has both a GPU and CPU integrated into it. There are some key differences though.

Xbox One vs. PS4

Processor (CPU)

Xbox One: AMD Jaguar 8-core @ 1.6GHz. 2 cores reserved for OS (operating system).
Playstation 4: AMD Jaguar 8-core @ 1.6GHz. 1 core reserved for OS.

As you can see, they both use the same CPU architecture.  The clock speeds are not finalized but both are rumored to be 1.6GHz. The Jaguar is a low power CPU that is comparable to Intel’s Atom CPU. These would be slow in general purpose PCs, but in a specialized environment where developers can code “directly to the metal” you get a lot more mileage. Two of the eight cores on the Xbox One are reserved for OS use, leaving only six cores for games. The PS4 is rumored to only have 1 core reserved for the OS, leaving 7 for games.

Winner: Tie

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Memory (RAM)

Xbox One: 8GB of DDR3. 68.3GB/sec bandwidth. 3GB reserved for system use.

PlayStation 4: 8GB of GDDR5. 176GB/sec bandwidth. 1GB reserved for system use.

Both systems have 8GB which is fantastic news for games. This is 16 times the memory available in the Xbox 360 and PS3! This means bigger worlds, less loading screens, and higher resolution textures among other benefits. There is one significant difference though. The PS4 uses much faster GDDR5 memory. High bandwidth memory is ideal for graphics intensive applications. The DDR3 in the Xbox One has significantly less bandwidth. GDDR5 is much more expensive and choosing DDR3 was a cost cutting measure by Microsoft. They did put 32MB of embedded memory on the Xbox One APU which helps make up for the starved bandwidth but the PS4 really has the edge here.

On top of that, the PS4 has 7GB available to game developers while the Xbox One only has 5GB available to developers. In the first few years this won’t be an issue, but later on as games get more advanced that extra 2GB will be very important to developers. I think most multi-platform games will be developed for the lowest common denominator, but PS4 exclusive games will benefit greatly from the extra memory.

In the end, the PS4 has the edge in the memory department.

Winner: PS4

Graphics (GPU)

Xbox One: AMD GCN based GPU. 12 Compute Units, 768 shader cores. 1.23 TFLOPS

Playstation 4: AMD GCN based GPU. 18 Compute Units, 1152 shader cores. 1.84 TFLOPS

Just like the CPU, the GPU in these systems is extremely similar. This will make life easier for developers who develop for both platforms! There is one startling difference between them though. The PS4’s GPU is approximately 33% faster than the Xbox One. There is no way of spinning this. The PS4 is simply a lot faster. For systems destined to last 10 years, that extra performance is a massive advantage.

The PS4 exclusive titles will end up looking more impressive than Xbox One exclusive titles. Will there be differences in multi-platform titles? Probably not much. They’ll develop for the slowest one to make sure it works for both, however the extra horsepower in the PS4 may lead to higher frame rates or higher rendering resolution in these games.

Winner: PS4


Xbox One: 500GB hard drive, not upgradeable. Blu-ray drive.

Playstation 4: 500GB hard drive, upgradeable. Blu-ray drive.

Both systems will ship with a respectable 500GB hard drive in the 2.5 inch form factor. The Xbox One’s drive cannot be replaced by the user, however you can use USB 3.0 external hard drives to add more space to your Xbox One. And you will definitely need to add more space since all games on Xbox One must be fully installed to the hard drive. Games can be as large as 40-50GB. The PS4’s hard drive can be swapped out just like the PS3. The largest drive you can get right now in the 2.5in form factor is 1TB. You will also be able to use external hard drives on PS4, but we don’t know if you can install games to the external drive yet.

Winner: PS4 for having a user replaceable drive. The Xbox supporting USB3 drives for game installations is great, but its more bulk on your shelf. I think a lot of people would prefer slotting in a 1TB drive rather than having more clutter.

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