PlayStation 5 Versus Xbox Series X: The Tech Specs

Image: Microsoft/Sony

This week we learned the technical specs for the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. How do the two consoles stack up so far? Despite only knowing what one of the two looks like, they are not so different, X and 5.

Before we get into it, keep in mind these are just numbers on screens as far as we’re concerned. We’ve seen a couple of tech demos for both consoles, demonstrating things like load times, but we’ve not seen how actual hardware performs up close and in-person. Now let’s compare some acronyms.

CPU

PlayStation 5: Custom Zen 2 CPU with eight Cores at 3.5 GHz (Variable Frequency)

Xbox Series X: Custom Zen 2 CPU with eight Cores at 3.8 GHz (3.66 GHz with Simultaneous Multithreading)

These are two custom versions of CPUs built using AMD’s Zen 2 microarchitecture, the same microarchitecture that powers the third generation of Ryzen PC CPUs. What’s different is how the two consoles utilise their CPU’s power. Microsoft says that the Xbox Series X CPU is fixed at 3.8 GHz for games reliant on a single core, dropping to 3.66 GHz for applications that take advantage of multiple cores via simultaneous multithreading.

Screenshot: Sony

Sony says that the PlayStation 5’s CPU and GPU both run at a variable frequency. The console will constantly monitors the demand a game puts on the CPU and GPU and adjusts frequency accordingly. This novel approach to balancing power and cooling means the system should always run at a consistent power level, making it easier to cool.

GPU

  • PlayStation 5: Custom RDNA 2 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (variable frequency)

  • Xbox Series X: Custom RDNA 2 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs at 1.825 GHz

As with the CPU, both consoles use variations of the same basic hardware, in this case a custom AMD RDNA GPU. RDNA stands for Radeon DNA, the architecture being AMD’s most recent graphics cards. In terms of teraflops the Xbox One has a small lead. It has 52 compute units to the PlayStation 5’s 36. Let’s all nod as if we know what that means.

A teraflop is a measure of a processor’s mathematical prowess. For every teraflop the processor can calculate a trillion floating-point calculations per second. The more teraflops, the more computational power. The more computational power, the better the processor is equipped to perform the complex maths that games turn into fancy visuals. In the grand scheme of things, a difference of 1.72 teraflops isn’t huge.

Computer units, or CUs, are like clusters of tiny CPUs that a graphics processor unit uses to compute stuff. The more CUs, the more powerful the GPU. Comparing CUs between the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 is much more telling than teraflops. The PlayStation essentially has the equivalent of a Radeon RX 5700 graphics card, while the Xbox Series X has a Radeon RX Vega 56. I hit up the GPUCheck website to compare the two cards, and there is a noticeable difference.

Hit the link for the full comparision. (Graphic: GPUCheck)

Keep in mind these are PC benchmarks. The way the custom GPUs on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 perform is going to rely heavily on how they are used. Once again the PlayStation 5 can adjust GPU and CPU performance based on demand, so while the Xbox Series X has more brawn, the PlayStation 5 may have more finesse.

Memory

  • PlayStation 5: 16GB GDDR6 with a 256mb bus | 448GB/s bandwidth

  • Xbox Series X: 16GB GDDR6 with a 320mb bus | 10GB at 560 GB/s, 6GB at 336 GB/s bandwidth

Both consoles include 16GB of GDDR6 memory. The PlayStation’s memory bus is narrower, 256mb to the Xbox’s 320mb, which means there are more lanes of traffic available on the Xbox. Will that make a massive difference? Probably not. What is different is how memory bandwidth is handled on the consoles. PS5 memory runs at a speedy 448 gigabytes per second across the board. The Xbox Series X splits its 16GB of memory into two sections. There’s 10GB of “GPU optimal memory” running at 560 GB/s, and 6GB of “standard” memory running at 336 GB/s. Slower standard memory is allocated to I/O operations and sound that don’t require a lot of speed, while GPU optimal memory is geared towards making things pretty. It’s an asymmetrical memory system that should give developers interesting ways to allocate resources. It’s not something that should have a major impact on the end-user, but it’s neat.

Internal Storage

  • PlayStation 5: Custom 825GB SSD with 5.5GB/s (Raw), Typical 8-9GB/s (Compressed) IO throughput

  • Xbox Series X: 1TB Custom NVME SSD with 2.4 GB/s (Raw), 4.8 GB/s (Compressed) IO throughput

Here’s where the big difference lies. Holy hell that PlayStation custom solid state drive is fast. Super fast. Twice the speed of the Xbox Series X’s SSD. It might be smaller, but that PS5 hard drive is going to smoke the Xbox’s. As lead PlayStation 5 system architect Mark Cerny put it during today’s technical presentation, developers might need to slow the drive down to keep games from loading too fast.

RPG Class

  • PlayStation 5: Rogue

  • Xbox Series X: Warrior

With the information we have now, it looks like Microsoft and Sony rolled two different characters from the next round of the console wars RPG. Microsoft put most of its points into strength, creating a beefy machine that can’t be matched in terms of power. Sony, on the other hand, created a much more agile console, sacrificing power for utility. We’ll see how it all turns out once we can actually play games on these damn things.

And yes, that makes the Nintendo Switch a wizard.

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Comments

    Winner: AMD
    Not even a worthy competitor: Intel

    I seriously doubt we'll see either of these consoles release this year given the way supply chains and entire economies are seizing up with the coronavirus situation. If they do release, I can't see it being global. Maybe US only this year and the rest of the world early next year.

    Pricing will be horrendous, especially for us with the Australian dollar already in the toilet and now making its way through the S-bend.

      But on the up-side, we now have more time to save! (in a Corona-glass-half-full kind of way)

      You might be right about the supply chain braaains, but I dont think they'll vary on price at this point. The supply will be contracted already, so the price should be locked in. As it is, even if it isnt, they should stick with a $499-ish price tag and absorb any loss.

      I went over numbers a couple of months back, and the long game suggests the sales surge happens about 18 months after launch. By that point production costs will have dropped significantly and they arent taking a hit at the sales point. Happened with the PS2 and PS3 at least, I didnt look at the original PS1.

      The PS3 specifically had about a $200ish loss at launch, thanks to the blu ray costs. That might have been supply, it might not, but it was absorbed either way so doesnt really matter. A close enough comparison to any supply problems today that we can learn from it. And they didnt change the cost.

      But it was clear that any loss leader was well and truly gone before either of those hit 10 million sales. As they each went on to sell ~100m units, the profit came eventually, which is the point. They would know this very well. 10m sales at a loss versus 90m at a profit = a happy console maker.

      So having looked at whats happened in the past, I dont think pricing will be an issue.

        The problem is that those supply contracts that were locked in would almost certainly be in US dollars. So although the $US price wouldn't be impacted, the exchange rate means in $AU terms, it just got a lot more expensive. A month ago, the $AU was sitting at about US$0.67. Today it's about US$0.57. That's a drop of about 15%, and it will go lower before this mess is resolved. This must have an impact on the pricing we see here.

        This will affect everything, including the pricing of electronics like these new consoles.

          Yeah, fair point. I was more thinking of the overall global price rather than exchange variations. In that regard I expect the price to be around US$499. Which could mean $900 locally, though I expect $750 to be more likely here regardless. Will be interesting to see how this plays out with ~8 months or so before the expected release.

          Once the whole pandemic thing is over though, whether its next week, next month, or 3 months, there will be a lot of buying of resources as manufacturers try to catch up. Which puts Australia in a nice position to rebound quickly. Maybe. So who knows; by the time the price is relevant to us, we might be back at 90c again. Not that I expect that, but you know what I mean.

            I went to the US on holiday back in 2010 or 2011. We were getting US$1.10 to AU$1. It was bloody fantastic :D

              Went in 2013, just after it dropped back under $1, think it was 95c. Was annoyed I missed the $1.10 rate, but tolerated it for the sake of a holiday :) Was a good time to be alive, thats for sure.

              Those rates were on the back of our resources, which is where I was coming from. Manufacturers will be wanting our stuff, which boosts our dollar. And it tends to do it quickly too. So while we'll suffer for a while being on the wrong end of the finished product supply chain, we'll be on the right side as things start to normalise again. Whatever normal ends up being.

            I'll bet you a coke the Xbox Series X will be at least USD599 and possibly $699 and I'll be surprised if it retails for less than AUD899 here.
            They would have to absorb a *lot* of cost to sell it for cheaper.

    Good summary, especially the last comparison. I'll stick with my Wizard for a while yet.

    Wouldn't a switch be a rogue since you know, picking the console up is agility at its finest? lol

    I am wondering if Microsoft might freak at the PS5's insane bandwidth and replace the last 3 2GB GDDR5 modules with 4GB modules. That'd pop capacity up to 22GB, but more importantly, keep higher bandwidth across the system.

    That being said, it should be noted the PS5's teraflop count is whilst the CPU is downclocked. The PS5 in the GPU department is massively underpowered (comparing CU's here is actually the better approach, and we are talking about 30% here). Realistically, I can see the PS5 being more around the 8 tflop count in most normal scenarios.

      Wouldn't a switch be a rogue since you know, picking the console up is agility at its finest? lolShapeshifting and fast travel. Sounds like Wizard tricks to me. Unless you want to define it as a Ranger due to its range.

      I don't know a lot about thsi stuff but I'm hearifn that the 10.28 tflop count is total BS and it's more like 9 as standard. That's a huge difference

    On paper the PS5 SSD may be faster, but in real world terms for the application of gaming, both consoles are going to load games at roughly equivalent pace, with the CPU being faster in the XBOX likely to actually give a minuscule advantage to it.

      This is not how digital foundry see it.

      Apart from load times, twice the transfer speed means using the SSD 'on the fly' within games becomes much more viable.

    So..... in the end they will probably be similar with the exclusives showing off the big differences?

    I'm pretty pumped for either, but leaning toward Xbox just because I feel like a change (and FlightSim 2020)

    Now let me preface by saying I have both consoles (PS4/Xbox One) and will buy both new consoles, but I feel like people are downplaying the specs of the Xbox while overplaying small benefits the PS5 may have.

    Not just this article, but others I've seen have said the teraflops aren't a big difference, and the RAM bandwidth, not a big deal, but to me, they look significantly better on Xbox.

    Even the fact that the Xbox is technically 12.15 teraflops, but it's rounded down to 12, while everyone is consistently putting in the decimals of the PS5. Admittedly Microsoft themselves haven't pushed this small increase, but it IS the real picture.

    I just feel sorry for poor Microsoft trying to do everything they didn't last gen and people are still not giving their due..

      Go do some reading about this but I people are saying the 10.29 tflop is like the ps5s turbo mode. It will general run around 9 tflops

    If the stats were the other way around, Microsoft would be getting blasted. The GPU performance difference is significant. Especially because that 10.8 TF will likely dip in to the 9s due to the variable frequency. At 4K, the Xbox will produce more stable framerates at better graphical fidelity. The only positive for the ps5 is that lightning fast SSD.

    I'd like posit that it doesn't really matter, there is no point in having these conversations as there will never be any way to benchmark them against each other or a PC, so yeah. As far as I can tell they have both done pretty great things with this gen. I think the price point TBA will be interesting, betting the X-BOX is going to be a bit more expensive. Even though the PS5's GPU has less flops, given Cerny's previous architecture wizardry, I don't think think there will be much in it between the two systems. He was pretty open in the keynote about freeing up system bottlenecks and went into a lot of detail about their custom I/O for the PS5. But again, there a many factors that account for performance including but not limited to how well developers can optimise their games for each system.

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