Hot on the heels of Microsoft unveiling the hardware specs and features for the Xbox Series X, Sony released a video showcasing the PS5. Neither side revealed price or date, though Microsoft did recommit to the ‘holidays 2020’ release, but the full slate of hardware specs was disclosed and is as follows:
|Xbox Series X||PlayStation 5|
|CPU||8x Zen 2 Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6GHz with hyper-threading)||8x Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz (variable frequency)|
|GPU||12 TFLOPS, 52 CU @ 1.825 GHz||10.28 TFLOPS, 36 Cu @ 2.23 (variable frequency)|
|RAM||16 GB GDDR6 (10 GB @ 560 GB/s, 6 GB @ 336 GB/s)||16 GB GDDR6, 448 GB/s|
|Internal Storage||1 TB Custom NVMe SSD||825 GB SSD|
|IO Throughput||2.4 GB/s (Raw) 4.8 GB/s (compressed)||5.5 GB/s (Raw) 8-9 GB/s (compressed)|
|External support||USB 3.2 HDD||USB HDD (spec unknown)|
|Optical Drive||4K UHD Blu Ray||4K UHD Blu Ray|
On paper, the Xbox Series X has the raw power advantage with faster CPU – even when hyper-threading is enabled – as well as a higher TFLOPS count for the GPU. Sony’s machine has far higher IO throughput, however, which will help limit load times and may help with open world game performance.
One interesting bit was that Microsoft, who debuted first, constantly mentioned their numbers were static clocks – something that didn’t seem to matter until Sony’s reveal and all the ‘variable frequency’ numbers they provided. Microsoft’s 12 TFLOPS is static, but Sony’s 10.28 TFLOPS is a ‘best case’ scenario when both the CPU and GPU frequencies are maxed out.
If the PS5 drops down to the 9.2 TFLOPS that was rumoured early on, that’s a 30% power advantage for the Xbox hardware. It will be interesting to see what the lower end TFLOPS number for the PS5 is when it’s been out for a while and dust is impairing the thermal efficiency of the console – a GREAT reason to know how to crack open your console and clean it out!
Keep in mind that we don’t yet know what the PS5 will look like, but it seems likely they’ll be designing it with thermal efficiency and dissipation in mind. Given that was the focus for Microsoft in their larger and more boxy Xbox Series X design, we could see large boxy consoles from both manufacturers.
Microsoft was a bit more open with the ‘additional features’ part of their presentation, showing off improvements to backwards compatibility and how their ray tracing support can drastically change the appearance of games moving forward.
The Series X hardware will support all currently backwards compatible Xbox and Xbox 360 games from the Xbox One, as well as all Xbox One games – giving the machine an enormous library of games from day one. Those games will run better, allowing full access to the CPU and GPU clocks – the Xbox One X provided only 50 per cent for backwards compatibility – and they’ll look better as well.
The much-vaunted Heutchy Method of upscaling older games to higher resolutions has been evolved for the new hardware, with Microsoft showing off Gears of War Ultimate at 4K…but there’s also more. A new automated method of generating HDR implementation for older games, even games that were developed before HDR existed, drastically upgrades the visuals of old titles – even original Xbox ones. We’ll see how many titles the backwards compatibility team can enhance for the new hardware.
Sony has also committed to backwards compatibility, but only discussed compatibility with the PS4 in their video reveal. The support is not as wide ranging as that on Xbox, with Mark Cerny saying only that they plan to have the top 100 PS4 games, ranked by playtime, up and working at launch. Expect to hear more about compatibility from Sony in the coming weeks, especially regarding what games will be supported and if or how they’ll be improved.
Ray tracing is another feature supported by both consoles, but only demonstrated by Microsoft at this point. Demos of Minecraft and Gears of War 5 were shown, with Gears being a more subtle refinement while Minecraft with ray tracing looks like an entirely different game. This feature, growing rapidly on PC right now, represents a really ‘next gen’ jump forward in lighting (and – to a lesser extent – audio) and you’ll hear a whole lot more on it soon.
Both consoles have an SSD as the internal storage, and neither is likely to be enough storage for most gamers over the life of the console. Both allow for insertable SSD storage cards – somewhat reminiscent of original PlayStation memory cards – that will, at present, offer another 1 TB of storage space. Expect those cards to be pricey – SSD storage doesn’t come cheap.
Both will also support external HDD via USB connection, something the current consoles also support. Microsoft has said the Series X will allow you to play Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games via the external HDD but Series X games must play from the internal or expansion SSD drive, due to the load speed requirements. Sony hasn’t announced their support plans aside from external USB HDD being supported, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to allow games to run from them either. It seems likely gamers with large libraries will have to use an external HDD as a storage bank and shuttle games to and from the SSD storage as needed. It might seem inconvenient, but it’ll be a lot faster than downloading games again – especially as game sizes grow.
Sony will be allowing gamers to format and use their own NVMe SSD however, something Microsoft hasn’t committed to at this point, but it’s not something Cerny felt would be available at launch as they have to certify the drives as ‘fast enough’ to support the PS5’s required speeds. He advised gamers against picking up an SSD ahead of launch, to be sure you don’t buy something that isn’t going to work.
In the end we know the hardware now, but we still don’t know the important parts of this ‘which one to buy’ equation – price and games. Expect to see price reveals for both sets of hardware soon, however, as they’ll want to have pre-orders up and running as quickly as possible.
The exclusives will play to the platform’s strengths, so Sony might play up that IO speed advantage with open world games with high speed movement or something…but we’ll see, because the Series X isn’t exactly slow either. Plus Microsoft has a pretty solid stable of studios now as well, and they have more raw power to work with.