PS4 performance getting cranked to 11… err 7, whatever.
Both the Ps4 and Xbox One use 8-core AMD CPUs, both of which until recently utilized 6 cores for game resources and 2 cores for operating system workloads.
The issue for Microsoft was that the Xbox One was lagging behind the PS4 in performance in most situations. Some times the performance difference was small, but at others it was pretty significant. It’s not unusual for the PS4 version of games to run in higher resolution or smoother frame rates than the Xbox One.
Microsoft made a hardware platform choice that uses less powerful components than the PS4, but late last year Microsoft closed a bit of that performance gap by enabling the 7th core to be utilized for game workloads. There was a trade off for that additional power, though, as there always is. Usually the additional power came at the expense of disabling Kinect and voice controls while the game in question was running. The upgraded power has kept the Xbox One in the race, but it has never caught up, due in large part to the GPU choice that was made for the system. The Xbox One uses graphics hardware with fewer stream processors than the PS4 video chipset, with a theoretical max throughput roughly 66% that of the PS4, so in reality the Xbox is doing quite well to hang in the same weight class. (Edit: inserting spec list to cite my sources, since what is common knowledge to some is not common knowledge to all)
The Xbox One is still a successful platform due in large part to the platform exclusive games that Microsoft is able to develop and license. Franchises such as Halo, Forza, Gears of War, and others are the cornerstone to the platform. In that regard, Microsoft is falling into a more Nintendo-esque niche in this generation, which is by no means a slight. The ability to strongly compete on a great software library in spite of performance discrepancies is not a weakness, it’s a success. The Xbox is a great platform for people that want to just sit down and play a game without worrying about upgrading hardware and software on a PC.
Turning it up
Now with the PS4 reaching maturity in its life-cycle and the core OS reaching ever more optimized code states, Sony has gone ahead and unlocked the 7th core inside the PS4, which should extend the performance gap that much more concretely going forward.
It should be noted that the unlocked 7th CPU core does not mean current PS4 games will run any faster.[bctt tweet=”The unlocked 7th CPU core does not mean current PS4 games will run any faster.”] Software will have to specifically be written to take advantage of that 7th core. What it does mean, though is that going forward, there is that much more horsepower available for developers to include CPU intensive code to include additional features or better AI routines, etc.
What remains to be seen is whether the system software has been optimized and streamlined enough that it can run efficiently with only one dedicated core, thereby making the entire 7th core available, or if only a portion of the 7th core’s total processing power will be available. Either way the PS4 is getting more powerful than before, which can only mean good things in the future for PS4 owners.
As a person who hasn’t jumped into the current generation of consoles (because I am primarily a PC gamer), it is very interesting to see established hardware platforms evolve as the underlying software evolves behind the scenes. The days of the NES, SNES, Playstation, etc. are long gone. In that era the hardware you had was all the hardware you were ever going to get. Today so much can be done via software and firmware updates, thanks to the internet. New functionality can be added, workloads can be optimized, and features can be added or removed. It’s an awesome time to be a tech enthusiast, even if you’re not a gamer!
So in spite of the “fanboy wars” that occur when you talk about the various systems, watching the progress each manufacturer makes along the way is really cool.