Looks like Microsoft is doing all it can between now and the final release of the Xbox One next-generation game console to close the gap between the Xbox One and the undeniably more powerful Sony PlayStation 4.
It’s no breaking news now. Ever unbiased soul (with the word “gamer” etched onto them) is disappointed with the Xbox One. Microsoft’s next-generation console tries to be a home entertainer and a set-top box with added abilities instead of a true gaming powerhouse, something that we’ve been waiting for a couple of years now. The Sony PlayStation 4 on the other hand has one primary focus, gaming. And it shows in the console’s dedication to powerful hardware, easy-to-develop console design (a unified GDDR5 memory pool to be accessed by the CPU and GPU is far easier than the complicated eSRAM model used by Microsoft). Additionally, the PS4 specifications with respect to the GPU (graphics processing unit, one of the most important parts of a “gaming” console) and RAM are far superior than the solutions found powering the Xbox One.
Not only did Microsoft go with a smaller GPU (the PS4 GPU made by AMD has 50% more processing cores, that’s a hefty increase) but also picked ultra-cheap DDR3 RAM (which should become extinct by the time these consoles reach their middle ages) which provides nearly 1/3rd the bandwidth provided by the screaming-fast GDDR5 RAM used in the PS4. And… The Xbox One is a bigger box, has an external power brick, doesn’t leave you with an option but to buy the (NSA funded, part of PRISM program) Kinect 2.0 add-on and then costs a whole $100 extra. For those who are going to start blaring your foghorns that the memory latency associated with GDDR5 will cripple the console, read what PS4 architect Mark Cerny has to say:
Latency in GDDR5 isn’t particularly higher than the latency in DDR3. On the GPU side… Of course, GPUs are designed to be extraordinarily latency tolerant so I can’t imagine that being much of a factor.
Now, coming to the small news that publication Examiner has reported. Microsoft is allegedly planning to pack 12 GB of RAM in the final Xbox One console when it ships later this year, in November. While hardware revisions so late into the development cycle seldom happen, Xbox One dev kits with 12 GB DDR3 RAM already exist. A prime reason why Microsoft has gone for an increase in the RAM capacity could be because only 5 GB of the total 8 GB would be available to developers (to be put to use by games). The PS4 in contrast offers 7 GB of its total 8 GB RAM, that’s a whole 2 GB of 170 GB/s bandwidth capable RAM extra to Sony’s console. The story behind the PS4 ending up with 8 GB of RAM is an interesting one too:
That was really a case where our developer-driven process worked. So we received feedback, we listened to the feedback, we altered the hardware as a result. As far as how late it was in the process, actually what you’re seeing there is just the developers were very, very good about keeping information confidential. As near as I can tell that all came from one rogue hacker, who wasn’t even disclosed by us, how managed to hack into a developer and extract both the Microsoft and Sony documentation.
Thank god that they doubled capacity from 4 GB to 8 GB, else I’d have been writing this very same article in the exact opposite direction today. A more plausible way for Microsoft to deal with the RAM limitation would be to re-allocate resources. Instead of letting the OS and background processes (we don’t need Netflix running in the background all the time, or Skype, or your spying software for that matter) eat up 3 GB of RAM, Microsoft could potentially cut that down to 1.5 GB or 1 GB and allocate the remaining 6.5 GB to 7 GB RAM for games (hear us MS, hear us!).
There’s also another rumor floating about that Microsoft might increase the clock speed of the Xbox One GPU. Now we can’t say if this is true, but it is entirely plausible for it to be. Sadly, we don’t see much advantage because the required clock speed increase to match up to something which has 50% more RAW hardware, the Xbox One GPU will simply run into thermal limitations. The best MS can do is to try and close the gap, as much as possible, without frying the console units. Additionally, the Xbox One development team is taking feedback from game developers asking for the possible changes that they’d like to see in the console. One thing from our side to Microsoft, it’s a little bit too late.
Read more related to Xbox One v/s PS4 saga here