Digital Foundry: PS4 could have 20% performance over Xbox One

A new generation of consoles means a era of console war. While it's widely accepted that PS4 will have the edge over Xbox One due to its faster RAM and more powerful GPU, how might that translate in terms of real-world performance? Digital Foundry's Richard Leadbetter attempts to find out in a fascinating experiment.

Of course, with neither Xbox One nor PS4 out in the wild, Leadbetter had to make PC approximations of the two upcoming consoles. Ultimately, the site equipped their "target Xbox One system" with a Radeon HD 7850, while their "PS4 surrogate" has a 7870 XT. The difference in compute units should replicate the gulf between the AMD tech in the two consoles: about 50 percent more computational power from PS4's GPU versus Microsoft's.

Although PS4 has a 50 percent advantage when it comes to the GPU, Leadbetter concludes that "more computer cores doesn't result in a linear scaling of performance." By testing various PC games at 1080p at the higest settings, it appears that the PS4 target system results in an average boost in framerate of about 24%.

Ultimately, without having access to final production consoles, it's hard to know exactly how different the two consoles will be. The target systems cannot account for a number of other factors that go into the new systems. Digital Foundry seems to express concern over Xbox One's memory bandwidth, especially as the report points out that "it's almost as important as raw computer power."

There are technical tricks that can be unlocked on Xbox One, and while PS4's memory is based on familiar "established technology," Xbox One's ESRAM is a "big unknown." Digital Foundry's test gave it "the benefit of the doubt" by equalizing it with PS4, "but clearly this is in no way guaranteed." For tech nerds, the upcoming console war will certainly be fascinating to see play out.