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?


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.

From The Chatty
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    July 31, 2013 2:15 PM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, 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?

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      July 31, 2013 2:25 PM

      So they built two PCs that sort of have the same specs as the two consoles and ran some tests with them?

      This entire article is completely useless.

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        July 31, 2013 3:27 PM

        I find most of the "x is better than y" debates pointless, Im sure they will each have strengths and weaknesses that will appeal/disappoint different players/developers.....and I won't be getting either of them anyway.

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        July 31, 2013 3:27 PM

        Not to mention that performance isn't really a huge qualifier for anything anymore. Developers will continue to develop for both consoles using the lowest performing console as a test subject because it's too costly to futz around with separate builds just for performance.

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          July 31, 2013 3:41 PM

          Yeah, I imagine the only games that will look noticeably better will be Sony exclusives. That's why I hope Valve gets everyone to move to Linux. Everything is pretty much a PC anyway, we might as well be using the platform where corporations have the least control.

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          July 31, 2013 6:29 PM

          Actually, performance is still big issue and always will be. Many multi-platform titles are rendered at a lower resolution on the PS3 than on the Xbox 360 due to the slower GPU in the PS3. In side by side screenshot comparisons the PS3 often looks pretty bad. I suspect we'll see the same situation in reverse for the PS4 and Xbox One.

          Performance is always going to be an issue because developers will have to make sacrifices if they can't hit their frame rate target, whether that be lowering the rendering resolution or disabling some visual effects.

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          August 1, 2013 1:05 AM

          Right, because they're binary compatible otherwise. Of course they have separate builds. At the very least, Xbox will use d3d.

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      July 31, 2013 3:28 PM

      Very surprised it's only 20% - I guess that ESRAM is going to do well.

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        July 31, 2013 3:46 PM

        Don't make the mistake of drawing conclusions from this.

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          July 31, 2013 11:22 PM

          Yes, the methodology on display at Digital Foundry in this article is incomprehensibly flawed. For an attempt to investigate the relative performance of the two systems, Leadbetter sure goes out of his way to nullify many of the PS4's architectural advantages in how he chose the "surrogate hardware". So when you ignore the bandwidth advantages, the unified memory, the fill-rate advantage the PS4 advantage is still ~25%? So what happens when you take off the handcuffs, certainly not as Digital Foundry concludes: "there's every reason to believe that the stark on-paper compute deficit may not be as pronounced in actual gameplay as the spec suggests."

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        July 31, 2013 9:06 PM

        The did use the word could.... sounds pretty set in stone to me.

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      July 31, 2013 6:13 PM

      As fun as these console wars are to argue back and forth (it annoys some people but I love this stuff when new consoles are on the way) I really think console power is less of an issue this generation than any other previous generation. Even now at the end of the this generation, the graphics are 'good enough' so that it's more the design and art direction which shows through than the power of the system. I think both consoles will be powerful enough so that developers have the tools and the pallet they need to paint their pretty pictures. The limitation is on the creative end more so than the technical end I think.

      I'm currently playing through Super Mario Galaxy 2 with my son... it might not be HD but that game looks GOOD. The Wii is shit hardware in terms of graphics (I think my phone probably blows it away) but SMG2 is just an expertly crafted game and it's a joy to look at even on that system. It's kind of interesting but now that we are finally getting a little bit closer to photo-realism... it seems like that's not what we really want in the end... a well done stylized design often looks 'better' than reality in a way.

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        July 31, 2013 6:42 PM

        Nintendo has a way of doing that, check out Wind Waker next.

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          July 31, 2013 7:48 PM

          Yeah, its a perfect example. I played that one on the GameCube when it came out.

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        July 31, 2013 6:50 PM

        At the end of the day it will depend on which system developers build around. PC's are significantly more powerful than consoles but very few games took advantage of it. The money was in the console scene after all. However when we had our Crysis, Metro 2033, and modded, playable even, Skyrim. We were largely amazed.

        This gen, as the previous, I think very few developers will focus on high end PC. However they cannot build games around 30 fps or 60fps PS4 specs neither. I suspect they will build around a common denominator, the XBO. The more powerful will see better FPS, and in the case of PC's better resolutions, AA, and other effects since we can typically screw around with settings regardless of the developers consent.

        For better or worse Nintendo is doing their own thing. Not all games can rely on style. Sometimes gritty realism in the best approach.

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          July 31, 2013 11:52 PM

          Agreed. However, the fact that PS4, XBONE, and PC are all X86 provides some interesting scenarios. Really with similar architecture games should just be able to scale depending on the horsepower available, since technically both Sony and MS could release any of their games for the PC. Given that MS owns the PC market I would expect MS to offer titles. And in truth there is just no reason they should not allow XBOX games to be sold on the Windows Store like any other Windows 8 Games. They would grow the XBOX brand far more by having it work on tablets (if/when they take off), phones and PCs as well as XBOX. Here's hoping.

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            August 1, 2013 12:04 AM

            why would i buy an xbone if I have a PC then?

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      July 31, 2013 7:43 PM

      I'll probably be going with the X1 simply for the controller. When I feel like I need the most power I can get, I'll play on my PC.

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        July 31, 2013 7:49 PM

        Have you demo'd the new PS4 controller yet?

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          July 31, 2013 9:00 PM

          Yeah, it seems like I've heard better things about the PS4 controller from people who have actually touched the things.

          rudds had a mini-orgasm over that controller. :)

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      August 1, 2013 12:36 AM

      I propably won't buy the PS4 because of controller and noise issues.

      From the first pictures it looks like the PS4 has a very small fan which requires higher RPM. After seeing the noise issues of many PS3 slims I really worry about that.

      The PS3 controller (and according to images the PS4 one too) has a serious issue: The left analog stick should be placed higher, like the one from the X360 controller. Whenever I visit friends who own a PS3 my thumbs starts to hurt after playing Fifa for more than 20 minutes. I don't understand why Sony doesn't switch to a more user-friendly design of it's controller.

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        August 1, 2013 2:53 AM

        i'd say try the controller first before you say anything bad about it
        everyone that's tried both seem to like the new ps4 controller

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        August 1, 2013 5:25 AM

        Give it a try. The PS4 controller is significantly improved. Every single review has talked about how they are at parity in terms of quality now.

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        August 1, 2013 6:21 AM

        Do you not remember the Jetbox360? What makes you think its going to be limited to the PS? At the end of the day you might only need a small fan if the ventilation has been designed well.

        I think you being a little presumptuous, if things like that are going to bother you then id hold off from buying either to begin with.

        Although it seems that your not going anywere near the PS3 anyway, just your reasoning seems a little odd considering they have completely resdesigned the controller, which you have never used.

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        August 1, 2013 7:56 AM

        so you think it'll be noisy from the picture?

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          August 1, 2013 8:07 AM

          haha exactly what i was thinking

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            August 1, 2013 8:11 AM

            It might "read" a little funny, but smaller fans are absolutely noisier fans. Smaller pathways for air to move through also create a rush that tends to whistle. Now I'm not saying that I can look at the photo and see that the PS4 will sound like a little klaxon. But I think that you would easily prefer a larger fan and vent space where you can manage it, this lets you move more air with slower fan rotation and lessens any possibility of noise, be it from the wind or simple vibration. The innards would be more interesting to see for this than just the exterior case for this though.

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          August 1, 2013 11:12 AM

          I could be wrong on the PS4 but usually smaller fans are louder because they require a higher speed.

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      August 1, 2013 7:58 AM

      "how might that translate in terms of real-world performance?"

      who cares? this will affect a tiny portion of the console market who own both consoles and weigh their purchases based on performance

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      August 1, 2013 8:04 AM

      i can't wait until both consoles have been out for a couple of years so the stupid battles die off.

      the best time is when they're mature, have a robust library, and a handful of titles that push each piece of hardware.

      it's so incredibly dumb to battle over these things.

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