News: Console War 2020

PS5 Specs Revealed

Merry Christmas. It is the season for gift-giving, and this week the internet has given us the gift of some fairly substantial specs for the AMD chip which is set to be used in the PS5. This information comes from an AMD employee who posted a bunch of AMD chip benchmarks to GitHub. The PS5 chip is internally referred to as ‘Oberon’, and we know that this is the PS5 chip for an absolute fact because the chip has two low performance modes which are an exact match for the performance profiles of the PS4 and PS4 Pro. This being said, this information is many months old, and there is still almost a year until the PS5 is released. This means that while the silicon is unlikely to change, the frequency at which the chip runs may still be tweaked by Sony in order to hit performance and thermal requirements.

... A modest console made to a price point.
The PS5…

As things stand the PS5 will feature 8 Zen 2 CPU cores, which are each capable of executing two threads. This current leak does not mention the clock speed that the CPU is running at, but a previous credible leak had the CPU running at 3.2ghz, and that seems like a good bet. The PS5 will feature 36 Navi compute units which are clocked at 2ghz. The PS5 GPU has 9.2 teraflops of power. The PS5 is using GDDR6 RAM, at least at this stage, the leak does not mention how much RAM will be included, but it has been rumoured to be 16GB. There is some ambiguity to to the memory bandwidth benchmarks seen in the leaks. Some of the benchmarks indicate that the memory bandwidth is 448GB per second, while other benchmarks indicate that the memory bandwidth is 512GB per second – so either the memory bandwidth differs depending on the type of task which is being performed, or more likely the system memory has been upgraded to slightly faster RAM at some point. Basically the PS5 CPU is running twice the number of software threads as the PS4, and it is clocked at almost twice the frequency. The PS5 is also likely to have double the amount of RAM as the PS4. Finally, the PS5 GPU teraflops is a little over twice that of the PS4 Pro GPU. This level of performance is basically a lock, but it may be subject to a small degree of change if Sony decides to make some tweaks in the year ahead.

Series X Specs Revealed?

The specs for Microsoft’s Series X console are also thought to have been released, but they cannot be verified to as high of a degree as Sony’s Oberon chip. The Oberon chip could be completely verified due to the PS4 backwards compatibility modes, but the benchmarks for the Arden chip which is thought to power the Series X console had no such accompanying data. As such, this Series X information needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, while the PS5 info does not. That being said, the Series X information does seem fairly solid.

... But at what price?
It seems that the Series X will be much more powerful than PS5…

The Series X CPU will be comprised of 8 Zen 2 CPU cores, each capable of executing two code threads. Again, CPU frequency was not mentioned, but 3.2ghz is a good bet. The Series X GPU will feature 56 Navi compute units. The system is thought to be targeting 12 teraflops, so given the number of compute units, it is probably safe to assume that the GPU is clocked at 1.7ghz. This means that the Series X GPU is roughly 3 teraflops more powerful than the PS5 GPU. Like the PS5 the Series X is using GDDR6 RAM, and like the PS5 the amount of that RAM is unspecified, but 16GB is a good bet. The Series X memory bandwidth is 560GB per second. In terms of CPU threads and the amount of RAM, the Series X will effectively double what was present in the launch model of the Xbox One. In terms of GPU, the Series X will effectively double the power of the Xbox One X! Of course, such comparisons to last gen specs are not all that meaningful, as they do not take into account the hugely more efficient system architecture. The real story here is that the Series X GPU is significantly more powerful than the PS5 GPU. It would appear that the Series X casing is shaped like a desktop tower for good reason!

What Does This All Mean?

At first glance you might think this is all bad news for Playstation. It is certainly bad news for enthusiast gamers that favour Playstation who would rather spend a little extra money in order to have a GPU as capable as the one in the Series X. While this may not be good for enthusiast gamers, it nevertheless means that Sony finds itself in the position of holding all the cards.

... Xbox might find themselves in PS3 territory.
Sony could deliver another knock out punch here if they price the PS5 just right…

The Series X is not the only Xbox console that Microsoft has in development. Microsoft has two consoles in development, the Anaconda (Series X) and the Lockheart. The Lockheart was intended to be the entry level Xbox console, while the Anaconda (Series X) was intended to be the expensive premium X console. With a 4 teraflop GPU, the Lockheart is less than half as powerful as the PS5, and was being viewed extremely negatively by developers, who predict that its launch would hold back the entire generation of development. Earlier this year Microsoft appeared to confirm that they had cancelled their Lockheart console, presumably to appease developers, and this was widely reported, but it is now alleged that Microsoft lied, and they did not actually cancel the console, but instead have kept it in a state of limbo. The fact that Microsoft has unveiled the Series X yet has chosen to keep the Lockheart locked in the closet like a dirty secret seems to indicate that they would love to cancel the Lockheart, and thereby appease the development community, yet they can only do this if Sony decides to charge a high enough price for the PS5. The Series X has some pretty nice specs so if Sony undercuts the price by just a little then Microsoft would probably by okay with that, but if the PS5 is able to undercut the Series X by a significant margin then that would be a huge problem, which is why they have the budget price Lockheart waiting in the wings.

If Sony has the tiniest inkling of business sense then they will hold off on announcing the PS5 price tag until the very last window of opportunity in order to leave the Xbox team in the lurch regarding their own Series X launch strategy, and then announce at last minute that the PS5 will carry a consumer friendly price (somewhere between $399 and $450). This would leave the Xbox team in the horrible position of having to choose between being significantly undercut on price, having to match Sony on price by taking a huge loss on every console sold, or devising a launch strategy and marketing for the budget Lockheart console at literally the eleventh hour. It would be a mess, and confusing as hell for consumers.

2 comments

  1. PS5 controller handles will un-snap and fold out to reveal even more buttons and interactive doohickies. The new Xbox One X One Xbox controller will look normal, but deceptively takes only voice control for all inputs (the buttons and pads are merely there to remind you of which inputs are possible). Nintendo reveals DIY foldable cardboard joycons.

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