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Game devs: Xbox Series X isn't significantly more powerful than PS5

GPU specs aren't everything, neither are TFLOPs: Game devs say the PlayStation 5 isn't inferior to the Xbox Series X despite the GPU discrepancy

Derek Strickland | Mar 22, 2020 at 04:53 pm CDT (21 mins, 27 secs reading time)

The Xbox Series X's 1.7TFLOP and 16 CU lead over the PlayStation 5 isn't all that substantial--at least that's what game developers tell Kotaku's Jason Schreier.

Game devs: Xbox Series X isn't significantly more powerful than PS5 14 | TweakTown.com

While gamers are scrutinizing Sony's next-gen console power, unnamed developers are praising the PlayStation 5 behind the scenes. Sony delivered a rather droll yet fascinating talk about the PS5, detailing GPU, CPU, RAM, and most importantly, SSD specs and made some big promises. But there's a sizable power discrepancy between the Xbox Series X and PS5. Microsoft's new Xbox is roughly 17% more powerful than the PS5 in terms of raw GPU TFLOP performance, and has 52 compute units versus the PS5's 36 CUs. That power differential may not be as meaningful to developers as you think.

In a recent Splitscreen podcast, industry journalist Jason Schreier, who has a close ear to game developers, said numerous devs are very excited about the PS5. The console isn't vastly inferior to the Xbox Series X, and the PlayStation 5 will hold its own in ways that haven't been outlined yet. Sony simply needs to have developers talk about the console and show us what the PS5 can really do.

Game devs: Xbox Series X isn't significantly more powerful than PS5 20 | TweakTown.comGame devs: Xbox Series X isn't significantly more powerful than PS5 57 | TweakTown.com

Bear in mind the following quotes were said in an offhand way, and are meant to highlight the general consensus of what certain developers are saying. We have no idea who these developers are, or what games they're working on, but given Schreier's position we should expect them to be all across the spectrum.

The quotes are second-hand paraphrases of what developers are saying about the PS5.

"The people that I've been talking to over the past few months and the past couple of years who are actually working on the PlayStation have pretty much unanimously all said 'this thing is a beast, it's one of the coolest pieces of hardware we've ever seen before, that we've ever used before.' There are so many things here that're revolutionary, so many behind the scenes tools and features and APIs."

"The general consensus is that both of these consoles are extremely powerful and are both very similar in a lot of ways and both also do different things in really cool ways. These are both extremely impressive pieces of technology. But because of the way Sony has actually presented and marketed the PS5, now the narrative is Xbox is way more powerful than the PlayStation. I think that's such a fatal flaw on Sony's part for this console generation.

"What I'm hearing from people who are actually working on these consoles is that the Xbox is not significantly more powerful than the PlayStation despite the TFLOPS numbers, and that the TFLOPs might be a useful measurement in some ways, but ultimately it's a theoretical max speed and there's so many things that could come between.

"I'm getting DMs from developers all the time saying it's a shame because the PS5 is superior in all these other ways that they're not actually able to reveal right now. I've heard from at least 3 different people since the Cerny presentation that the PS5 is actually the more superior hardware in a lot of different ways despite what we're seeing on spec sheets.

"A technically-minded person I talked to who actually focuses on this stuff told me 'it's going to be hard to actually market this stuff because it's very hard to convey what makes a difference.'"

Read Also: Sony's PS5 talk wasn't enough--for next-gen, seeing is believing

One developer says the Xbox Series X's power lead is pretty huge, though.

Ex-Killzone dev Chris Grannell says the new Xbox has a "staggering" jump over the PlayStation 5.

By all accounts I'd expect the Xbox Series X to be the most developer friendly thanks to its robust API toolsets and scaling solutions. Devs can make one game that's compatible with all versions of Xbox consoles, and Smart Delivery optimizes any enhancement upgrades.

Ultimately though these two consoles are extremely similar.

They both feature PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe M.2 SSDs with customized hardware, they both have hardware-based decompression on a custom I/O block, they both utilizes AMD's new RDNA 2 GPU architectures and flexible Zen 2 CPUs, and they both use 16GB GDDR6 memory.

Yes, the overall performance values are different. The CPU, GPU, and even memory bandwidths are all different, as is the SSD speeds (Sony's PS5 is a lot faster than the Xbox Series X's, but the Xbox Series X has a beefier GPU and more compute units that'll help delivery better raytraced games). But when it comes down to it, both systems are going to be alike and unique at the same time, and it goes beyond just video game selection. Until we hear more from developers it'll be hard to determine which one is "better," and even then, it'll be subjective.

Sony simply needs to match Microsoft's transparency and reveal a bunch of new info about the PlayStation 5. We need to see the console, to see games running on it, and hear what actual third-party devs have to say--not just first-party teams.

Until that happens, the narrative will favor the Xbox Series X...and rightly so, because Microsoft has made a tremendous effort for clarity this time around.

The PS5 will release in Holiday 2020, and it may cost $499.

Check below for more info on everything we know about the PlayStation 5 so far:

PlayStation 5 specs and details:

  • Custom SoC with second-gen Navi GPU, Zen 2 CPU
  • 8-Core, 16-thread Zen 2 CPU at 3.5GHz
  • Navi 2X GPU with 36 CUs on RDNA 2 at 2.23GHz
  • Ultra-fast 825GB SSD with up to 9GB/sec speeds
  • Support for 4K 120 Hz TVs
  • Ray-tracing enabled
  • 8K output support (for gaming)
  • Plays PS4 games, BC is on a title-to-title basis
  • Separate games that ship on BD-XL Blu-ray discs
  • New controller with extensive haptic and tactile feedback

PlayStation 5 Coverage:

Last updated: Apr 6, 2020 at 04:34 pm CDT

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Derek Strickland

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Derek Strickland

Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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