The first major battle of the next-gen console war has ended. Some claim that Sony has won this round. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) revealed more game-centric information about the Xbox One at E3 2013, and Sony (NYSE:SNE) finally lifted the curtain on the actual appearance of its PS4 console. Meanwhile, Nintendo's Wii U seemed to be doing poorly since its release last November, but figures have picked up following the E3 presentation of the PS4 and Xbox One.
There are winners and losers in every competition, and, while this console war is just beginning, at least we now know the specs for each new device. So do the consoles stack up on price and hardware?
As announced yesterday, the Xbox One will cost $499 at launch, whereas the PS4 will only retail for $399. The Nintendo Wii U is available in a $349 deluxe package, as well as a $299 basic version. Each console comes with completely different hardware, controllers and other accessories and will likely cost gamers a lot more than the up-front purchase price, so we decline to name a winner here.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (PS4) have extremely similar eight-core processors (CPU) from AMD that run at about 1.6GHz. The chips are codenamed Jaguar and paired with 8GB of system memory. The Wii U from Nintendo has a tri-core processor from IBM codenamed Espresso that clocks in last at 1.24 GHz.
Two-way tie: Xbox One and PS4
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The GPU is used for a lot more than graphics these days. In a gaming console, a more powerful GPU has the potential to provide more in-game detail, such as a character’s hair.
The Xbox One GPU is reportedly going to be very close to the AMD Radeon HD 7790, while the specs on the PS4 GPU more closely line up to the AMD Radeon HD 7870. The PS4 GPU will, if this is the case, be faster and more efficient.
The Wii U lags in this category as well. Its GPU is also manufactured by AMD (codenamed Latte) but only clocks at about 550 MHz versus the Xbox One and PS4 GPU’s clocking much closer to 1000 MHz.
System Memory (RAM)
Nintendo has often said it do not wish to compete on a hardware basis. After all, a man once said that it is “the motion in the ocean, not the size of the boat.” He was almost certainly referring to the Wii U, which has only 2GB of DDR3 system memory.
System memory is important for the console to take on a task like drawing a large map for a game’s character to explore. System memory or RAM is also necessary for smooth, lag-free multitasking.
The 8GB of system memory in the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is not an apples-to-apples comparison, as the memory in the PS4 is much faster. The Xbox One has DDR3 memory that runs at 2133MHz, while the PS4 has GDDR5 memory runs at 5500MHz. The PS4 memory correlates to a bandwidth speed of about 176GB per second from the memory to the processors, whereas the Xbox One memory can only provide its chips with about 68GB per second.
The Xbox One will also have 32MB of static memory, or SRAM, built onto its GPU, as well as another 30GB/s available for controllers, accessories and the Kinect. The SRAM on the Xbox One will be more complicated for developers to take advantage of than the simpler architecture found in the brains of the PS4.
Storage And Optical Drive
When it comes to terms of storage, both the Xbox One and the PS4 come with 500GB out of the box. This blows the 8GB found in the basic version of the Wii U out of the water and bests the 32GB deluxe version as well.
The Xbox One and the PS4 are both likely to store much more than game content on their hard drives, whereas the Wii U is less media-focused. However, 32GB is not a lot of space when compared to 500GB for downloadable content such as new maps or downloaded games.
Microsoft has finally given in at put a drive that plays Blu Ray in addition to DVD inside of the the Xbox One. Sony has decided to include DVD and Blu-ray but neglect the nearly obsolete audio and format known as CD-ROM. The Wii U can play nothing but games in its proprietary drive. I am giving the win to Microsoft here, because I still own CDs. I cannot remember the the last time I listened to one, but if I really wanted to, I would only be able to do so on the Xbox One.
Winner: Xbox One
So the PS4 beats the Xbox One when it comes to hardware, and the Wii U fails to compete in terms of raw power. And the PlayStation 4 beats the Xbox One in our comparison in two categories, with one tie and one relatively minor defeat.
Overall winner: PS4
With faster memory and a bigger and simpler graphics card, the PS4 appears on paper to be a much stronger foe. It is important to note that the devices are still yet to be released to the public, and direct hardware analysis is speculative at this point.
Check back later this week for an analysis of the controllers, peripheral accessories like Kinect and PlayStation Eye, and connectivity of these next-generation devices. Have you already decided which console you are going to buy, if any? Let us know what you think of the Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U in the comments section below.