Aftermath: Xbox 360 vs. Playstation 3 Part 1

This is the absolute war all console fanboys have been waging on forums for what must have been months. I, frankly will fall back to the simple argument most hardcore gamers will use: does the platform have enough good games I can't get on my PC? If it does, I'll buy it. Contrary to the superstar phenomenon, several good games are better than one best game. Many people will agree with that. If Rockstar Games released a console that would play nothing but what they made, would you buy it? Of course you would. But would it stand a chance if EA made a console that played only what they made? Of course not. Now, apparently, Microsoft has released a comparative analysis on its console versus the Playstation 3 specifications. I'll try to take an unbiased view at these - and what I gather from such things. An example of what Microsoft apparently said is on IGN and on MajorNelson's site. Click here to see it (IGN).

First of all, the CPU comparison is impossible to be accurate regardless of whichever side you're on. IT's just not realistic to fight wars over which CPU is more powerful - if Sony's specs are to be trusted - face it - PS3 outclasses Xbox 360. We've been using FLOPS to compare processing power for a long time - it is no argument. As for which one is better for multimedia and games - only the developers and engineers know - no point of argument as to which is better for games - that comparison cannot be made unless we know exactly how far optimized code meant to do the same thing on each console is run.

Next point, GPU power. Is this comparable also? In my opinion, they are also not comparable - not without a common benchmark. I cannot possible pit 48 unified pipelines on paper versus err... a possible paper tiger. We have no idea how many shaders the RSX has - and so, regardless of what Microsoft or anyone else says - we have to compare apples to apples - we have to take the shader operations per second for comparison and nothing else, due to the lack of data. Of this case, it's obvious who wins, but it isn't truly obvious who is better in real life.

The third and funniest point in my opinion, is how Microsoft tries to recoup lost bandwidth ground by comparing total system bandwidth thorugh a system of... summing everything up together. Which, of course makes little sense. It's more sensible to compare bandwidth more identically - like CPU to memory, then, GPU to memory, rather than CPU to memory + GPU to memory + GPU to eDRAM. If we do this, it's saying the Xbox 360 trumps the PS3, but then again, the PS2 trumps the Xbox? I don't think so - we've seen this NOT HAPPENING.

As for ease of development, I agree with Microsoft's comparison - 3 general cores sounds less intimidating the 1 general core + 7 specific cores. This, IMHO, is comparing apples to apples. However, saying that the 7 specific cores nearly completely useless in general purposes is most definitely something fishy - how is it that a floating point operation can be done, if it can do much of any simpler stuff?

Later, Microsoft went into more specific words when it came to GPU comparisons - but I'm pretty certain that this comparison was already from the beginning botched - the comparison was based on a chip twice as powerful as the 6800 Ultra. However, the RSX was announced to be more powerful than two 6800 Ultra processors - regardless of what anyone has to say about it - the word 'more' does not mean 'more than or equals to'. It merely means 'more than'. The rest of the comparison is pure speculation - to me - they should just release some fixed counts if they really wanted to win this battle rather than speculations on whether or not the PS3 specs included certain things or not - my guess is that we are actually already comparing apples to apples - and Microsoft is getting desperate. Speculation is not required if you are already more powerful - so there - leave the GPU question alone until more is known about the RSX and Cell.

Let's come down to a real conclusion - this was damage control that obviously didn't work. I'm certain a few things that just weren't mentioned - RSX probably has fewer shaders than X360's GPU, 2xAA is something that is likely to not happen properly with the RSX (but this may change as we close on spring 2006, which is a very long time away - I'm pretty sure rigging some RAM to offset AA is possible within the timeframe (I'm not an engineer - I don't know anything about chip architectures.

Let's get down to what neither company has revealed - cooling. Cooling processors of the power they are talking about is a crazy task - and I believe it cannot be done with air within the confines of something like the X360 or PS3 dummy chassis. 3 PowerPC cores should produce enough heat to make silence impossible, and the addition of a 48 pipeline GPU should make that even hotter! Are we looking at liquid cooling? OK, the PS3 one, I believe a little more - 1 PowerPC core and several smaller SPEs, so it might be slightly cooler, but nVidia's chips have been notorious to be really hot - so the RSX should run pretty hot also. How is cooling going to happen? I believe it's impossible with air in that type of space, but it's possible everything has access to fresh air via some port - but as sure as hell it's going to be very hot in that console chassis.

End of Part 1 - more when more details emerge, maybe half a year later. :P