If you’re a gamer or just a tech enthusiast, you’ve likely seen the marketing for the next-generation consoles set to release in the holiday season 2020, i.e. probably this November. While both the Xbox One and the PS4 are showing their age to some, others struggle to see how the next generation will actually be different from the last.
Taking a look at the actual specs in the upcoming PS5 and Xbox Series X can leave those in the know a little disappointed: it being technology that PC gamers have been using for years. And then there are the games, few of which we’ve seen that give off a real next-gen feel.
However, if you look closer at the next-gen consoles, what you might not know is the advertising hype is totally justified: in the coming years, the PS5 and Xbox Series X are set to fundamentally change gaming and PC gaming in particular. Read on to learn why that’s the case!
For our purposes here, we’re going to consider the CPUs inside the PS5 and Series X to be equivalent. (We’re also not going to look too closely at the CPU/APU distinction.) This isn’t actually the case, as Microsoft and Sony are doing different things in terms of cooling and frequency, but the underlying technology is the same.
To understand the next generation, though, we have to understand the previous generations. CPU power in consoles has always been orders of magnitude less than in desktop PCs. For example, consider the PS4 and Xbox One. Those consoles released in 2013 with eight cores running in the high 1GHZ range.
Not very fast, perhaps, but eight cores isn’t so bad, right? Desktop computers have really only moved past four cores in the last couple years. It stands to reason then that the PS4 had similar power to a mid-range desktop in 2013, right?
Both the CPUs of the Xbox One and PS4 are built on AMD’s Jaguar microarchitecture. This is a 2013-era chip design made for low-power devices, like notebooks, mini-PCs, and tablets. Desktop computers were light years ahead of the last generation in terms of CPU power, and going back to older consoles, the gap usually only widens.
The upcoming consoles are built on AMD’s Ryzen Zen 2 microarchitecture, which is a full-fledged, desktop-grade, cutting-edge design. Both consoles have eight cores and run in the 3GHZ range, but the most important stuff here is not the frequency and the core count; instead, it’s the fundamental efficiency of the chip.
Sony’s PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X are the first consoles in modern history to bring CPU power roughly equivalent to the desktop computers of the time. This means simulation complexity in games can skyrocket, and the decades PC gamers have been dealing with poorly optimized console ports or worse performance than expected will slowly come to an end as games are designed to take advantage of powerful modern CPUs.
In short, it’s not that, of course, the PS5 is more powerful than the PS4: it’s that the PS5 (and Series X) is so powerful that it brings genuine high-end PC-grade hardware to the table.
Much has been said about the SSDs in the next-gen systems, particularly the PS5. Like CPUs, the SSDs in each console are different, and Sony has spent a lot of time custom-building a drive that is markedly faster than the Xbox Series X’s drive. However, in terms of the underlying technology, the benefits of both drives are going to be the same: they just may be more pronounced on the PS5.
Because PC gamers have been using SSDs for many years, this hasn’t struck many as an earth-shattering upgrade, but that’s far from the full story. Sony’s marketing claims for the PS5’s SSD in particular are audacious, calling its storage solution “far ahead of anything you can buy on anything on PC for any amount of money right now.” What is important is that on a fundamental level, solid-state storage, and the ultra-fast NVME brand of solid-state storage at that, will be at the disposal of all developers for all games.
Even if you, in the past, upgraded a PS3 or PS4 with an SSD, your benefits would be negligible because these systems were not designed to take advantage of the bandwidth of an SSD. For PC gamers themselves, the benefits in-game of solid-state drives are pretty negligible, too. Yes, loading is faster, but that’s usually about it. This is a byproduct of game development and game engines of the time: on a basic level they are not designed to stream in the enormous amounts of data SSDs can handle.
But now that developers can build their games with the expectation that solid-state storage will be available on all platforms, games themselves will begin to change. PC gamers will finally be able to properly leverage their storage devices.
Are you excited by the next-gen consoles? Do you think games will change for all gamers in the coming years, or is all of the hype misplaced? Let us know in the comments down below!