Last week the PS5 finally revealed some technical details, albeit in a rather dry way via a developers lecture as opposed to an official public launch. For those who sat through the hour-long video, there was some fascinating discussion as to how Sony has re-engineered and customised the hell out of the system architecture in order to squeeze every drop of power out of it that they can.
However, like whenever someone publishes a film review, it was TL;DR for many who didn’t care to read and jumped straight to the score – namely the specs and more specifically the ‘TFLOPS’ measurement. On that front, there wasn’t a debate – the Xbox Series X has a 17% advantage over the PlayStation 5 in terms of its potential maximum power (12.15TF to 10.29TF). On the other hand, the PS5 has a decided advantage in terms of loading speed.
In the wake of the reveal, fanboys and armchair experts galore have been trying to compare the two and making all sorts of wild claims. However until Sony is more forthcoming about its new console to the level Microsoft has been with the Xbox Series X, and until we’ve seen some comparison of games on the machines, it’s all moot – and that’s before we’ve gotten to the issues of price and exclusives.
That said, the one group of people who do have some legitimate stuff to say are game developers themselves, the ones who have actually been working with both these consoles for months now. A couple of recent articles have had developers speaking about their experience and have advised that the difference between the two on all fronts is more equal than you might expect.
A recent Splitscreen podcast has industry journalist Jason Schreier saying he’s spoken to game developers about both consoles and says the PlayStation 5 will hold its own in ways that haven’t been outlined yet:
“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 are 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.’”
John Linneman of Digital Foundry agrees, tweeting: “The craziest thing about PS5 is the speed of the SSD. 5.5 GB/s is just part of the story – there is a lot of custom silicon in there to ensure that the system isn’t bottlenecked in other areas. It’s ‘REALLY’ fast on paper – a lot faster than Xbox Series X even.”
Others say different. Tech analyst site Notebookcheck says the gap between the Xbox Series X and PS5 graphical capabilities would likely result in Microsoft’s console being up to a whopping 25-30% more powerful than its Sony rival going by the stats they’ve seen of AMD Navi and how they perform in terms of overclocking.
Back to Sony and new patents published by the United States Patent Office (via T3) have offered a clear indication as to how the console’s operating system will function which includes what sounds like a variation on the same ‘quick jump’ feature of the Xbox SX with the ability to have multiple games loaded and ready to jump into almost instantaneously with the UI able to provide stats without having to take the time to quit a game and/or load a game to see them.
Then there’s backwards compatibility. The developers lecture would seem to suggest that only a fraction of the 4,000 PS4 games would be playable come PS5 launch time, but that’s not true says Sony’s Senior Vice President of Platform Planning & Management Hideaki Nishino. Nishino-san tells Techspot:
“We’ve devoted significant efforts to enable our fans to play their favorites on PS5. We believe that the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5… In his presentation, Mark Cerny provided a snapshot into the Top 100 most-played PS4 titles, demonstrating how well our backward compatibility efforts are going. We have already tested hundreds of titles and are preparing to test thousands more as we move toward launch. We will provide updates on backward compatibility, along with much more PS5 news, in the months ahead.”
Finally, analysts DFC Intelligence (via Forbes.com) gives the technical edge to Xbox Series X, but says that with Sony coming into the generation with a sizeable market lead from the PS4’s dominance – it seems likely to maintain that position. They add that Microsoft should be able to increase its share with a much stronger start than it had with the Xbox One, meaning we could see a genuine closer to equal rivalry again like we saw with the PS3 vs. 360 generation. However they say that much of Xbox SX’s success “will depend on the strength of the offerings from Microsoft’s newly acquired studios.”
So far Xbox Series X certainly has had the upper hand with its launch, offering clear specs and have been very forthcoming about their console as opposed to Sony which still has many lingering questions. There’ll no doubt be more to come in the future.