With the PS5 and Xbox Series X specifications now out in the wild, it’s fair to say that we all now have a much better idea how the two next-gen consoles stack up. One such area is the memory that each console uses. So, is the PS5 GDDR6 RAM better than the Xbox Series X GDDR6 RAM? Read on to find out!
PS5 GDDR6 RAM Vs Xbox Series X GDDR6 RAM – Which Is Better?
As ever, the best place to start is with some nice solid figures!
|PlayStation 5||Xbox Series X|
|Memory/Interface||16GB GDDR6/256-bit||16GB GDDR6/320-bit|
|Memory Bandwidth||448GB/sec||10GB at 560GB/Sec, 6GB at 336GB/Sec|
Right off the bat the immediate takeaway is that the amount of GDDR6 RAM in both the PS5 and Xbox Series X is identical, as is the interface (256-bit) that the memory allocation in both consoles use.
So far so similar then.
PS5 GDDR6 RAM & Xbox Series X GDDR6 RAM – What’s Up With That Bandwidth?
Where things get a little more complex however, is when we get to the notion of memory bandwidth. Not least because while both consoles boast the same amount of GDDR6 RAM, each of them has different memory bandwidth speeds attached and a different interface configuration (PS5 supports 256-bit, while Xbox Series X supports 320-bit).
Let’s start with the PS5 GDDR6 RAM memory bandwidth as that’s the simpler of the two. The PS5 GDDR6 RAM memory bandwidth clocks in at a super quick 448GB/Sec – which is MUCH faster than the 176GB/Sec that the 8GB of GDDR5 RAM within PS4 is clocked at. The PS5 GDDR6 performance then is easy to understand.
Where things become a little more tangled is when we take a look at the memory bandwidth of the Xbox Series X GDDR6 RAM.
Splitting up the 16GB total into 10GB running at 560GB/Sec and the remaining 6GB being clocked at 336GB/Sec, it’s reasonable to say that Microsoft’s approach to RAM allocation is somewhat atypical.
Speaking to Digital Foundry, Xbox system architect Andrew Goosen explained the reason for the two different GDDR6 bandwidths within Xbox Series X “Memory performance is asymmetrical – it’s not something we could have done with the PC. 10 gigabytes of physical memory [runs at] 560GB/s. We call this GPU optimal memory. Six gigabytes [runs at] 336GB/s. We call this standard memory. GPU optimal and standard offer identical performance for CPU audio and file IO. The only hardware component that sees a difference in the GPU.”
How And Why Xbox Series X Divides Up Its RAM Matters
What this means is that whereas PS5 memory is of an equal speed to all elements of the silicon that can use it, Microsoft’s engineers have prioritized that the 10GB of super fast RAM (which is faster than the RAM used in PS5), for use with the GPU, while the remaining 6GB of ‘normal’ speed RAM can be used for other less processor intensive functions.
This actually dovetails quite neatly into Microsoft’s declaration that developers will have 13.5GB of that GDDR6 RAM pool available to them, while the remaining 2.5GB sits in the background, dealing with the shell, UI and other non-obvious tasks.
What this also means us that of that 13.5GB that developers can actually use – while 10GB of it will be running at the faster rate of 560GB/Sec, 3.5GB of it won’t be and will instead clock much lower (and underneath the PS5) at 336GB/Sec.
In regards to the PS5, Sony hasn’t been forthcoming on how much of its 16GB GDDR6 total allocation will be used to support the UI, but we would have to assume at this point (until we know differently), that it’ll be in the same ballpark.
Why Only 16GB Of RAM In Both Consoles?
If you think back to the fact that the Xbox One X had 12GB of GDDR5 RAM – the idea that the Xbox Series X only has 16GB of GDDR6 RAM, hardly seems like a big leap at all. Even the PS5 boasting 16GB of GDDR6 RAM versus the 8GB of GDDR5 RAM found in the PS4 Pro, is a two times increase – something that is far less of a greater leap than the PS4 which boasted 16 times as much RAM as the PS3 before it.
Again, there is a very good, technical reason for this.
Simply, the SSD’s that will ship with both the Xbox Series X and the PS5 are so deeply connected to the rest of the silicon and are so screamingly fast, that both the PS5 and Xbox Series X can ‘co-opt’ portions of the SSD to work alongside the RAM to lift the burden on system memory tasks like dealing with level streaming, asset loading and background operation of additional apps, games and programs. Which means…
So… Who Wins?
While Microsoft’s Xbox Series X has a portion of the faster memory on paper and a 320-bit memory bus (which actually doesn’t make very much difference at all – the Xbox One X had a 384-bit interface, for example), both machines have advantages in different areas and share such a common use of SSDs to aid with traditional system memory tasks that there really is very little difference between them as of right now.
Ultimately then, this is one area in which the two consoles, despite boasting some differences on paper will likely, in real-world performance prove to be extremely similar.