Perhaps the most sought after metric from both the PS5 and Xbox Series X tech spec reveals is the GPU – not least because it powers essentially the entirety of next-gen console visual performance. So with that in mind, who wins in the PS5 GPU vs Xbox Series X GPU battle?
PS5 GPU Vs Xbox Series X GPU – Which Is Better?
Extracted below from the official tech spec sheets for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are the GPU performance metrics for both consoles. There’s no denying it – the Xbox Series X would seem to enjoy a fairly sizeable and immediate advantage when it comes to raw graphics processing power.
|PlayStation 5||Xbox Series X|
|GPU Performance||10.28 Teraflops, 36 Compute Units running at 2.23GHz (variable frequency)||12.11 Teraflops, 52 Compute Units running at 1.825GHz (fixed)|
|GPU Architecture||Custom AMD RDNA 2||Custom AMD RDNA 2|
Indeed, while both the PS5 GPU and the Xbox Series X GPU boast the same custom AMD RDNA 2 architecture, the Xbox Series X commands a clear lead in pure compute power and the resultant teraflop performance metric. So does this mean that the Xbox Series X can produce better visuals than the PS5?
Well, as with most things in life however, things are rarely so cut and dry.
PS5 GPU Vs Xbox Series X GPU – A Reminder About Teraflops
For a start there is one area where the Xbox Series X doesn’t have an advantage over PS5 and that’s in GPU clock speed. To hear Lead System Architect Mark Cerny describe it, it’s ultimately preferable to have a GPU that is much more ‘nimble’ than broadly powerful at a basic level.
Speaking to Digital Foundry, Cerny believes that while a teraflop figure might be common across two platforms, the one with the faster clock speed, despite having fewer compute units, would see better results that the teraflop figure would not necessarily represent.
“Performance is noticeably different, because ‘teraflops’ is defined as the computational capability of the vector ALU. That’s just one part of the GPU, there are a lot of other units – and those other units all run faster when the GPU frequency is higher. At 33 per cent higher frequency, rasterisation goes 33 per cent faster, processing the command buffer goes that much faster, the L1 and L2 caches have that much higher bandwidth, and so on,” Cerny explains in his presentation to Digital Foundry.
And this is the thing – while teraflops are an important metric it’s also important to remember that they are just one aspect of system performance and indeed, just one aspect of GPU performance too.
Without even taking into account other hardware aspects such as SSD (in which the PS5 commands a clear 2x advantage over Xbox Series X), it’s fair to say that saying one platform has technical dominance over the other is, at best, a muddy declaration that undersells the complexities involved.
PS5 GPU Vs Xbox Series X GPU – It’s All About The Special Sauce
Beyond such seemingly hard and fast GPU metrics, there is also the idea that Sony has done more under the hood than ‘just’ cram in a bunch of high performance components into its sub-assembly.
Not a new notion, console manufacturers have long leveraged the idea of ‘special sauce’ within their systems to accentuate certain facets of the hardware in order to eek out levels of performance that would belie the figures on paper.
While we still don’t know the full story behind the more nuanced aspects of the PS5 GPU, we do know that part of Sony’s special sauce implementation involves the use of AMD’s SmartShift technology. Specifically, this technology represents intelligent logic baked in at the silicon level that allows the PS5 to re-route any unused power from the CPU to the GPU in order for developers to get out a little bit more performance than they would have been able to otherwise.
What Does A GPU Actually Do?
The GPU that sits in both the PS5 and Xbox Series X is the primary component of each machine that is responsible for graphics rendering. From supporting 8K resolution to more complex, cutting-edge visual techniques such as ray tracing, the next-generation GPUs that feature in both and PS5 and Xbox Series X are essential to facilitating the sort of leap over current gen consoles such as PS4 and PS4 Pro that consumers (and developers) rightly expect.
PS5 GPU Vs Xbox Series X GPU – So Who Wins?
On paper then, the Xbox Series X is the clear winner, boasting superior compute power resulting in superior teraflop performance as a result. But as I hope you’ve been able to appreciate by now, Sony has a lot of intelligent design going on within the chassis of the PS5 that help to mitigate some of those disparities. Whether Sony can communicate such technological nuance to the masses at large, is another thing altogether unfortunately.