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The PlayStation 5 GPU Will Be Supported By Better Hardware Solutions, In Depth Analysis Suggests

sonomamashine

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Jun 29, 2019
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Against the assault of laughter


The PlayStation 5 will feature a weaker GPU, compared to the Xbox Series X, but developers continue to praise the console. The raw specs are definitely not painting the whole picture about the new consoles, and a recent in-depth analysis suggests that the Sony next-gen console's GPU will have a better system supporting it, resulting in better overall performance.

On his blog, James Prendergast has been providing a very interesting on-going analysis of the next-generation consoles, based on what has been revealed so far. In his latest post, he took a look at how RAM, I/O and SSD speed and function will make a difference, considering the CPU difference between the two consoles is minimal.

We've been hearing for months that there's not much between the two devices from Microsoft and SONY, with "sources" on both sides of the argument claiming that each console has an advantage in specific scenarios. Incontrovertibly, Microsoft has the more performant graphics capabilites with 1.4x the physical makeup of the Playstation 5's GPU core. That's only part of the story though, with the PS5 running a minimum 1.2x faster than the Series X across the majority of workload scenarios. That narrows the advantage of the SX (in terms of pure, averaged, GPU compute power) to around 1.18x-1.2x that of the PS5.
But what about the CPU? Performing the same, simple ratio calculation, you can work out that the SX is 1.02x - 1.10x more powerful than the PS5's, depending on the scenario. Not that big a difference, really... and the CPU/GPU should sport pretty much the same feature set on both consoles.
Taking a look at the RAM configuration of both consoles, the analysis highlights how the Xbox Series X configuration is sub-optimal, as the asymmetric configuration used for the console can lead to reduced bandwidth once the symmetrical portion is full. The PlayStation 5 configuration, on the other hand, allows a static bandwidth for the entire 16 GB of GDDR6.

The SX has 2.5 GB reserved for system functions and we don't know how much the PS5 reserves for that similar functionality but it doesn't matter - the Xbox SX either has only 7.5 GB of interleaved memory operating at 560 GB/s for game utilisation before it has to start "lowering" the effective bandwidth of the memory below that of the PS5... or the SX has an averaged mixed memory bandwidth that is always below that of the baseline PS4. Either option puts the SX at a disadvantage to the PS5 for more memory intensive games and the latter puts it at a disadvantage all of the time.
Taking a look at the I/0 and SSD access, the analysis highlights how the Xbox Series X simply has a slower interface over the PlayStation 5's. The solution used by the Sony console allows for better data management within the RAM as well, allowing for less frequent reloading of data into the RAM, improving system efficiency.

Putting everything together, including how the PlayStation 5 audio hardware will take less CPU power compared to the Xbox Series X, the analysis reveals that the PlayStation 5 has the "bandwidth and I/O silicon in place to optimise the data transfer between all the various computing and storage elements". The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, has some sub-optimal implementations that are going to perform below the specs of the PlayStation 5, despite the inclusion of smart prediction engines.

Yes, the PS5 has a narrower GPU but the system supporting that GPU is much stronger and more in-line with what the GPU is expecting to be handed to it.
On a related note, a video released recently by Coreteks, who claims to have insider knowledge on both consoles, reaches the same conclusions. It is a very long video, but it's a very interesting watch nonetheless.



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We've been hearing for months that there's not much between the two devices from Microsoft and SONY, with "sources" on both sides of the argument claiming that each console has an advantage in specific scenarios. Incontrovertibly, Microsoft has the more performant graphics capabilites with 1.4x the physical makeup of the Playstation 5's GPU core. That's only part of the story though, with the PS5 running a minimum 1.2x faster than the Series X across the majority of workload scenarios. That narrows the advantage of the SX (in terms of pure, averaged, GPU compute power) to around 1.18x-1.2x that of the PS5.

But what about the CPU? Performing the same, simple ratio calculation, you can work out that the SX is 1.02x - 1.10x more powerful than the PS5's, depending on the scenario. Not that big a difference, really... and the CPU/GPU should sport pretty much the same feature set on both consoles.

However, everyone and their dog are talking about the GPUs and have been for a long time: It's not all that interesting to me at this point in time until more of their underlying architectures are revealed. Those three to four* things that are more interesting to me are:

  • RAM
  • I/O
  • SSD speed and function
  • Audio hardware
*I'm including I/O with the SSD as a complete concept despite listing them as separate bullet points.
Unfortunately, we don't have the full information on the SX's audio hardware implementation, meaning we can't yet do a proper comparison between the two consoles for that. So let's begin with the RAM configuration.

RAM

Let me put this bluntly - the memory configuration on the Series X is sub-optimal.

I understand there are rumours that the SX had 24 GB or 20 GB at some point early in its design process but the credible leaks have always pointed to 16 GB which means that, if this was the case, it was very early on in the development of the console. So what are we (and developers) stuck with? 16 GB of GDDR6 @ 14 GHz connected to a 320-bit bus (that's 5 x 64-bit memory controllers).

Microsoft is touting the 10 GB @ 560 GB/s and 6 GB @ 336 GB/s asymmetric configuration as a bonus but it's sort-of not. We've had this specific situation at least once before in the form of the NVidia GTX 650 Ti and a similar situation in the form of the 660 Ti. Both of those cards suffered from an asymmetrical configuration, affecting memory once the "symmetrical" portion of the interface was "full".


Interleaved memory configurations for the SX's asymmetric memory configuration, an averaged value and the PS5's symmetric memory configuration... You can see that, overall, the PS5 has the edge in pure, consistent throughput...

Now, you may be asking what I mean by "full". Well, it comes down to two things: first is that, unlike some commentators might believe, the maximum bandwidth of the interface is limited to the 320-bit controllers and the matching 10 chips x 32 bit/pin x 14 GHz/Gbps interface of the GDDR6 memory.

That means that the maximum theoretical bandwidth is 560 GB/s, not 896 GB/s (560 + 336). Secondly, memory has to be interleaved in order to function on a given clock timing to improve the parallelism of the configuration. Interleaving is why you don't get a single 16 GB RAM chip, instead we get multiple 1 GB or 2 GB chips because it's vastly more efficient. HBM is a different story because the dies are parallel with multiple channels per pin and multiple frequencies are possible to be run across each chip in a stack, unlike DDR/GDDR which has to have all chips run at the same frequency.

However, what this means is that you need to have address space symmetry in order have interleaving of the RAM, i.e. you need to have all your chips presenting the same "capacity" of memory in order for it to work. Looking at the diagram above, you can see the SX's configuration, the first 1 GB of each RAM chip is interleaved across the entire 320-bit memory interface, giving rise to 10 GB operating with a bandwidth of 560 GB/s but what about the other 6 GB of RAM?

Those two banks of three chips either side of the processor house 2 GB per chip. How does that extra 1 GB get accessed? It can't be accessed at the same time as the first 1 GB because the memory interface is saturated. What happens, instead, is that the memory controller must instead "switch" to the interleaved addressable space covered by those 6x 1 GB portions. This means that, for the 6 GB "slower" memory (in reality, it's not slower but less wide) the memory interface must address that on a separate clock cycle if it wants to be accessed at the full width of the available bus.

The fallout of this can be quite complicated depending on how Microsoft have worked out their memory bus architecture. It could be a complete "switch" whereby on one clock cycle the memory interface uses the interleaved 10 GB portion and on the following clock cycle it accesses the 6 GB portion. This implementation would have the effect of averaging the effective bandwidth for all the memory. If you average this access, you get 392 GB/s for the 10 GB portion and 168 GB/s for the 6 GB portion for a given time frame but individual cycles would be counted at their full bandwidth.

However, there is another scenario with memory being assigned to each portion based on availability. In this configuration, the memory bandwidth (and access) is dependent on how much RAM is in use. Below 10 GB, the RAM will always operate at 560 GB/s. Above 10 GB utilisation, the memory interface must start switching or splitting the access to the memory portions. I don't know if it's technically possible to actually access two different interleaved portions of memory simultaneously by using the two 16-bit channels of the GDDR6 chip but if it were (and the standard appears to allow for it), you'd end up with the same memory bandwidths as the "averaged" scenario mentioned above.

If Microsoft were able to simultaneously access and decouple individual chips from the interleaved portions of memory through their memory controller then you could theoretically push the access to an asymmetric balance, being able to switch between a pure 560 GB/s for 10 GB RAM and a mixed 224 GB/s from 4 GB of that same portion and the full 336 GB/s of the 6 GB portion (also pictured above). This seems unlikely to my understanding of how things work and undesirable from a technical standpoint in terms of game memory access and also architecture design.

In comparison, the PS5 has a static 448 GB/s bandwidth for the entire 16 GB of GDDR6 (also operating at 14 GHz, across a 256-bit interface). Yes, the SX has 2.5 GB reserved for system functions and we don't know how much the PS5 reserves for that similar functionality but it doesn't matter - the Xbox SX either has only 7.5 GB of interleaved memory operating at 560 GB/s for game utilisation before it has to start "lowering" the effective bandwidth of the memory below that of the PS5... or the SX has an averaged mixed memory bandwidth that is always below that of the baseline PS4. Either option puts the SX at a disadvantage to the PS5 for more memory intensive games and the latter puts it at a disadvantage all of the time.


The Xbox's custom SSD hasn't been entirely clarified yet but the majority of devices on the market for PCIe 4.0 operate on an 8 channel interface...


I/O and Storage

Moving onto the I/O and SSD access, we're faced with a similar scenario - though Microsoft have done nothing sub-optimal here, they just have a slower interface.

14 GHz GDDR6 RAM operates at around 1.75 GB/s per pin, per chip (14 Gbps [32 data pins per chip x 10 chips gives total potential bandwidth of 560 GB/s - matching the 320-bit interface]). Originally, I was concerned that would be too close to the total bandwidth of the SSD but Microsoft have upgraded to a 2.4/4.8 GB/s read interface with their SSD which is, in theory, enough to utilise the equivalent of 1.7% of 5 GDDR6 chips uploading the decompressed data in parallel each second, leaving a lot of overhead for further operations on those chips and the remaining 6 chips free for completely separate operations. (4.8 GB/5 (1 GB) chips /1.75x32 GB/s)

In comparison, SONY can utilise the equivalent of 3.2% of the bandwidth of 6 GDDR6 chips, in parallel, per second (9 GB/5 (2 GB) chips /(1.75x32 GB/s)) due to the combination of a unified interleaved address space and unified larger RAM capacity (i.e. all the chips are 2 GB in capacity so, unlike the SX, the interface does not need to use more chips [or portion of their total bandwidth] to store the same amount of data).

Turning this around to the unified pool of memory, the SX can utilise 0.86% of the total pin bandwidth whereas the PS5 can use 2.01% of the total pin bandwidth, all of this puts the SX at just under half the theoretical performance (ratio of 0.42) of the PS5 for moving things from the system storage.

Unfortunately, we don't know the random read IOPS for either console as this number will more accurately reflect the real world performance of the drives but going on the above figures this means is that the SX can fill the RAM with raw data (2.4 GB/s) in 6.67 seconds whereas the PS5 can fill the RAM (5.5 GB/s) in 2.9 seconds, again, 2.3x the rate of the SX (this is just literally the inverse ratio of the above comparison with the decompressed data).

However, that's not the entire story. We also have to look at the custom I/O solutions and other technology that both console makers have placed on-die in order to overcome many potential bottlenecks and limitations:

The decompression capabilities and I/O management of both consoles are very impressive, but again, SONY edges out Microsoft with the equivalent of 10-11 Zen 2 CPU cores to 5 cores in pure decompression power. This optimisation on SONY's part really lifts all of the pressure off of the CPU, allowing it to be almost entirely focussed on the game programme and OS functions. That means that the PS5 can move up to 5.5 GB/s compressed data from the SSD and the decompression chip can decompress up to 22 GB/s from that 5.5 GB compressed data, depending on the compressibility of that underlying raw data (with 9 GB as a lower bound figure).

Data fill rates for the entire memory configuration of each console; the PS5 unsurprisingly outperforms the SX... *I used the "bonus" 20% figure for the SX's BCPack compression algorithm.

Meanwhile, the SX can move up to 4.8 GB/s of compressed data from the SSD and the decompression chip can decompress up to 6 GB/s of compressed data. However, Microsoft also have a specific decompression algorithm for texture data* called BCPack (an evolution of BCn formats) which can potentially add another 20% compression on top of that achieved by the PS5's Kraken algorithm (which this engineer estimates at a 20-30% compression factor). However, that's not an apples-to-apples comparison because this in on uncompressed data, whereas the PS5 should be using a form of RDO which the same specialist reckons will bridge the gap in compression of texture data when combined with Kraken. So, in the name of fairness and lack of information, I'm going to leave only the confirmed stats from the hardware manufacturers and not speculate about further potential compression advantages.
*Along with prediction engines that try to reduce the amount of texture data moved to memory called Sampler Feedback Streaming [SFS] which improve efficiency of RAM usage - in terms of texture use - by 2x-3x. i.e. 2.7 MB per 4K texture instead of 8 MB.
While the SFS won't help with data loading from the SSD, it will help with data management within the RAM, potentially allowing for less frequent re-loading of data into RAM - which will improve the efficiency of the system, overall - something which is impossible to even measure at this point in time - especially because the PS5 will also have systems in place to manage data more intelligently.

This capability, combined with the consistent access to the entirety of the system memory, enables the PS5 to have more detailed level design in the form of geometry, models and meshes. It's been said by Alexander Battaglia that this increased speed won't lead to more detailed open worlds because most open worlds are based on variation achieved through procedural methods. However, in my opinion, this isn't entirely true or accurate.

The majority of open world games utilise procedural content on top of static geometry and meshes. Think of Assassin's Creed Odyssey/Origins, Batman Arkham City/Origins/Knight, Red Dead Redemption 2, GTA 5 or Subnautica. All of them open worlds, all of their "variations" are small aspects drawn from a standard pre-made piece of art - whether that's just a palette swap or model compositing. The only open world game that is heavily procedurally generated that I can think of is No Man's Sky. Even games such as Factorio or Satisfactory do not go the route of No Man's Sky...

In the majority of games, procedural generation is still a vast minority of the content generation. Texture and geometry draws are the vast majority of data required from the disk. Even in games such as No Man's Sky, there are meshes that are composited or even just entirely draw from disk.

The Series X's SSD actually looks like it can be replaced... although you'd have to disassemble the entire console to be able to do so...

Looking at the performance of the two consoles on last-gen games, you'll see that it takes 830 milliseconds on PS5 compared to 8,100 milliseconds on PS4 Pro for Spiderman to load whereas it takes State of Decay 2 an average of 9775 milliseconds to load on the SX compared to 45,250 milliseconds on One X. (Videos here) That's an improvement of 9.76x on the PS5 and 4.62x on the SX... and that's for last gen games which don't even fill up as much RAM as I would expect for next generation titles.
Here I attempted to estimate the RAM usage of each game based on the time it took to swap out RAM contents and thus game session. We can see that State of Decay 2 has some overhead issues - perhaps it's not entirely optimised for this scenario... this is a simple model and not accurate to actual system RAM contents since I'm just dividing by 2 but it gives us a look at potential bottlenecks in the I/O system of the SX.


Now, this really isn't a fair test and isn't necessarily a "true" indication of either console's performance but these are the examples that both companies are putting out there for us to consume and understand. Why is it perhaps not a true indication of their performance? Well, combining the numbers above for the SSD performance you would get either (2.4 GB/s) x 9.78 secs = 23.4 GB of raw data or (4.8 GB/s) x 9.78 secs = 46.9 GB of compressed data... which are both impossible. State of Decay 2 does not (and cannot) ship that much data into memory for the game to load. Not to mention that swapping games on the SX takes approximately the same amount of time... Therefore, it's only logical to assume there are some inherent load buffers in the game that delay or prolong the loading times which do not port over well to the next generation.

In comparison, the Spiderman demo is either (5.5 GB/s) x 0.83 secs = 4.6 GB or (9 GB/s) x 0.83 secs = 7.47 GB, both of which are plausible. However, since I don't know the real memory footprint of Spiderman I don't know which number is accurate.


This is a really interesting implementation of using a power envelope to determine the activity across the die...



Audio Hardware

In my opinion, the "pixel" is well and truly dead. The majority of PC players in the world play at the 1080p resolution. The majority of TVs in peoples' houses are 720-1080p. 4K is a vast minority - yes, of course it's gaining ground as people replace their screens but the point is that most people are happy with their current setup and don't see the added bonus of upgrading the resolution or size of the screen setup unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, Microsoft have pushed their audio features much less than SONY have - I presume because it was not a huge focus of the console, instead they decided to focus on raytracing, graphics throughput, variable refresh rate, auto low latency mode and HDR. If you're not going to use the added rasterisation power through targetting a higher resolution, instead opting for optimisations that allow you to render at lower resolutions and scale up, why bother modelling the console around that processing power in the first place?

In comparison, SONY hasn't even name-checked HDR output like Microsoft have with 3D audio.

What we do know about the SX's audio solution is that it is a custom audio hardware block which will output compatible signals in Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Windows Sonic codecs. This hardware will handle wave propagation and diffraction but has not officially (as far as I can find) linked this with the ray tracing engine on the GPU.

SONY, on the other hand, have gone all-in on their audio implementation. I had speculated previously that the audio solution might be based on AMD's TrueAudioNext and their GPU CU cores. Thinking that, I had presumed that the console designers would provide a subset of of their total CU count on the GPU for this function. Instead, SONY have actually modified the CU units from AMD's design to make them more like the SPUs in the PS3's Cell architecture (no SRAM cache, direct data access from the DMA controller through the CPU/GPU and back out again to the system memory). We don't know how many altered CUs are present in this Tempest engine but SONY have said that the SIMD computational power is equivalent to the entire 8 core Jaguar CPU that was in the PS4.

Essentially, SONY decided to reduce the amount of fully fledged CUs available to the GPU in order to provide this audio solution. This also means that the PS5's sound processing will take less CPU power from the system compared to the SX - which, again, counts against the SX in terms of resources available to run games.

I guess that I'll have more on this as the features are fully revealed.

SONY's implementation of RT is able to be spread across many different systems...

Conclusion

The numbers are clear - the PS5 has the bandwidth and I/O silicon in place to optimise the data transfer between all the various computing and storage elements whereas the SX has some sub-optimal implementations combined with really smart prediction engines but these, according to what has been announced by Microsoft, perform below the specs of the PS5. Sure, the GPU might be much larger in the SX but the system itself can't supply as much data for that computation to take place.

Yes, the PS5 has a narrower GPU but the system supporting that GPU is much stronger and more in-line with what the GPU is expecting to be handed to it.

Added to this, the audio solution in the PS5 also alleviates processing overhead from the CPU, allowing it to focus on the game executable. I'm sure the SX has ways of offloading audio processing to its own custom hardware but I seriously doubt that it has a) the same latency as this solution, b) equal capabilities or c) the ability to be altered through code updates afterwards.

In contrast, the SX has the bigger and wider GPU but, given all the technical solutions that are being implemented to render games at lower than the final output resolution and have them look as good, does pushing more pixels really matter?
 
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sircaw

has bigger MS points balance than reaction score.
Jul 3, 2019
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A local pond.
I do believe the xbox is a good console i just think the ps5 will be a better engineered device.
Cerny made it clear that he wanted less bottlenecks and more of a focus on optimisation and innovation.

Look what they are doing with all the bandwith ,ssd, triggers, audio etc,
 

Matt_Fox

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Competition is good, a monopoly isn't.

The truth is if PS5 were superior to XSX on power then it really would be the end of the Xbox brand. A game over scenario, and that would be terrible for gaming in totality because competition is a key driver to progress and excellence. So a few TF below and a lower price point isn't a bad thing, it differentiates the two consoles and provide a broader base for consumers to choose from.
 

Sota4077

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I do believe the xbox is a good console i just think the ps5 will be a better engineered device.
Cerny made it clear that he wanted less bottlenecks and more of a focus on optimisation and innovation.

Look what they are doing with all the bandwith ,ssd, triggers, audio etc,

The speed of their solid-state drive is going to be awesome but this idea that it’s going to negate the advantages in Raw power that the Xbox has defies logic.
 

sircaw

has bigger MS points balance than reaction score.
Jul 3, 2019
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A local pond.
The speed of their solid-state drive is going to be awesome but this idea that it’s going to negate the advantages in Raw power that the Xbox has defies logic.

I agree, i have already stated in a couple of my posts that i think the new xbox will be more powerful than the ps5, i just think the ps5 is/will be a better designed unit.

In the end their both great, although very different.
 

Matt_Fox

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The now infamous 'cardboard audience' reveal by Cerny was a disaster, and these type of granular attempts to justify why the hardware will be great are even drier than Cerny's reveal, they aren't helping. The PS5 will definitely build hype when it starts showing games.
 
Nov 5, 2016
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Like they said on the ACG podcast, it seems like there’s a ongoing movement to attempt a redefinition of what “powerful” means. I’m not sure I’m completely on board with this.

What I see on paper leads me to believe that the XsX hardware is simply the more powerful machine, period.


The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, has some sub-optimal implementations that are going to perform below the specs of the PlayStation 5, despite the inclusion of smart prediction engines.

I’d be interested in learning specifics of these “sub-optimal implementations.”
 
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Bryank75

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I do believe the performance will be so close that it will be hard to distinguish.

It's already difficult to see the difference between the Pro and the X...

What really puzzles me is why MS have decided to tether Series X to the older XBox consoles in terms of new games. It really leaves them with dated games and game design compared to what will be going on on PS5.
 

Hobbygaming

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Good lord! Lol. The damage control is really something and the new gen hasn't even started yet. This did not go the way the hardcore Sony fans wanted. Sheesh. The PS5 will be great. It's strong. Games will be good. It's just not the strongest console at all going into the gen. It's ok.
You can't refute his points though. PS5 sounds like an awesomely designed console
 

nosseman

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Read the other post he made.

Post after post where he must apologize and face the fact that his analysis where wrong but THIS time he is right? :)
 
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mckmas8808

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The 104th thread on it will make it true.

I'm sorry if it hurts your feelings, but a console isn't "ONLY" about the GPU's TF power.

About as close as Xbox One was to PS4.

Again, I apologize that the PS5 isn't as weak as you want it to be. The GPU comparison alone will make the PS5 to XSX closer than the XBO was to the PS4. If you need me to buy you some tissues, PM me your address and I'll have Amazon ship some to you in a week. :p
 
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Ascend

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"The SX has 2.5 GB reserved for system functions and we don't know how much the PS5 reserves for that similar functionality but it doesn't matter - the Xbox SX either has only 7.5 GB of interleaved memory operating at 560 GB/s for game utilisation before it has to start "lowering" the effective bandwidth of the memory below that of the PS5... or the SX has an averaged mixed memory bandwidth that is always below that of the baseline PS4. Either option puts the SX at a disadvantage to the PS5 for more memory intensive games and the latter puts it at a disadvantage all of the time. "

That's pure BS.
If this was actually said by developers, they could have clearly said whether the PS5 or the XSX has the larger memory pool reserved for the OS. They already have access to both after all, don't they? And if they don't their views are moot.
Where does that 7.5GB of interleaved memory operating at 560 GB/s come from? It was said from the start that the full 10GB of the fast RAM is available for games. The OS uses the slower RAM.
The averaged mixed memory bandwidth is another useless metric. If developers can't keep RAM usage below 10GB for fast stuff even with an SSD, they are simply doing a poor job.

This is yet another desperate hail mary attempt to try and redeem the weaker PS5. Even after all the mumbo jumbo, they are still saying that the XSX is 10% faster in practice. The PS5 is weaker. Live with it. And stop these retarded threads.
 
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SonGoku

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Wccftech is a garbage click bait site
The SX has 2.5 GB reserved for system functions and we don't know how much the PS5 reserves for that similar functionality but it doesn't matter - the Xbox SX either has only 7.5 GB of interleaved memory operating at 560 GB/s
Why would they dedicate a portion of the fast pool to the OS? Makes more sense to use the slower pool for OS reserve
 

Snake29

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Funny how little Sony has released about the PS5 so far, but the information is already more interesting to talk about for youtubers or even devs, then the series X. Both consoles will be a generational leap over the current gen, but you can't deny the PS5 has more interesting features onboard (so far), and to me. The Series X looks more like a generic slapped on tower pc with standard RDNA 2 features with some Microsoft tech and that's it.

Let's be clear, there is not much interesting to talk about the series X features, cause every feature they have on their website is just the same as PS5 but with other names. I have not seen any other argument about the Series X then "oMg, iT's fAr mOrE bEtTeR cOnSoLE bEcAuSe oF 12tF"......
 
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