Two pieces of news on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X today. First, ongoing performance reviews of the two consoles continue to find that the PS5 outperforms the XSX in specific game modes, and sometimes in entire titles.
As we’ve previously covered, the Xbox Series X has problems with Devil May Cry 5’s high-performance mode. It also apparently runs Assassin Creed: Valhalla more slowly than its rival, and with heavier screen tearing. In Dirt 5, the Xbox Series X runs at lower resolutions and image quality, though Codemasters has pledged to fix this in an upcoming patch. Call of Duty 5 does buck the trend of Sony winning at 60 fps play but again falling behind in 120 fps.
It is unclear why this is happening. Multiple sources I have spoken to indicate that Sony’s GPU is based on RDNA with ray tracing attached, while Microsoft waited to implement “full” RDNA2. Microsoft has asserted this, and Phil Spencer has stated that XSX production ramped later than Sony because they were waiting “for some specific AMD technology in our chip.” There does appear to be a low-level feature difference between the two consoles, which isn’t unprecedented.
I want to stress that it is currently unclear if this feature distinction will make any difference whatsoever in shipping titles, ever. But whatever it is, it clearly isn’t helping Microsoft today. The rumor mill has suggested this may be due to immature API support for Microsoft compared with Sony. It could also be that some of Microsoft’s specific studio partners or engineers were affected by COVID-19 this year in ways their counterparts at Sony weren’t, resulting in Sony having a higher overall level of polish on the product right now. It’s hard to say.
Either way, the Xbox Series X is not yet living up to its full performance potential. Given the events of the year and the circumstances of the launch, I think this is understandable, but it’s also a bit disappointing. Yes, the Xbox Series X “wins on paper,” but we have no reason to believe it shouldn’t be winning in performance in real life. The architectural differences between these systems are minimal. In the PC industry, when comparing two GPUs built from the same architecture, the GPU with more cores, higher fillrates, and more memory bandwidth will win. Everything we know says the Xbox Series X outguns the PlayStation 5 in all three categories.
I don’t think we’re seeing the results of the PS5’s faster SSD in these figures. I’d expect that sort of difference to manifest itself most clearly in load times. I suppose it is possible that when playing at 120 fps, the system needs streaming texture performance to be absolutely top-notch, and the XSX has less bandwidth to play with. The XSX’s split memory, with 10GB of 560GB/s and 6GB of 336GB/s, could also be a factor. There is no evidence, as of this writing, that either of these hardware-level differences is to blame, but they constitute a meaningful difference between the two platforms.
For now, based on what’s known, I still think we’re seeing software-level differences and that the Xbox Series X currently isn’t performing where it ought to be. We’ll see if Microsoft can fix it any time soon.
Switching topics, Sony is pledging to ship more consoles as quickly as it can. The company calls the demand spike ‘unprecedented’ and says it will work with retailers to deliver more units.
We want to thank gamers everywhere for making the PS5 launch our biggest console launch ever. Demand for PS5 is unprecedented, so we wanted to confirm that more PS5 inventory will be coming to retailers before the end of the year – please stay in touch with your local retailers.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) November 25, 2020
A lot of companies are blaming their problems on demand right now, and it’s still hard to tell if that’s true or not. There are a lot of moving factors in play, including yield figures for whatever part you care about (Xbox, PS5, AMD, Nvidia). There’s the inevitable impact of COVID-19 on supply lines and deliveries. And there’s the fact that a huge chunk of the world’s shopping has shifted to emphasize online orders. Any one of these factors is enough to cause a shortage — back in 2016, Nvidia and AMD couldn’t keep GPUs on store shelves due to low yields, either, and this was before the cryptocurrency boom.
Neither Sony nor Microsoft have released updates on concrete sales numbers, but Sony has said that it had more PlayStation 5’s on-hand to launch with than the previous launch of the PlayStation 4.