Do you enjoy playing video games? If not, this is a strange corner of the internet to find yourself visiting, but that’s ok. Everyone is welcome here.
When it comes to gaming, there are a few ways to get your fix. You can engage with gaming consoles, which might require some decision-making all its own. You can also invest in a gaming PC and play on your own computer.
If you’re trying to compare these different worlds of gaming, one way to go about it is to look at the hardware. For instance, what kind of hardware is in a Playstation 5? How does it compare to PC hardware?
We’re actually going to investigate that exact idea by looking at the CPU in the PS5 and discussing a PC equivalent.
What Is a CPU?
Then again, in order to craft a meaningful comparison between these components, it might prove beneficial to start with a little context. So, we’re going to get into some of the essentials of CPUs, their specs, and what they mean. If you already know all of that feel free to skip ahead.
If this is new information for you, then take your time.
Let’s start with the CPU. What is it? What does it do? Why does it matter?
It stands for central processing unit, and it’s essentially the brain of a computer. It’s the device that actually calculates things. It carries out the instructions and does the literal computing. And, in case it’s not clear, a PS5 is in fact a computer. It’s specialized for playing games, but it’s still a computer.
As the brain of a computer, a CPU is expected to work very quickly. In fact, the faster a processor can run, the more valuable it is, and when it comes to playing modern games, fast processors are necessary.
Since we’re going to be comparing different processors, let’s take a tour of some of the ways to measure a processor and its capabilities.
Meaningful Specifications for a CPU
If you want to tell if one CPU is more capable than another, then there are really three metrics that matter the most. There are actually hundreds of individual things you could compare across CPUs, but these three bear the most weight on overall performance. They are clock speed, cores, and cache.
Starting with clock speed, this is a way to measure how fast a CPU can think. A CPU can carry out operations at a certain frequency. In other words, a CPU can only do so many things in a second. A CPU that can do more things in a second is the faster device, and clock speed is how we measure this.
Clock speed is measured in Hertz (Hz), which is literally a measure of how many times a thing happens in one second. In other words, a CPU that operates at 1 Hz would be able to complete one action every second.
By modern standards, that’s painfully slow, and modern CPUs usually run in the vicinity of billions of Hertz, also known as gigahertz (GHz).
The thing about modern CPUs is that they are complicated, advanced pieces of machinery. They aren’t actually single devices but groups of devices that work together. This is described in the form of cores.
A CPU can have multiple cores, and each core is actually capable of carrying out tasks independently. So, a CPU with two cores can do two things at once, which essentially makes the processor twice as fast.
There’s also something called threads. This is a programming technique that allows a single core to do two things at once. If you have a two-core processor with dual threading, then that one processor can actually do four things at once, more or less quadrupling the speed of the processor.
Last up we have something called cache. Computers work by following instructions to carry out actions and perform calculations, but in order to do any of that, the computer needs to be able to remember important bits of information. If you want a computer to tell you how long it will take to drive to work, it needs to know where you are, where work is, and how much distance is between the two of you. Those facts have to be stored somewhere.
The primary storage for a computer is called a storage drive. You might have heard of a hard drive before. This is one particular type of device that can hold information for a computer.
This means that a processor has to call up information from the hard drive in order to carry out most functions. The problem is that hard drives are slow.
So, computer engineers found a way to speed things up. They developed random access memory (RAM) as a bit of a short-term memory solution. RAM is a lot faster than a storage drive, but it can’t hold as much information. A CPU can put the most important information on the RAM, and then it doesn’t have to work with the slow storage drive quite as much.
The problem is that for a modern processor, even RAM can be pretty slow. The solution for that is found in the CPU cache. This is like RAM, but it’s literally built into the processor itself. So, a processor has a little bit of its own memory. This memory is ultra-fast, but it can’t hold nearly as much information as something like RAM, much less a storage drive.
All of this is to say that cache can help a processor run extremely fast, but if there’s not enough cache, then the processor slows down. So, having more cache is better.
For a bit of perspective, storage drives usually hold Terabytes of information. Meanwhile, RAM holds about a thousandth of that in the range of Gigabytes of information. Cache is smaller yet by another factor of a thousand, holding Megabytes of information. Still, any CPU that can add to the cache is going to benefit and perform better.
What CPU Is in the PS5?
That about covers the background information. We’re ready to really get into the thick of it. What is the processor in a PS5?
The console uses a Zen2 Ryzen 7 3700. Well, sort of. The PS5 actually has a unique, custom processor for its functionality, but that custom processor was built out of the Ryzen 7 3700. That means we can pull specific specifications for comparison, but some of the PS5 specs will be a little different from what you would see if you looked up the processor by name.
Not to worry, it will all be laid out clearly in the following sections.
What can we expect from the PS5 processor? Well, it’s a hard-working processor that is fine with modern games, but it’s nowhere near the top of the consumer line these days.
What Are the Specs?
Specifically, the PS5 has an 8-core processor that supports 16 threads. That’s pretty good off the bat.
It also runs at a clock speed of 3.2 GHz, but it’s a little more complicated. The PS5 is actually capable of variable speed processing, which means that the clock speed can go up or down with need. The 3.2 GHz number is based on the average clock speed. At peak, it can get higher (up to 4 GHz), but the average speed will be good enough for comparison.
As for the cache, it’s a little weird. The PS5 is a compact computer system. Everything has to fit nicely into the console design, and because of that, the cache design is unique. The CPU actually shares cache with the GPU, and that makes it difficult to put a hard number on it.
For the sake of having any reasonable comparison, we can look at the standard Ryzen 7 3700. I had 32MB of cache.
What Desktop CPU Is Equivalent?
Now that we know what is in the PS5, we can make direct comparisons. If you were going to build a PC that was as identical to the PS5 as possible, what would you use?
You actually have two choices. You could go with an AMD equivalent, or you could find an Intel processor that’s in the same performance range.
Considering that, there are two specific processors worth exploring, and we’ll go through each in detail.
First is the Ryzen 7. Considering what we learned about the PS5, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but you’ll see that the comparison isn’t quite as simple as it might seem.
On the Intel side, the closest choice would be the i5 10600k. We’ll get into that a little later.
AMZ Ryzen 7
The desktop variant of the Ryzen used in the PS5 is called the AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 3700. In some ways, it is extremely similar to the PS5 processor, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Despite that, there are stark differences, and it’s worth getting into them.
Ryzen 7 Specs
Let’s start with the familiar. The Pro 3700 is also an 8-core processor with 16 threads. We already saw that it has 32 MB of cache (specifically L3 cache for those keeping track). It runs on a similar power draw and heat range as well.
The major difference is found in the clock speed. The Pro 3700 is faster than the PS5 variant. While the PS5 runs at 3.2 GHz with some peaks up to 4 GHz, the Pro 3700 can sustain clock speeds of 4.4 GHz. It’s a considerable boost, and it means that the Pro 3700 is a little more powerful than its PS5 counterpart.
Intel i5 10600k
The Intel i5 10600k makes for a more interesting comparison. This is not the same model of processor built for a different platform. It’s a completely different processor made by a different manufacturer. Despite that, as we go through it, you’ll see that it’s in the same vicinity of performance when compared to the Ryzen 7 3700.
The first thing you’ll notice is that this processor has a different number of cores. The i5 10600k is a 6-core, 12-thread processor. You might think that this makes it a bad choice for comparison, but when you put all of the specs together, it really does perform closely to the 3700.
This processor runs at 4.1 GHz with an option to boost it up to 4.8 GHz. It is built with 12 MB of cache, draws the same amount of power as the 3700 and is compatible with comparable hardware.
In other words, this is a faster processor with fewer cores, fewer threads, and less cache. Put it all together, and things average out nicely.
How Do These Processors Compare?
We’ve taken a look at the specifications of these processors, but how do they compare in practice? How do the graphics look? How expensive is each option?
Let’s take a look at those questions in detail.
The best way to really compare CPUs is with benchmark tests. This is where professionals put the processors into extremely similar computers and run programs on them. They then compare the performance.
You can see a long list of benchmark results here, but if you want the shorter version, here’s what you need to know.
In most applications, the i5 is about 5 percent faster than the 3700, and the Pro 3700 is about 1 percent faster than the PS5 version. These results are extremely close. Basically, these are three equivalent processors.
Even when you compare costs, there isn’t much difference. You can’t buy a PS5 processor by itself, buy the 3700 and the i5 run for about $194 and $200 respectively. These are three processors that all provide the same experience for practically the same price.