The question is a common one amongst gamers; Playstation or Xbox? If you ask most people, they would immediately give you an answer to their preference. But, which one runs better compared to the other in the most recent release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X?
Depending on how diehard you are, you’ll want whichever is the best of the best. You’ll want to know the ins and outs of what you will be purchasing for any of the heavy-hitting games you may play.
A console that can support any high-performance graphics that are commonplace in recent video games is an obvious winner. To know this, we’ll need to understand the differences between the Xbox Series GPU versus the PS5 GPU.
Let’s talk a little more in-depth about what a GPU is and what other pieces of hardware and software are important to the GPU to make it function for high-performance games and streaming.
What Is a GPU and What Does it Do?
A GPU is a graphics processing unit; it is used for processing applications on consoles and computers. Processing applications can be helpful in having a higher resolution in streaming your Netflix, high-performance video games, and web browsers such as chrome, firefox, etc.
An easy explanation about the GPU is it gives better graphics, realistic visuals, and lighting effects. Think about when you’re streaming a tv show or playing a heavily demanding high-graphics game and it immediately loads or doesn’t buffer the video you’re watching.
A GPU is important in modern-day computers for more than just video games and watching Netflix though. It is beneficial in processing large amounts of data. While GPUs are primarily designed for rendering graphics, they can also do raw calculations, which is why they are popular for uses such as mining cryptocurrencies.
How Do You Compare GPUs?
If we’re really going to understand the differences between the GPUs in the Xbox and PS5, then we need some metrics to use. How do you actually compare one CPU to another?
Well, it turns out that there are some specific units of measurement and outputs that can be measured and looked at directly. If we wanted to dig deep enough, we could come up with a ton of metrics, but to keep this simple, it’s probably best to focus on four or five. Let’s start by looking at video RAM, fill rates, bandwidth, and support APIs. If you’re not familiar with any of those terms, don’t worry. We’ll go through each in turn.
What Is Video Ram and What Does It Do?
Video RAM, commonly referred to as VRAM, is what is a type of random access memory. If you’re familiar with RAM or memory for a computer, VRAM is the same thing, but it is designated for use by the GPU.
If you’re not familiar, VRAM is there to help the GPU manage data a little better. For a computer system (and both the Xbox and PS5 are computer systems), most of the information is stored on the hard drive (or a modern variation, like a solid-state drive). In order for the GPU to receive instructions and carry out calculations, it has to access that information.
The problem is that storage drives hold a lot of data, and rifling through them can be very slow. The VRAM allows the GPU to temporarily store information without accessing the hard drive over and over again. This ultimately speeds up the process of running graphics applications.
Generally speaking, more VRAM is better. VRAM is usually measured in Gigabytes (GB), and when you have more of it, the graphics card has more freedom in how it carries out processes. This can translate to clearer images, higher frame rates, and better visual performance in general.
What Are Compute Units?
Another useful metric is that of compute units. Compute units are processing resources. Have you ever seen how CPUs for computers have multiple cores? These cores basically act as independent processors, and they allow the device to carry out multiple functions at the same time.
Well, GPUs have similar designs, but they’re called compute units instead. That’s because modern GPUs have hundreds of cores, and the cores are grouped together for specific tasks. Each group of cores is a compute unit.
Once again, higher numbers usually translate into better performance, so when comparing GPUs, we’re seeing which has either more cores or more compute units.
What Is a Fill Rate and What Does That Do for GPUs?
A fill rate, or texture rate, is the number of pixels that a graphics card can apply to a screen in a second. Conversely, it could also be the number of pixels that a graphics card writes to its VRAM in a second. The latter application allows the graphics card to essentially pre-render screen images, allowing for faster total frame rates.
If you’re not too familiar with pixels, they’re how modern screens make images. Basically, there are a bunch of very tiny light sources on your screen. They can emit light according to instructions, and the graphics card provides those instructions. If you have more pixels, then you get more definition in the image.
Fill rate is measuring what definition your graphics card can support and at what speed. So, when you’re doing something with very high-definition video at a very high frame rate, you need a sufficient fill rate to keep up.
At this point, the theme continues. Higher fill rates represent higher levels of graphical performance.
What Is Clock speed?
The clock speed is the measure of how many calculations a processor can make in a second. Maybe it would be better to say that it’s a measure of how many processes it can execute. Either way, the clock speed is a measure of raw calculating performance.
Since a GPU actually has a lot of processors in the compute units, the clock speed is saying how quickly each compute unit can carry out tasks. In essence, higher clock speeds correlate with more powerful graphical processing. A high clock speed alone won’t make graphics look better, but having access to a high clock speed gives the GPU more ability to render powerful graphics on demand.
What Is Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is a measure of the data transfer speed between a GPU and other parts of the computer system. That means the higher your bandwidth, the better overall in any application you use on the system.
As an example, bandwidth will determine the speed at which data can move from your VRAM to the computation cores. If the bandwidth is low, you’ll get lag in the game (even when you’re playing offline). Streaming services will buffer.
If your bandwidth is sufficient, gaming, playback, and streaming are nice and smooth.
What Is an API and How Does it Work?
API stands for application programming interface. It allows software packages to communicate with each other on a computer system. Each API has a distinct function, whether that be giving information to a consumer or allowing scientists to gather information in research through mathematical data.
Think of when you used Google on your phone to find a restaurant you want to go to for dinner. Having your location on allows Google to give you a list of what is around your vicinity. An API connects your location services with Google in order to help you find restaurants.
When it comes to video processing, there are many APIs involved. They can help with image formation, hardware throttling, ray tracing, color expression, and more. There isn’t a specific number that we can put on APIs to say which is better, but later, we’ll go through a couple of essential APIs to see if they make a major difference in this specific comparison.
Xbox Series X GPU Specs
Now that we know what some of the specifications mean, we can get right into the direct comparisons between these two graphics cards.
The Xbox Series X uses an AMD RDNA 2 for the GPU. This is a unit that can handle 12.15 teraflops — which is a measure of the total number of calculations the entire unit can produce in a single second. At 12 teraflops, the Xbox does hit a higher peak for calculations per second.
Meanwhile, the AMD RDNA 2 has 52 compute units. It runs at a clock speed of 1825 MHz, and it has a bandwidth of around 560 GB per second. It also features 13.5 GB of VRAM (with the ability to expand up to 40 GB of VRAM). Technically, this isn’t true VRAM. Instead, the console has RAM that is dedicated to video performance. This is to save space and fit everything into the console, and the PS5 works the same way. These are impressive numbers, and it’s why the Series X can play hard-core, advanced, modern games without trouble.
The Playstation 5 also runs an AMD RDNA 2. You might expect this to have the same specifications as the one in the Xbox, and you’re mostly right. But, each RDNA 2 is customized for each console, so there are some key differences.
For starters, the PS5 version caps out at 10.3 teraflops. That’s noticeably less than the Xbox. The PS5 also has only 36 compute units, and it runs at a clock speed of 1750 MHz. The PS5 actually runs a variable clock speed processor, and the peaks get above 1750 MHz, but that number represents the average performance. The PS5 has up to 16 GB of VRAM, pulled from the main RAM in the same way as the Xbox. Lastly, the PS5 supports a bandwidth of 448 GB per second.
Now that we have directly compared the two, you can see that they’re running different versions of the same GPU. Overall, the Xbox has higher stats on every metric, meaning that it should have better overall graphical performance.
Graphic Abilities of PS5 and Xbox Series X
Despite the differences in raw stats, you might not notice any graphical superiority if you play games on each console side-by-side. In terms of graphical ability, both consoles are nearly identical and are capable of running 4k easily. They are also able to stream without buffering.
The consoles also support ray tracing. Ray tracing is an advanced API that simulates light behavior. Imagine looking at a drawing of an apple from an artist where they shade in parts that would be pointing away from the sun. That’s what ray tracing accomplishes.
So, even though the Series X is the more powerful machine, the differences aren’t as extreme as the numbers might suggest. Today, both consoles play games that look a whole lot alike.
The real difference is that over the next few years, the Series X will be able to continue playing games at maximum settings while the PS5 will eventually struggle to keep up.
Which Is Better?
After all of that, we have to return to the pivotal question. Which is better?
Today, there’s not a clear winner in terms of performance. Like you already read, the superior stats on the Xbox just don’t show up in actual presentations. In another two to three years, you will probably see games where the Xbox graphics look plainly superior, but that hasn’t been the case so far.
So, unless futureproofing is extremely important to you, you don’t need to base the decision on raw graphical performance. Instead, you can focus on the device that has more games that you want to play.