Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Versus Sony’s Playstation 3

As Christmas looms in the distance, waiting to pounce on consumer-conscience American retailers, the Sony Playstation 3 sits right in front. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has already hit shelves to less than record-breaking sales, but they also have a few cards up their sleeve for Christmas-time. And being that both of these machines aren’t necessarily cheap, it is very important to stay informed and get the best deal available.

It’s hard to say which system is ultimately better, this being that the battle does not lie on system strength alone. Gaming lineups, versatility, and ease of use are three other major factors in the success of any gaming system. However, for purposes of comparison, we are just going to look at each machines stats side by side.

First we’ll start with the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of both systems. Xbox 360’s CPU has more general purpose processing power because it has three general purpose cores, and PS3’s “Cell” has only one. However, the Playstation 3’s claimed advantage is on it’s streaming floating point work which is done on it’s seven DSP processors. Overall though, the Xbox 360 has more processing power, and has memory bandwidth which is five times that of the Playstation 3.

Also of interest, the Xbox 360’s general purpose CPU allows for more ease and versatility in game creation. The Playstation 3, which is relying on streaming floating point work, which is generally useless in game development. Games must access the memory of the system at random times and depend almost entirely on integer and vector math. Floating-point math work is done in game creation, but account for at maximum about thirty percent of the overall game code. The Playstation 3 has devoted almost 87% of it’s processing power to this floating-point math, which makes it extremely difficult for developers to produce games for it. Xbox 360 has the clear advantage in the versatility of game development. Game developers do not want to spread their code over eight processors, especially when seven of them are poorly suited for general purpose programming.

Another large area of gaming performance is bandwidth. The Playstation 3 clocks it’s memory bandwidth in at around 48 GB/s, while the Xbox 360 clocks in a huge 278.4 GB/s. Why does the Xbox 360 have such an extreme amount of memory bandwidth? It’s because even at the simplest of calculations a large amound of bandwidth must be used as a frame buffer, coming in at about 50 to 60 GB/s. Playstation 3 doesn’t have enough to cover that, and uses Z and color compression to make up for the lack thereof. The problem with this is that the Z and color compression breaks down quickly when rendering next generation 3D scenes.

In conclusion, the Xbox 360 has worlds more processing power and memory bandwidth, which are key ingredients in providing a well-balanced gaming experience. The Playstation 3 is a strong system, but alot of the power is focused in the wrong places, such as the floating point DSP’s, and the integration of the new Blu-Ray drive. While these are both impressive features, they only clutter a machine that is meant for next generation gaming. The Xbox 360 is the obvious winner when it comes to pure system power.

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