PS4 vs PC graphics comparison
The Sony PlayStation 4 game console shares much of its hardware technology with the personal computer. We take a look at how it compares to a gaming computer in terms of price and performance.
The PS4 uses a graphics processing unit (GPU) based on the Radeon HD 7000 series of PC graphics cards designed by AMD. It has 18 compute units with 64 cores per compute unit, giving it a total of 1,152 cores. This gives the PS4 a theoretical maximum performance of 1.84 TFLOPS that can be used for graphics, physical simulation, or a combination of the two.
There are several known differences between the PS4 GPU and the AMD 7870 PC graphics card on which it is based. The first is that the PS4 has a dedicated 20GB / s bus that bypasses the L1 and L2 GPU cache to allow direct access to system memory. Direct memory access (usually abbreviated to DMA) in this case serves to speed up graphics by reducing the number of processes required.
It also has additional L2 cache support for simultaneous graphical and asynchronous computing tasks thanks to the inclusion of a ‘volatile’ bit tag. This allows the machine to process graphics and computational code synchronously, without suspending one in order to run the other.
Finally, the console unit has 64 fonts compared to two on the PC unit for calculation commands. The purpose of this is to enable superior game engine integration for developers when writing games for the console.
The question of whether a PC is better than a PS4 depends on how you compare. In this article, we look at the comparison from the point of view of cost equality. In a later article we deal with the comparison on the basis of total performance.
Comparable costs: PC v PS4
If you look at a comparable cost, including the costs of the entire system, the console would easily outperform the computer. A PS4 costs around £ 350, while the Radeon 7870 graphics card costs around £ 150, but to this you will have to add the costs of the components to make up the rest of the computer, such as the motherboard, processor, memory, the hard drive, case and software. To build a gaming computer somewhere close to the cost of Sony’s console, you’d end up with a system that’s compromised on cost grounds at the expense of performance. This scenario would certainly leave you with a PC that cannot match the console in terms of graphics performance.
There are several reasons why this is the case. The first is that the game console has a huge advantage due to the lack of a resource-hogging operating system like Windows. A PC needs to be able to do many things, often simultaneously. To enable this, the operating system must be complete, often taking up many of the machines’ free resources just to function. The operating system of a console will be a fraction of a PC or Mac computer, which means that much more power available on a PS4 is free to dedicate to running games. This allows the PlayStation to get away with a lower overall spec while still being able to maintain performance.
The second is that manufacturers that produce consoles often sell at a loss due to the need to gain market share and outsell their rivals. This is especially true in the early stages of a console’s life when development costs pay off. The PS4 v Xbox One is one of the biggest sales battles in the tech market that looks set to continue for many years to come. Obviously, it is difficult to compete with a product subsidized by its manufacturer.
Cost is not just the consideration when comparing the two. Computer users often have the rest of their system in place, so more funds are available to spend on graphics hardware alone, while absolute performance is the only consideration. Please take a look at our next article, PS4 v PC Graphics Comparison – Part Two, where we consider the absolute performance of the PlayStation and the personal computer.