Re: Xbox 360 Vs. PS3: Graphics RAM battle?
I remember this conversation from a while back.. deja-vu?
Anyhow, as someone who is firmly in the 360 camp and has chosen it as my platform of choice between the two, I can state hands down that overall the PS3 has better hardware. However, and this is a big however, both the decisions on design and architecture are non-standard, strange, and arguably flawed.
Ken Kutaragi, said "PlayStation 3 is intentionally difficult to program for in order to ensure that the console meets its promised ten year life cycle.". Which in essence boils down to the realization that 'yes', Sony did intentionally do strange things to enforce a longer learning curve to eek out all the power of the system. To add insult to injury, Sony's development suite, compared to industry standards, is primitive and cobbled together.
Comparatively, MS made the 360 very straightforward and easy to understand. Then to entice developers, they provided some of the best developer tools and tightly integrated them. Lets face it, Visual Studio is a programmers wet dream compared to GCC.
Back to hardware and design decisions,
CPU: The CPU of the PS3 is overall more powerful, and we go 'but' again, but the arrangement is one 'full' core with a number of slimmed down cores (spe)s. Which has forced developers to adapt to the unique arrangement of non-heterogeneous core processing, and typically works itself out in a command and control arrangement. While the 360 has a triple 'full' core design with no slimmed down cores. This is a typical heterogeneous core design which is easily identified and understood across industry. It doesn't help that the sole ps3 full core is only as powerful as one of the 360 full cores. However those SPEs can pack a punch, and really excel at SIMD type instructions (like matrix transforms). In short, the CELL is more powerful but only if you devote extra care and time to the design of your code, while the 360 cpu simply performs.
GPU & Memory: It has been rumored that at one time Sony was originally going to ship the PS3 with two CELL chips, one for processing, the other for graphics, but discovered that developing a graphics API was quite a bit more difficult than expected (Reminds me of Intel) and scrambled to find a GPU to use. Regardless of if this is true or not, the addition of the nVidia GPU seems to most to be a last minute decision. The raw performance of the PS3 GPU on it's own is somewhat less than what is found in the 360, but with the assistance of the CELL SPEs it can outperform what the 360 has to offer. With a well designed system this would not be a issue, but Sony opted for a non-unified memory model. As is the norm with most games, the graphics are the bulk of the content. Just look at almost any game on a pc and you'll see that the executable (the code) is very small compared to all the "art". Because of this non-unified model, the GPU can only directly use textures and models that are in graphics memory, everything else has to be copied in as needed be it on disk/disc or in system ram, pulling from these places incurs a performance penalty. While conversely, the GPU on the 360 can pull "art" from potentially twice the amount of ram without penalty. This forces PS3 developers to have to pay extra attention/effort to managing their graphic assets.
Media: One of the best and more contentious choices Sony made was to include a blu-ray drive in the PS3. While this offers significantly more storage than the 360 dvd9 format drives (near 5x the capacity), the blu-ray drive is also significantly slower than a dvd drive. To offset this, many PS3 developers copy a lot of assets to the PS3 hard drive which makes initial load times longer but follow on load times quicker. The 360 due to the optional hard drive will stream the data from the dvd drive.
Scaling: As strange as it sounds, the scaler is unarguably one of the only parts of the PS3 that is worse than on the 360. In general the scaler on the 360 will scale virtually from any resolution to any resolution, making it easy as pie for a developer to target any resolution on a output device that someone may have the 360 hooked up to, plus it does a pretty darn smack up job at it. The PS3 on the other hand doesn't have a dedicated scaler, and uses some creative methods to rescale the output to fixed resolutions. For the most part people have simply become used to this limitation and live with it.
In summary, the ps3 is more powerful but at a development cost. If the last few years have shown us, the additional development cost to tease out this additional performance is generally only done by first party studios, while the tight budgets of 3rd party studios prefer the 360 because of the low development cost for virtually the same effect.