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This is why the PS5 often runs games better than the supposedly more powerful Xbox Series X

This is why the PS5 often runs games better than the supposedly more powerful Xbox Series X

As the ninth generation of consoles approaches its fourth year, one question remained unanswered: How does Sony’s PS5 console often outperform Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, which is more powerful on paper? A few notable examples include Resident Evil 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and Grand Theft Auto V after the next-gen update.

As a reminder, both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are powered by custom AMD hardware with Zen 2 and RDNA 2 CPU/GPU architectures. Microsoft’s console has an eight-core CPU clocked at 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz with concurrent multithreading enabled), a GPU powered by 52 Compute Units clocked at 1.825 GHz for an estimated 12.16 TeraFLOPS of computing power and 16 GB GDDR6 SDRAM with a split design (10 GB with 320-bit bus and 560 GB/s bandwidth and 6 GB with 192-bit bus and 336 GB/s bandwidth).

On the other hand, the PS5 has an eight-core variable frequency CPU capped at 3.5GHz, a GPU powered by 36 compute units with variable frequency up to 2.23GHz for an estimated peak TeraFLOPS of 10.13, and 16GB of GDDR6 SDRAM with a 256-bit bus and 448GB/s of bandwidth.

Well, today Digital Foundry published a new weekly DF Direct episode in which they attempted to share a more or less definitive take on the subject. John Linneman mentioned that he had heard from developers that the shader compiler and the API itself are faster on the PlayStation 5 side.

One of the big things that we’ve alluded to multiple times now is that the shader compiler on the PS5 side is just extremely fast and optimized. It’s going to be quite complex, but it makes better use of the actual silicon in a way that allows the PS5 to deliver faster performance. That seems to be a big thing. Microsoft clearly wouldn’t sleep on that, they’re clearly putting work into it, but so is Sony, and developers just seem to prefer Sony’s implementation for it. Along those same lines, the PS5’s core API also seems to be quite fast, faster than what Microsoft is doing with DirectX.

The DirectX topic is interesting, as it mentions that Microsoft’s choice to provide an API that works fairly seamlessly between PC and Xbox consoles could prove to be a small penalty in how low the level is on the console side is.

That’s not the whole story. According to Alex Battaglia, games running on Unreal Engine 5 generally benefit from the Xbox Series X’s higher Compute Unit count. However, other engines may perform better on PS5 due to their higher clock speeds.

There’s more to consider anyway, as Microsoft’s console has the advantage when it comes to implementing variable refresh rate (VRR). For example, while FromSoftware’s Elden Ring runs faster on Sony’s console, the Xbox Series Ultimately, however, the differences between the two consoles are relatively minor in most games, delivering a similar experience.