There are few websites I trust more than Digital Foundry from Eurogamer.net, their insightful, informative and well-written articles contrast brilliantly with the cornucopia of trash available in gaming media. So, when I read their piece on ‘Playstation 4’ specs ( http://www.eurogamer.net/ar... ) I was pretty excited. However, it’s the information on Microsoft’s ‘Xbox 720’ which I happened to take in that I'd like to discuss.
It’s the apparent RAM configurations that caught my attention the most, with Sony opting for super fast DDR5 over Microsoft’s choice of DDR3. MS will try and counter the low bandwidth with a greater amount of RAM and an “offshoot of eDRAM technology connected to the graphics core” as a work-around. Also the amount of RAM put aside for the OS is said to be drastically different; with PS4 set to use 512mb compared to MS’s relatively gargantuan 3gb, which may practically negate the greater amount of RAM when used for games. It seems that the massive 3gb OS footprint of 720 highlights MS’s focus of creating a multi-media machine first and a gaming machine second.
To put it into perspective the OS (XMB) in PS3, which has had a very public issue with a lack of RAM, currently runs with a footprint of just 50mb (after a trim down: http://www.joystiq.com/2010... ). What I think this means (I’m no expert) is that, with 512mb of RAM set aside for PS4 OS, Sony could run XMB 10 times over; which seems to me, plenty of room to multi-task media playing and social apps.
So what exactly is MS going to do with all this OS overhead? My best guess starts with Kinect. Kinect was said to use as much as 10-15% of the 360’s CPU, however MS managed to get that down to single digits ( http://www.engadget.com/201... ) but a hypothetical Kinect 2 with a much higher resolution would only increase this amount. By allotting a ludricrous amount of RAM to 720 OS, does MS plan to use the extra space to somehow ease the effects of Kinect/Kinect 2 on the CPU? Maybe, but that can’t be all this stupid amount is for, oh no, MS must have big multi-tasking plans in store for us.
To make matters worse, the word on the street is that MS will be opting to dedicate two whole processor cores just for the OS. Now, either they're planning on having full blown windows 8 running on their third attempt at a console, which could be great or terrible depending on if you like that kind of thing, or there is some seriously bloated apps/services hogging your gaming power.
I’m not going to take wild guesses at the apps that will run alongside your games, hogging the RAM/CPU like a clogged artery, but what I will say is; what exactly would you want buzzing in the background while you’re finishing off a boss? I also have no idea of Microsoft's 'big' plans for us but from the look of things we're going to be juggling apps, widgets, kinect and whatever other crap MS has lying around that they can throw at us. It all just seems a little unnecessary.
I can see the use for a browser and maybe a YouTube app or music player but I wouldn’t want it at the cost of game performance, especially when developers keep hinting that next-gen won’t be that big of a leap. At the end of the day I buy a games console to play games on but in MS’s ever going quest to try and ‘conquer the living room’ it seems they are spreading the resources of their next console thin in an attempt to woo over a casual audience that has most likely already moved onto tablets and smartphones.