Home video game consoles seem somewhat quaint at this point, and it’s not an issue of graphics capabilities or raw power, on which scales they both still beat out mobile devices. But in terms of content delivery, smartphones and tablets blow away the old guard of the video games field. ‘More power’ will still likely be the clarion call of the next generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft, and new details leaked around Microsoft’s Xbox 360 successor, codenamed Durango, suggest they’ll have specs to boast about.
A leak from VGLeaks offers a look at what kind of CPU and GPU will be inside Microsoft’s next-gen console, and it includes 8 CPU cores at 1.6GHz, with a custom 800MHz graphics processor in the GPU. There are 8GB of RAM on board, with 32MB of fast embedded SRAM at double the throughput speed, and a 50GB-capable 6x Blu-ray drive. Wireless connectivity protocols include both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct, and there’s still a Gigabit Ethernet port for gamers with low latency multiplayer demands. It’ll also come with USB 3.0 and HDMI 1.4a, which supports 3D over HDMI, Ethernet, audio return channels and 4K resolution.
The rumored specs for the PS4 mean that it can beat the Xbox 720 on paper, at least when it comes to teraflops, giving it a theoretical 50 percent advantage in raw computing power according to previously leaked info on Sony’s next-gen machine. But the CPU/GPU combo should be similar for both, making it easier to port between these consoles and the PC for developers. An easier development process for game-makers that gives them greater potential reach will likely be a key component of the next generation of home consoles, now that they’re competing for game studio attention with mobile platforms, where game porting and development cycles are a lot less demanding of a time and resource investment.
Big specs are an investment in the future of a platform, especially for game consoles where CE companies sink lots of money into R&D and don’t even make a profit on hardware for the first few years. The Xbox 720 is likely designed for at least a 10 year active life, and that’s part of why it boosts the processing power outlined in these leaks. But that’s an old model, and one that hasn’t yet had to face the test of the rapid iteration cycle of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
The big story at CES 2013 this year wasn’t 4K or 8K TVs or the smart home, it was the increasing power of mobile processors, as exemplified by new Qualcomm and Samsung chips. These processors can handle graphics that, while not on par with consoles quite yet, makes up much of the ground remaining between them. The Xbox 720 and PS4 may help put a further narrowing of the gap a bit further out of reach, but when these launch, I don’t think we’ll be talking about their success in terms of which has the better specs – that discussion began to die the moment you could beam a game you were playing on your iPhone wirelessly to your TV.