After the changes the Xbox One has already gone through since its initial reveal, we wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft changed literally anything about the console. Change the iconic green color? Not surprising. Totally revamp the console’s VCR-like case? Saw it coming. Add more RAM dedicated to games? Obviously. Today, Microsoft confirms that the console’s GPU will receive a modest boost in power.
We got wind of a potential Xbox One spec upgrade back in July, but nothing was confirmed as of then. The rumors were that the console would receive a bump from 8GB of RAM to 12GB, and that the GPU would also receive a bump in clock speed. Today on a Major Nelson podcast, Xbox Live vice president Marc Whitten confirmed one part of that rumor: the Xbox One’s GPU will receive a bump in clock speed from 800MHz to 853MHz. We know, a whole 53MHz. We’ll wait while you take a seat and regain your composure.
While the GPU clock speed upgrade is certainly better than nothing, it only accounts for around a 6% increase, still leaving the PlayStation 4′s graphical power far ahead that of the Xbone. However, since a very large portion of games in this modern-day console age are multiplatform, it’s likely that developers will make a game that maximizes the weaker console’s capabilities so it can fly on both platforms without creating much of a new workload. A power difference will mostly be noticed when comparing console exclusives, but since they’re exclusive and the power gap isn’t too much (like the PS3 and Xbox 360 versus the Wii, for instance), there’s no point in comparing them to begin with. With exclusive titles, there isn’t something to choose between.
The PS4 also boasts a faster type of memory, GDDR5, compared to the Xbox One’s DDR3. The Xbox One, though, employs 32MB of eSRAM in order to help bridge that memory gap. Whether or not the eSRAM achieves this goal remains to be seen, as there are various reports around the web saying it does, and various other reports directly contradicting those claims. If anything is for certain regarding the eSRAM, however, it’s that it’ll be more difficult for developers to utilize than if they only had regular RAM to work with.
We won’t know for sure which console ends up stronger, but the lesson we should all know by now is that raw power rarely determines a generation’s winning console. The Wii sold like crazy in large part to the combination of pseudo-innovative controls and Wii Sports. The PlayStation 2, the least powerful console of its generation, set console and software sales records. The popularity of a game console ultimately comes down to which games it has available. In a world of Netflix available on every single modern device, a game industry rife with multiplatform titles, and two consoles very close to each other in terms of raw power, the war will likely be determined by exclusives, not slightly upgraded GPU clock speeds and how much RAM is dedicated to each operating system.