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Is x86 actually good for the PS4?

Last response: in Video Games
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February 28, 2013 11:21:41 PM

So the PlayStation 4 is going to have a AMD Processor with, of course, x86 architecture. But is this actually a good thing?
I've heard that the x86 instruction set is complex and shows signs of its age. Modern x86 processors are actually RISC cores with a CISC interpreter slapped on them (well, maybe not slapped;) to allow backwards compatibility with the old x86 instruction set. But this is a rather ugly build wouldn't you say? Couldn't a Power7 Processor be just as developer friendly? I mean Power architecture is basically what has being used in all the current game consoles, so developers should be familiar with Power architecture just as much as you conventional PC's x86, right? Maybe I'm wrong but the switch to x86 architecture doesn't seem that good of a thing to me. And I could very well be wrong because I didn't think multiple core CPU's would deliver an performance increase in video games.

Anyway, what do you think. Is x86 architecture good for video game consoles?

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February 28, 2013 11:29:23 PM

Its a safe option and since the PS3s main problem was noone new how to code for the cell processor it makes sense. Most money goes into developing x86 & arm and arm doesn't have the performance to compete yet anyway.
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March 3, 2013 3:36:17 AM

It's good for us PC gamers basically, less bad ports. It was a good move by Sony, I don't think developers like the PS3 Cell processor.
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March 3, 2013 4:04:05 AM

as mentioned already, x86 is not new, and many more developers know how to utilize the x86 architecture to create better programs and games. I believe this will open up more routes for better ports to other platforms, and over all better polish and mechanics in future games without more effort on the developers parts to learn the dev software for a proprietary hardware.
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March 4, 2013 2:24:17 PM

simon12 said:
Its a safe option and since the PS3s main problem was noone new how to code for the cell processor it makes sense. Most money goes into developing x86 & arm and arm doesn't have the performance to compete yet anyway.


The issue wasn't that "no one knows the PPC instruction set", its that the Cell processor was...unique in how you got power out of it. On PC's, the CPU directly accesses RAM. On the Cell, the individual PPEs ("cores") each only had access to their own local memory cache, which was filled by a global buffer. As a result, it was a challenge to keep the buffer filled and the Cell PPEs at a full state of work. You REALLY had to think through your memory management scheme. Note that NONE OF THIS is the result of the PPC instruction set (which I note the 360 used without issue).

The real concern is how far back the clockspeed had to be pulled from where it was last generation, probably due to thermal constraints. As a general rule, x86 is about 2x the IPC is PPC [though newer chips obviously do better in this regard], so with the clockspeed halved, you can expect, CPU wise, performance to be only about 20% faster or so. Not a huge generational jump.

And no, this won't make porting trivial. You are still going to rip out alot of the optimizations that go into consoles, because on a PC, you go through the windows OS. You do NOT directly interact with the hardware. So while porting will be "easier", it won't be trivial either.

So on the switch to x86, I'm in the "meh" category.
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March 4, 2013 7:04:14 PM

It's interesting to look back at how terrible the PS3 and Xbox360's CPUs were. The Xbox360's 3 core CPU had 165 Million transistors total... and the architecture was terrible.

https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!msg/alt.games.video.sony-playstation2/iVcRIKgR-r8/qY6nbtmD_2IJ

I've looked at Brazos' performance, read up on some of the improvements in Jaguar, and think that a single Jaguar core should be more powerful than all 3 cores of the Xbox360's Xenon. This will be especially true if the clockspeed is 2GHz... and I'm trying not to exaggerate, or be overly optimistic.
- That would mean the PS4 should have at least 8 times the CPU performance as the Xbox360!

I think it's great! With technology like Bullet Physics, it's not necessary to have monster CPU performance. A whole lot can be offloaded onto the GPU. But, here we are with the next gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft using much much more powerful CPUs, making life a lot easier for developers.

Looking at the PS4, I'm actually pretty excited. Compared to my PC, PS3/Xbox360 games have to make noticeable compromises to Texture Quality/Resolution, View Distance, and objects on the screen at one time (number of pedestrians, etc). I honestly don't see a reason why any of these things should be a problem anymore.

I can bring up Skyrim on my PC, and compared to the console versions my friends can tell the difference. Load times are much much faster, textures have been replaced with much higher quality ones, I've turned on better shadowing, view distance is a lot better, and so on and so forth. The PS4 is going to be able to do all of that stuff too.

Which makes me wonder, how much visual difference is there going to be between gaming on a next gen console, vs a high end PC? Normal people aren't going to squint at a TV and shout, "That's only 2x MSAA! That looks like CRAP compared to the AA filtering I can do on my Gaming PC, running dual cards in crossfire!" They're just going to think the game looks pretty, and runs smooth. Which, frankly, is good enough for me too.

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March 10, 2013 9:31:02 AM

fulle said:
It's interesting to look back at how terrible the PS3 and Xbox360's CPUs were.
The Xbox360's 3 core CPU had 165 Million transistors total...


I had always thought that the CPU's on the 360 and PS3 were less than they claimed, or advertised.
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