Xbox Series X’s Advantage Could Lie in Its Machine Learning-Powered Shader Cores, Says Quantic Dream

Alessio Palumbo
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With the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 now only a couple of weeks away from the respective launches, the debate surrounding Microsoft's and Sony's next-generation consoles is more heated than ever. Which one is better than the other, hardware-wise? That's one of the biggest questions, of course, as despite the underlying similarities (both are based on AMD's technology) there are quite a few differences as well.

When we recently interviewed David Cage, CEO and founder of Quantic Dream, he highlighted the Xbox Series X's shader cores as more suitable for machine learning tasks, which could allow the console to perform a DLSS-like performance-enhancing image reconstruction technique.

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It is always challenging to compare hardware, as they always have advantages and disadvantages. It is not just a matter of CPU or frequency; it is more about the consistency of the components and the possibilities of advanced features.

The CPU of the two consoles uses the same processor (slightly faster on Xbox Series X), the GPU of the Xbox also seems more powerful, as it is 16% faster than the PS5 GPU, with a bandwidth that is 25% faster. The transfer speed from the SSD is twice as fast on PS5.

The shader cores of the Xbox are also more suitable to machine learning, which could be an advantage if Microsoft succeeds in implementing an equivalent to Nvidia’s DLSS (an advanced neural network solution for AI).

Overall, I think that the pure analysis of the hardware shows an advantage for Microsoft, but experience tells us that hardware is only part of the equation: Sony showed in the past that their consoles could deliver the best-looking games because their architecture and software were usually very consistent and efficient.

This seems to be exactly what Microsoft is pushing right now. Earlier this week, alongside the announcement that Xbox Series S and X are the only next-gen consoles featuring the full AMD RDNA 2 architecture, Microsoft's engineers specifically highlighted these capabilities.

[...] we have gone even further introducing additional next-generation innovation such as hardware accelerated Machine Learning capabilities for better NPC intelligence, more lifelike animation, and improved visual quality via techniques such as ML powered super resolution.

Additionally, we also know from AMD that they're working on an open, cross-platform alternative to NVIDIA's Deep Learning Super-Sampling, which again suggests this could be used on both PC and Xbox Series hardware. The developers at Gaijin Entertainment told us last week they're already exploring DirectML uses for their games, so it seems like only a matter of time before this potential hardware advantage materializes.

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