AMD at the heart of gaming
From a technology standpoint, both systems have an AMD chip at their heart. The Xbox One and the PS4 run nearly identical 28-nm AMD eigh-core APU (two Quad-Core Jaguar modules), yet Microsoft has overclocked its version to run at 1.75 GHz, versus the PS4's 1.6 GHz. However, the difference really lies in the GPU.
Both companies used GPU modules nested within the processor package, but the Sony PS4 contains 1,152 cores, versus the Xbox's 768. We have decapped the processor die for each and are working on more in-depth analysis of these devices. From a BOM standpoint, the Microsoft Xbox One processor is estimated to have cost slightly more at $132, versus Sony's version, which came in at $121.
Different strokes for different folks
The approach to system memory is the significant variation between these two gaming consoles. The choices each vendor made will likely have significant influence on how gaming developers design and extract the most out of each system. In the PS4, TechInsights documented Sony's use of Samsung's GDDR5 (DRAM memory optimized for graphics), while in Microsoft's Xbox One, we extracted 16 SK Hynix DDR3 chips. The cost difference between these choices was significant. Sony's investment in a graphics optimized technology led to an estimation of $62, while the Xbox's DDR3 totaled $39. Microsoft spent roughly half of what Sony did on the memory.
John Scott-Thomas, product manager of semiconductor analysis at TechInsights, explains:
Microsoft has chosen to closely mimic conventional PC architecture with a support processor dedicated primarily to IO operation (HDMI in and out, USB 3.0, Kinect, and Ethernet ports) in the fashion of a Southbridge chip. In addition, the Microsoft Xbox One appears to have significantly over-engineered the cooling of the Xbox One. The console contains a five-inch fan that dwarfs the one contained in the Sony PS4. This has been placed directly over the main processor, no doubt to mitigate some of the negative user experience cause by overheating in the Xbox 360.
The connected gaming experience
Interestingly both manufactures chose to use Marvell for connectivity. In fact, in the Xbox One, there are two Marvell ICs. The first Marvell chip (88W8782U) is dedicated to the WLAN (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), and the second (88W8897M) does WLAN+BT4.0+NFC. This second chip is the latest from the Marvell Avastar product line. Further testing will be done to determine why Microsoft felt the need for two of the WLAN chips.
TechInsights' Teardown team has torn down Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft devices in the past, and more information on both technology and costing of these devices as they evolved is available on our website.
Images and additional costing data are available via www.techinsights.com/ps4-vs-xboxone/.
Note: TechInsights BOM costing focused on the gaming console. If you included the controller, headset, and camera (optional on PS4), TechInsights estimates the total cost would increase by about $40.