AMD Has Won the Next-Gen Console Battle, And Here’s Why

Posted on June 26, 2013 2:27 PM by Rob Williams

By now, we’re all well-aware of what Microsoft and Sony are bringing to the table with their respective next-gen consoles, but an answer to one common question has eluded us: why, exactly, did both companies settle on AMD’s hardware?

As it turns out, the answer wasn’t so immediate. According to Patrick Moorhead, President of Moor Insights & Strategy, the ultimate battle came between MIPS, ARM and AMD – Intel and NVIDIA were not even in the picture. Both Microsoft and Sony clearly wanted to go with as simple a design as possible, which automatically purges the idea of placing a CPU next to a GPU on the motherboard. Instead, the cleaner and safer implementation is to go with an SoC, where the CPU and GPU are on the same chip and die – AMD calls this an “APU”.

Microsoft Xbox One

While Intel offers market-leading CPUs, its GPU implementations have long been lacking on the gaming front. By contrast, NVIDIA does excel there, but it offers no x86-based processor solution. If Microsoft or Sony had gone with either Intel or NVIDIA, it would have had to go with a two-chip design for the CPU and GPU.

Not long after the evaluation started, it was deemed that MIPS just wasn’t powerful enough, nor had the developer backing that is oh-so-important with these things. In a technical “bake-off”, it was found that ARM also couldn’t offer the performance that either of these companies were looking for, nor was its 64-bit implementations market-ready. There’s no doubt that ARM will offer more competitive products for this use down the road, but the timing didn’t work out to the company’s favor this time around.

Sony PlayStation 4

This is where we see the brilliance of AMD’s acquisition of ATI all those years ago. It’s since developed a robust CPU – or “APU” – that bundles in its modern x86 CPU along with a Radeon GPU. AMD obviously knows what it’s doing with both, so to have both solutions in the same package was undoubtedly attractive to both Microsoft and Sony. And for AMD, it’s a savior move, given its difficulty in competing with Intel for CPU dominance in recent years.

The only question left lingering: why is it Sony scored 50% more GPU cores with its APU over Microsoft?

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