Before getting into the subject, I want to remind you of something very important that, unfortunately, it seems that we have forgotten, and that is that a PC at the level of PS5 does not need the same components as another that claims to be at the level of Xbox Series X. This has a very simple explanation, and that is that the second is, in general, more powerful than the first. If you have doubts on this subject, I invite you to review this article dedicated to analyzing which is the most powerful console.
Another basic pillar on which we must build that starting point that we have referred to is that both consoles use an APU, a solution that integrates CPU and GPU in the same package, and that this limits important aspects such as maximum working frequencies. CPU memory, CPU cache, and GPU peak frequency. All this has a significant impact on performance and makes it impossible to directly compare both components with desktop PC versions.
With this in mind, we have a first clear idea that should be our starting point, and to mount a PC at the level of PS5, we need a less powerful GPU than the Xbox Series X. The SSD PS5 is faster, and we can only match its speed with a PCI-E Gen4 x4 drive, but it is not essential to enjoy a good user experience, as we will see later.
We must also not forget that both consoles use a unified memory architecture and that they have resources reserved for the operating system and applications. This means that game developers cannot fully access the 16 GB of memory and 8 processor cores, and therefore it is not strictly necessary to reach those levels. We will also delve into this later.
After this brief, but necessary introduction, we are ready to discover those five things that we do not need to build a PC on the same level as the PS5 and Xbox Series X, as much as some insist on making us believe otherwise. As always, if you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments and we will help you solve them.
1# You don’t need a Ryzen 7 3700X to mount a PC at the crisis of PS5 and Xbox Series X
It is a massive error, and quite serious, that continues to run throughout the Internet. PS5 and Xbox Series X have an 8-core Zen 2 processor that can handle 16 threads, but this doesn’t put it directly on the level of a Ryzen 7 3700X, and we’ll see why.
As we have anticipated, both consoles mount an APU, a low-power solution in which CPU and GPU share encapsulation and have to share the TDP. The PS5 and Xbox Series X processors use the same design as the Ryzen 4000 APUs, which means that its eight Zen 2 cores are divided into two blocks of four cores, and each has 4 MB of L3 cache (8 MB L3 cache in total). Its working frequency is also lower than what we can find in the Ryzen 3000 series desktop.
The Xbox Series X processor runs at 3.6 GHz when handling 16 threads, while the PS5 version reaches maximum peaks of 3.5 GHz. By contrast, the Ryzen 7 3700X has eight cores divided into two blocks with 16 MB of L3 cache for each of them ( 32 MB of L3 cache in total ), and reaches frequencies of 4.2 GHz with all cores and threads active, thanks to the turbo mode.
We have said very interesting things, but what conclusions should we draw from all this? Firstly, that the CPU of both consoles is well below a Ryzen 7 3700X, and secondly that it is, in terms of raw power, rather on the level of a Ryzen 7 1000 series (Zen of the first generation), due to its frequencies and its reduced amount of L3 cache.
That’s why you don’t need a Ryzen 7 3700X to mount a PC on the same level as the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Remember, also, that Xbox Series X reserves a core for operating system tasks (probably PS5 too), and that actually developers have 7 cores and 14 threads free for games.
2# The graphics card: you don’t need an RX 6800, nor an RTX 2080 Ti
Let’s make one thing clear before starting this section, and that is that, to this day, there is no new generation graphics card that we can consider as a direct equivalent to mount a PC at the height of PS5, and not do the same pointing to Xbox Series X. However, there are graphical solutions of the previous generation that are in a very close position.
I also don’t want to forget about the myth of the TFLOPs. Let’s forget about this data once and for all to reliably and adequately assess the real performance of a graphics card in games, and start from average and real performance values to obtain reliable equivalences. I’m not saying this for no reason, it is more than confirmed that TFLOPs do not reflect the real performance of a graphics card in games, a reality that will only get worse with the entry into play of ray tracing and AI applied to games.
The PS5 GPU is roughly a Radeon RX 6700, I have already discussed this in previous articles. In contrast, the Xbox Series X GPU has no direct equivalent, so it positions itself halfway between a hypothetical Radeon RX 6700 XT and a Radeon RX 6800. This already tells us something very important, and that is that you do not need a Radeon RX 6800 to mount a PC at the level of PS5, and neither to reach the level of Xbox Series X.
That conclusion is, however, the easy part. The tricky part comes when we get carried away by the TFLOPs. We might think that to mount a PC at the PS5 level we need a GPU that reaches 10.29 TFLOPs in FP32, without going to assess anything else, but we would be committing, again, a very serious mistake.
Nothing better than an example to understand this reality. The GPU used by PS5 and Xbox Series X has more TFLOPs than an NVIDIA RTX 2060 Super, which is around 7.1 TFLOPs, but the latter moves Watch Dogs Legion much better than both consoles, since it is capable of holding more than 30 Stable FPS with similar graphic settings (superior in some aspects, such as ray tracing quality), and without having to resort to dynamic resolution, that is, working in native 4K. If you want more information, don’t miss the attached video.
The conclusion is clear and simple, we do not need a high-end graphics card to mount a PC at the height of PS5 and Xbox Series X, and that did not take into account the potential of NVIDIA’s DLSS 2.0.
3# You don’t need huge amounts of RAM either: 16 GB is enough
Some assume that we will need 32 GB of RAM, and frankly, I do not know where they get that idea. As we’ve said, PS5 and Xbox Series X have a total of 16GB of unified GDDR6 memory, which means that such memory is used for two big things:
- Operating system and applications: a part of the memory is reserved exclusively. In the case of Xbox Series X, the total reserved amounts to 2.5 GB, which leaves us 13.5 GB free. It is not yet confirmed how much memory PS5 reserves for both elements, but there is talk of between 2 GB and 2.5 GB.
- It works like RAM and VRAM: we do not have that physical division that exists in PC between RAM and graphics memory when we talk about PS5 and Xbox Series X, but the unified memory of the consoles have to perform these tasks, as well. This means that the 13.5 GB of memory that Xbox Series X has available is used to store the typical elements that we would find in the RAM and VRAM of a PC. Each developer can distribute, as they estimate, the available memory.
PS4 and Xbox One have 8 GB of unified memory, of which approximately 5 GB is free. For a while, it was possible to play almost everything without problems on a PC with 6 GB of RAM, although currently, the optimal minimum is 8 GB of RAM. This has an explanation, and it is that the arrival of PS4 Pro, and especially that of Xbox One X, slightly raised the requirements of some titles.
To build a PC at the level of PS5 and Xbox Series X we are basically in the same situation. From 12 GB of RAM we should be able to play without problems the first “batches” of new generation titles “for real”, but the 16 GB of RAM will mark that new “optimal level” that will allow us to completely forget about this component throughout the life of both consoles.
4# Forget about 16 GB of graphics memory
We have already commented on it in the previous section, a PC does not have a unified memory architecture, which means that RAM and graphics memory are independent, although it is true that the former can be used as VRAM in certain cases.
With the arrival of PS4 Pro and Xbox Series X, the consumption of graphics memory in games increased considerably, so much so that graphics cards with 2 GB of memory were in a difficult position, and models with 4 GB of graphics memory became the new standard for gaming in optimal conditions with resolutions 1080p and 1440p, mainly.
The launch of PS5 and Xbox Series X, and the misconceptions that swarm about the unified memory configurations, have shaped a myth that ensures that we will need 16 GB of graphics memory to mount a PC at the height of PS5 and of Xbox Series X. Obviously, it is insane for any minimally experienced user, but those with less knowledge have been carried away by this fallacy.
It is not true, neither of the two consoles has 16 GB of graphics memory. They add up, as we have seen, 16 GB of unified memory, of which only about 13.5 GB remain free, which the RAM and VRAM must carry out on the PC.
On the other hand, we must bear in mind that we are talking about a PC at the level of PS5 and Xbox Series X and that it is capable, therefore, of moving the games with the same configuration as both consoles. The first tests confirm that PS5 and Xbox Series X continue to pull dynamic resolution in most cases, that is, they move between 1440p and 2160p, maintaining a level of quality that is equivalent, with many nuances, to a medium-high level. in front of the PC. With this in mind, the conclusion is clear: 8GB of graphics memory is more than enough.
However, keep in mind that we cannot rule out the possibility that both Sony and Microsoft end up launching an intergenerational renewal, that is, a PS5 Pro and a more powerful Xbox Series X. If this happens, the optimal minimum of graphics memory may increase, but we would no longer be talking about how much graphics memory we would need to mount a PC at the level of PS5 and Xbox Series X, but of a computer at the level of PS5 Pro and that. new Xbox Series X.
5# An SSD will be essential, but you don’t have to be up to date
It is a contentious issue, but the truth is that deep down it can be settled quite quickly. If we want to mount a PC at the height of PS5, in the strictest possible sense, we need a PCIe Gen4 x4 SSD that is around 5.5 GB / s, while in the case that we aim at Xbox Series X we just need a 2.4 GB / s PCI-E Gen3 x4 SSD.
The reality is that, but what do we give up if we mount a slower SSD? The first thing I want to make clear is that even going from an HDD to a SATA III SSD that is around 500 MB / s we are going to notice a huge jump, as well as going from night to day. This jump is reduced considerably as we move to more powerful units, which means that the improvement we obtain is less and less, but the expense increases.
As of today, the difference between a 520MB / s SATA III SSD and a 3.5GB / s PCI-E Gen3 x4 SSD is a few seconds. For example, Cyberpunk 2077 records averages of less than 10 seconds on loading screens with a PCI-E Gen3 x4 SSD, around 11 seconds on a SATA III SSD, and exceeds 30 seconds on a 7,200 RPM HDD. The important leap is, as we see, in going from an HDD to an SSD.
With this clear, I want to explain why there is such a small difference between a SATA III and a PCI-E SSD. The key is in optimization and the lowest common denominator. We are in a time of transition where developers still have to create games for PS4 and Xbox One, two consoles that use HDDs at 5,400 RPM, and where PCI-E SSDs are not yet fully exploited.
The arrival of the new generation of consoles will mean the definitive transition to the high-performance SSD, but Xbox Series X will be the lowest common denominator, that is, the developers will start with the slowest storage unit, and in this case, it works at 2, 4 GB / s. The exclusive PS5 titles will be developed to take full advantage of its SSD, which runs at 5.5 GB / s, but these will represent a small part of the total of next-generation games that we will see in the coming years.
My conclusion in this regard is very clear, we will not need to have a latest-generation PCI-E SSD at 5.5 GB / s or more to enjoy a good experience with new generation games.
If you still have doubts, I recommend that you take a look at this article that we published last October, dedicated to analyzing in-depth everything that a PC will need to survive PS5 and Xbox Series X.