Comparison of PS3 and Xbox 360


The two chosen computer memory products for comparison are the PS3 (20GB model) and the Xbox 360 (20GB model). Released between late 2005 and late 2006, within almost a year of each other, both products attempted to occupy the same market space and were developed by competing manufacturers: Sony and Microsoft.

For competitive reasons, the exact bill of materials has not been made available for the PS3 or Xbox 360. However, “Market Intelligence” companies such as iSuppli take it upon themselves to create a bill of materials estimate of many products (iSuppli, 2013). So in this case, the bill of materials being used for the following analysis is based upon the best information that is publically available. The full BOM table can be found in the Appendix.

Referring to the bill of materials provides an interesting discovery; Sony makes a loss for every sale of a PS3. With a total BOM of $805.05 USD and retail price of just $499, that equates to negative $306.45 per console sold (Theory, 2007). Microsoft, on the other hand, have a slim but profitable margin of plus $75.50 per console sold, selling at a lower retail price of $399 (Shilov, 2006). Evidently, this means that Sony are relying on customers who buy a PS3 to also buy many PS3 games, as that is where their profit will have to be made. While Microsoft are already ensured a profit per sale with their retail price, they still attempt to gain more through charging $50 per year for online services, which Sony also provide – but for free. (Microsoft, 2013)

It is apparent that Sony poured money into attempting creation of a high-spec machine, especially when one considers the name of their proprietary GPU, the “RSX ‘Reality Synthesizer’”. While it is no simple task to compare two GPUs, the RSX technically trumps the Xbox 360’s “Xenos” GPU on most of the specifications:

The RSX has a clock speed of 550MHz, while the Xenos runs at 500MHz, though both use a 90nm process. Xenos has 512MB of 700MHz video memory, while in comparison the RSX has only 256MB of 700MHz video memory – however it can also utilise 228MB of memory from the 3200MHz XDR RAM.

In terms of architecture, the RSX uses an NV47 pipeline with 24 parallel pixel-shader ALU pipes alongside 8 parallel vertex pipelines; the former is capable of 27 floating-point operations per pipeline, per cycle, while the latter is capable of 10 (RSX, 2013). Xenos instead uses a more unified architecture, with 48 floating-point vector processors (each with the ability to be a pixel- or vertex-shader), capable of 10 floating-point operations per cycle. (Berardini, 2005)

The RSX has support for OpenGL ES 2.0, whereas Xenos supports a superset of the DirectX 9.0c API, DirectX Xbox 360.

When it comes to rendering, the RSX trumps with a maximum rendering rate of 4.4 gigapixels per second compared to Xenos’s 4 gigapixels per second. This comes down to both GPUs sharing the same number of Render Output Units, but the RSX having a slightly faster clock speed. The RSX has the advantage again with a better texel fill rate of 13.2 gigatexels per second, whereas Xenos achieves only 8 gigatexels per second. This is due to the RSX having more texture filtering units, and being capable of twice as many unfiltered texture samples.

Finally, the RSX is capable of a total of just over 400 gigaflops, while the Xenos reaches 240 gigaflops.

The conclusion to be drawn from the comparison of GPUs is that while the RSX generally appears to be technically superior, it is also more complicated for developers to work with. Developers for the RSX have to deal with storing video memory in two possible locations, and will need to use OpenGL, whereas many developers are much more comfortable and experienced with Microsoft’s DirectX.

From this we can infer that Microsoft’s intention was to design a console easy for developers to build games for, whereas Sony aimed to build a technically superior console – to the detriment of their struggling developers.

As for power consumption, the PS3 consumes approximately 200 Watts while being used to play games, while the Xbox 360 consumes approximately 145 Watts (Impress Watch Corporation, 2006) (Broadband, 2006). Interestingly these are a huge increase compared to the previous generation of game consoles, which all ran at around 20 Watts. This is perhaps because the increased power requirement is unavoidable when consumers are demanding intensive, up-to-date hardware that was designed for performance more so than efficiency. Fortunately for the electricity bill payer, the power consumption is much lower when the consoles are on standby – typically around 1 Watt (Microsoft, 2013). This is achieved in the Xbox 360 through going into a low power state by disabling non-essential functions such as the cooling fans.

With reference to cooling, the Xbox 360 long suffered from a fault often attributed to overheating, which earned the nickname “Red Ring of Death” due to the pattern of lights that display when the malfunction occurs. The true cause of this common failure was never officially divulged by Microsoft, however third party analysis indicates the failure likely originates within the GPU. The Xenox GPU was designed in-house, in order to save production costs by avoiding outsourcing to an ASIC vendor. To fix the issue within more recent version of the Xbox 360, Microsoft eventually outsourced the GPU design to an ASIC vendor who redesigned the chip (Yoshida, 2008). This example shows that through attempting to cut costs by cutting corners, Microsoft suffered by producing a less reliable product.

Turning again to the bill of materials, Sony spent considerably more on their choice of optical drive, a Blu-ray optical drive, while Microsoft opted only for a DVD optical drive. This difference in choice equates to set Sony back an extra $105.55 per console. However, as Blu-ray technology has become more commonplace, this has played into Sony’s favour.

One area where both consoles match is the hard drive, where both use a 20GB SATA HDD at a cost of $43. With more recent models, the HDD size has increased as demand for more space increased too; however, apart from a temporary spike due to a flood in Malaysia, HDD prices have been dropping since. (ProQuest Information and Learning Company, 2011)

To conclude, both products attempt to occupy the same market share but through different techniques. With their Xbox 360, Microsoft aim to create a reasonably profitable product which turns into a steady stream of revenue as users subscribe to their online service. Sony, on the other hand, attempt to deliver an all-encompassing, powerful entertainment machine that delivers winning specifications and multiple useful features – and in doing so, selling a stream of games that will enabled them to turn a profit for each console sold.


RSX. (2013, April 18). Retrieved from PS3 Developer Wiki: http://www.ps3devwiki.com/wiki/RSX
Berardini, C. A. (2005, May 12). The Xbox 360 System Specifications. Retrieved from team xbox: http://hardware.teamxbox.com/articles/xbox/1144/The-Xbox-360-System-Specifications/p1/
Broadband. (2006, June 17). Internet Archive Wayback Machine: Game Console Energy Consumption. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20060701021532/http://www.dxgaming.com/?p=6&page=3
Impress Watch Corporation. (2006, November 11). Blu-rayの起爆剤「PLAYSTATION 3」のAV機能を試す。. Retrieved from AV Watch: http://av.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/20061111/ps3.htm
iSuppli. (2013). Retrieved from IHS iSuppli Market Intelligence: http://www.isuppli.com/Pages/Home.aspx
Microsoft. (2013). Retrieved from Xbox LIVE: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/
Microsoft. (2013). Xbox 360 power supply. Retrieved from Xbox: http://support.xbox.com/en-GB/xbox-360/console-power/power-supply
ProQuest Information and Learning Company. (2011, November 1). Thai floods hit hard disk drive makers. Retrieved from TMCnet: http://technews.tmcnet.com/news/2011/11/01/5899473.htm
Shilov, A. (2006, November 20). Microsoft Trims Xbox 360 Manufacturing Costs by 40%. Retrieved from Xbit Laboratories: http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/multimedia/display/20061120132150.html
Theory, M. W. (2007, January 3). Who's Inside the PS3? PlayStation 3 Bill of Materials. Retrieved from Mr Wave Theory: http://mrwavetheory.blogspot.co.uk/2007/01/whos-inside-ps3-playstation-3-bill-of.html
Yoshida, J. (2008, June 9). The truth about last year's Xbox 360 recall. Retrieved from EETimes: http://eetimes.com/electronics-news/4077187/The-truth-about-last-year-s-Xbox-360-recall


PS3 (20GB) Bill of Materials: (Theory, 2007)

Description Cost
Reality Synthesizer $129.00
IBM Cell Broadband Engine $89.00
I/O Bridge Controller $59.00
Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer $27.00
Noteworthy Memory – XDR DRAM (4x512Mbit) $48.00
Other Components and Manufacturing $150.50
Bluetooth Module $4.10
Blu-Ray Optical Drive $125.00
SATA Hard Drive $43.00
Power Supply $37.50
Cooling / Mounting Cage for Motherboard $22.00
Enclosure / Hardware $31.00
Miscellaneous Other Assemblies $1.75
Manufacturing Costs $39.00
Total Console Cost $805.85
Retail Price (US) $499.00
Difference Between Cost and Retail Price $306.45

Xbox 360 (20GB) Bill of Materials: (Shilov, 2006)

Description Cost
Motherboard $204.00
Wireless Board $4.75
Optical Drive $19.45
Hard Disk Drive $43.00
Power Supply $25.50
Enclosure / Hardware $20.50
Manufacturing Costs $6.10
Total Console Cost $323.30
Retail Price (US) $399.00
Difference Between Cost and Retail Price $75.50
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