Published on December 17th, 2012 | by Kirit Thadaka1
It was Christmas morning, I was five years old. I remember running down to the Christmas tree, seeing a big box with my name on it and ripping open the gift wrap to find myself staring at a brand new Nintendo 64. I was on top of the world. I remember making my Dad take me to the video game store and buy me my first ‘N 64’ game, Mario Party 3. I played day and night. Gaming consoles are a big part of all our lives. After my Nintendo 64 I tried out Sony’s PlayStation before finally finding my solace with the PlayStation2. After years of FIFA, Need For Speed and GTA I finally realised that it was time that I actually tried figuring out how these wonderful little machines work.
Basically, a gaming console is like a really fancy computer specified for all your gaming needs. While making a console the hardware used is generally one that has been available in the market for a long time so that the manufacturers can cut costs. The basic elements of a modern gaming console are,
- User Control Interface
- User Control Interface
- Software Kernel
- Medium for Storage
- Video and Audio output
- Power Supply
The User Control Interface is what makes gaming consoles different from watching TV. Without this, it wouldn’t be possible to interact with the console. You wouldn’t be able to use things such as controllers. Initially gaming consoles would have Joysticks but as the gaming consoles evolved we’ve had the emergence of more sophisticated ways to interact with the console. Apart from normal controllers we have controllers which are based on motion sensors like we have for the Wii or Kinect for the Xbox 360.
Each gaming console uses RAM without we wouldn’t be able to have a nice smooth gaming experience. The RAM provide the temporary memory location needed while gaming. Not having enough RAM causes games to lag while playing which is quite annoying. Now imagine how disastrous not having RAM at all would be. I shudder at the thought of it.
The Software Kernel is the console’s Operating System. It is the link between all the various hardware components. The operating system is what allows the video game programmers to write code using common software libraries and tools which makes things easier for them.
The most common storage medium is CD or ROM based cartridges. The PlayStation2 uses a DVD drive and Sony took it even further with the PlayStation3 by giving it a Blu-ray disk drive. Microsoft tried rivaling this by giving the Xbox 360 a HD-DVD drive but unfortunately for them this wasn’t as successful as planned.
For the video signal most gaming consoles provide one that is compatible with your television. It may be NTSC or PAL depending on your country. There is another chip dedicated for the audio signal.
We can’t forget, the GPU. The Graphics Processing Unit. The GPU is what ensures a nice clean video output. GPU is also commonly referred to as a Graphics Card. The GPU modifies and manipulates the memory and builds images in a frame buffer so that we can have a smooth video stream.
Although the basic hardware of it all isn’t too different too a computer, gaming consoles provide the better gaming experience. A computer fully equipped to run a game as well as an Xbox or a PlayStation would cost you two or three times more than the console itself. Gaming consoles tend to load games much faster than computers and their ability to ‘plug and play’ make it the easier option.
Now let’s compare the current ‘big three’ of all gaming consoles, the Playsation 3, the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii.
Let’s talk processor, the PS3 uses a unique Cell Processor. The concept behind Toshiba and IBM’s design was to create a chip that would act like an actual biological cell. So basically this processor architecture is unique because instead of having a single processor doing all the work, the load is shared by different ‘cells’.
The Xbox 360 has a processer packed with a lot of horse power but lacks the guile of the PS3’s Cell architecture. It has a customized Power-PC based CPU from IBM. In this processor we see the use a three symmetrical cores running at 3.2 GHz a piece.
The Nintendo Wii has the least impressive processor of them all. Its IBM Broadway 729 MHz processor isn’t quite in the league of its competitors. But it seems to keep the Nintendo executives who say that it’s good enough to provide a ‘fun gaming experience’ happy enough.
Now let’s move on to the GPU.
The PS3 uses a RSX GPU that runs at 550 MHz, the Xbox 360 ATI GPU that runs at 500 MHz and the Nintendo Wii with an ATI Hollywood GPU running at a measly 243 MHz. The most ardent of gamers believe the Xbox 360 makes better use of its capabilities despite the PS3 having a slight edge when it comes to specs.
While Sony and Microsoft have provided us with two gaming consoles that are in a different league to their Nintendo counterpart, the Wii appeals to the more casual gamer. The more hardcore gamer would find themselves much happier with the 360 or the PS3.
From a technical aspect the PS3 seems the best of the lot but there are a lot of other factors that come into play while choosing your console. Buying a console is not like buying a t-shirt. You have to put a lot of thought into it. Personally, I’d chose the PS3 but I’ve got a lot of friends who’d call me an idiot and tell me the Xbox 360 is better. But I just like the feel of the PS3.
People say a dog is man’s best friend, or books are a man’s best friend. But I disagree, your gaming console is your best friend.