Difference Between Gaming Consoles (PS/PS2, GameCube, Xbox) and PC



Lan Tran


Engr. 120


May 13, 2002



























In the beginning, when XTs still ruled the world, people never saw the connection between games and computers. Computers were still very user-unfriendly (some still are, by the way) and games were games. The word "computer" was associated with a bulky number cruncher system, and games were associated with lots of perspiration. However, all this changed in 1972, when a tennis-like arcade game called "pong" achieved immense popularity in the American market. It marked the start of the video game mania. This event was the beginning of a soon-to-be multi-billion dollar industry, and perhaps, the stage for the next computer revolution.


In the present day, nearly thirty years after "pong", video games are still extremely popular. They are usually divided by two main categories: PC games and console games. PC games are operated using a PC, while consoles are normally hooked up to a television set and have very little compatibility with each other, meaning games in one kind of console may not even exist on other platforms. For both PC and console games, however, there is a constant demand for better graphics, better sound and all around better games. So far, as the past few years have shown, the video game designers have been more than ready to oblige. The main problem has been the hardware, with most gaming consoles operating with processors about as powerful as a 386. The past few years, however, have shown a tremendous leap in gaming technology. First, there appeared the SuperFamicom (or SNes), which people at that time raved about. Then came the still immensely popular Playstation from Sony and the Nintendo64 from Nintendo. The Playstation was already revolutionary with its use of CDs, instead of cartridges, to store games. Now, with the advent of its successors, the Playstation 2, Microsoft’s Xbox, and Nintendo’s GameCube, the boundaries between PCs and consoles are beginning to blur.




The Playstation 2 (PS2) was launched in 2000. Just as the Game Boy Advance can play games produced for previous models in the Game Boy series, so the PS2 has the ability to play games produced for the original Playstation. There are an estimated 300 titles in development for the PS2.


The Playstation 2, or PS2, can process around 20 million polygons per second. Its main clock speed is approximately 300 MHz, as compared to the 33 MHz of the original Playstation. It also has 32 MB of Direct Rambus RAM.    


Sony is speculated to be working with Toshiba and IBM to develop next generation style semi-conductors which are likely to form part of the Playstation3 console; opinions differ as to when such a console would be launched, with most industry commentators predicting 2004 or 2005.


Sales of its current and previous Playstation models, an installed global base (and continuing healthy sales) of over 20,000,000 PS2s, royalties from games, and revenue from its other consumer divisions mean it is probable that Sony will remain a key console manufacturer for at least the first half of this decade.





Microsoft is a new producer of consoles, though it has video game development experience through various software – the most well-known of which is the Flight Simulator series for the PC. In November 2001, Microsoft launched its Xbox console in the US; this was followed by launches in Japan (February 2002) and Europe (March 2002).


The launch of the Xbox was accompanied by a strong array of games, some highly critically acclaimed. The variety and quality of these “launch games“ was a key factor in Microsoft selling 1.5 million consoles in the US between the launch date and the end of 2001. An average of over three games was bought per hardware unit sold; this was good news for Microsoft, as the Xbox follows the typical revenue model for a games console, where the hardware sells at a loss per unit but the manufacturer makes money on software royalties.


The Xbox is a big, heavy machine that wants to be the most important piece of equipment in your home. About the size of a VCR and weighing considerably more, it is the behemoth of game consoles. Everything about it is big and luxurious, with thick connecting cables and an unusually large but comfortable game controller that seems suited only to adult hands. (A smaller one had to be designed for the Japanese market.) Black and solid, it contrasts markedly with the GameCube, a little purple box the size of a teapot. The Xbox says, admire me, adore me, plan your life around me; the GameCube says, toss me in a backpack and take me to a friend's house. Also, a range of peripherals will appear for the Xbox over 2002, including a DVD remote control, a HDTV (High Definition TV) cable and a broadband adapter.


In other ways, the Xbox is pure Microsoft: powerful, massive and ready to roll over the competition like a steamroller. With a 733-megahertz processor, 64 megabytes of memory, a 250-megahertz graphics processor and 256 audio channels, the Xbox is the most powerful home game machine ever created. It is also the first game console to contain a hard drive, which will allow programmers to store far more detailed information about the state of a game and enable gamers to replace the music soundtrack of a game with any songs they choose to copy to their drive.


The Xbox has a 733-MHz processor, beating the GameCube's 485-MHz chip. It has a bigger "memory bandwidth," which is supposed to make the system faster, and it can display more "polygons per second" (116.5 million vs. the GameCube's 6 million to 12 million). The XBox also has a built-in 8-GB hard


drive and an ethernet port that allows for a high-speed Internet connection, and -- if you purchase a $30 remote control -- you can also use the Box to play DVDs.

It is evident from the amount of revenue Microsoft have invested in the Xbox (including a global publicity budget of some half a billion dollars), that the Xbox is viewed as a key Microsoft product. Long term arrangements with a variety of the leading games publishers indicate that Microsoft intend to become and remain a key games sector “player” for at least several years.




In late 2001, Nintendo launched its GameCube console in the US and Japan, with a European launch due in May 2002. Unlike the Xbox and the Playstation2, the GameCube will not be able to play DVDs, a disadvantage some industry commentators speculate may affect sales.


While the GameCube's specifications aren't quite as impressive, its small size belies its tremendous power. The GameCube isn't trying to impress anyone with its strength and majesty, and while public relations people for Microsoft have been trained to insert the phrase "the power of the Xbox" into every third sentence, Nintendo says the important thing isn't the technology but the games, pointing out that its Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver for the hand-held Game Boy Color were the top sellers last year.


PC (Personal Computer)


The PC has been heavily used as an online gaming machine since the first modems were marketed; consequently, many PC games are online-oriented. Titles such as EverQuest and Ultima Online involve many thousands of players being simultaneously logged on. One popular title in South Korea, a country with a high proportion of online game players, is Lineage; on occasion, over 200,000 people have simultaneously played the game online, usually from cyber cafés.

Due to the lack of online functionality in consoles prior to 1998, online gaming has, until very recently, been mostly PC based. An exception to this has been a selection of games on the Sega Dreamcast. In the latter stages of its short life, a number of titles were released that made use of an in-built modem. The most popular of these is Phantasy Star Online [PSO], which allowed people from around the world to interact in team-based quests. PSO included a novel speech mode: using a menu-based system, players selected “speech” which was translated into the language of the recipient. Therefore, people with different first languages, based anywhere in the world, could “converse” during the game in a relatively fluid manner.


Market experts predict that online gaming will be the largest area of expansion in the video games sector, an increasingly likely possibility considering the number of games under development that incorporate some sort of online facility. The Xbox, PS2 and GameCube all possess ports for modem/broadband connectivity, and all are developing the necessary infrastructure.


Comparison of the PC and Games Consoles


There are several fundamental differences between the PC and gaming consoles. From a technical perspective, consoles can be viewed as stable, closed environment, fixed specification PCs, usually running a stripped-down operating system that the end-user generally does not interact with.


1.      Cost


Games consoles, like PCs, reduce in price as they age. This tends to happen in jumps to coincide with launches of competing consoles. For example, UK console prices are generally higher than those elsewhere in the world, sometimes by a factor of 30-50%.


2.      Network Capability


Nearly all PCs bought for home or small business purchase contain a modem as standard.


The PS2 contains a slot for an optional broadband modem, and an optional USB modem from other peripheral developers. Sony is working with Telewest, and BT Openworld, to develop “net-based multi-player gaming systems”. Interestingly, both broadband and narrowband connections are in development, offering a price-based choice for PS2 owners [PS2 Online]. The Xbox is 10/100Mbps Ethernet broadband enabled, and offers an optional 56Kbps modem capability. The GameCube contains ports for broadband and 56K modem connectivity.


3.      Similarity to PC


The Xbox is the closest of the three main consoles, in terms of architecture, to a PC. The console contains a hard drive, on which game positions can be saved; however, the main function of the hard drive is for a game to temporarily store data – accessing the hard drive is quicker than reading a disc, thus reducing in-game data read delays. The hard drive is also used for players to save game “positions”.


4.      Processing Power


A limited technical comparison between a PC and games console can produce an inaccurate picture. For example, it should be remembered that the primary (or sole) function of a console is to play a game, with no processor or operating system overheads committed to other tasks e.g. virus checking, printer or peripheral status monitoring. In addition, game players are mostly interested in the “best” games (defined by a fluid set of criteria), which through gaming history have not always appeared on the most technically advanced console of the time.







A limited technical comparison of the incoming generation of television-based video gaming consoles is thus:







128bit  405MHz

128bit  294MHz

32bit  733MHz

Main RAM


32Mb RAM

64Mb unified memory

Graphics RAM


4Mb embedded on GS

See above

Graphics processor

128bit  202MHz

147MHz GS

300MHz Nvidia iGPU

Other processors


Input/output processor

Signal processing unit

200MHz Nvidia MCPX

Memory Bandwidth





5.      Software Range


Perhaps the starkest difference between PCs and games consoles is in the software and applications that are hosted by both. The PC is host to a wide range of applications, such as word processors, web browsers, office tools and database applications. Software on games consoles, until recently, has been almost exclusively games-oriented, with a niche of educational software [Gamerland]. Educational software is more common on PCs, which also hosts games (though these tend to be titles which make fuller use of the keyboard and other PC-centric peripherals).


However, as previously mentioned the Sega Dreamcast games console (1999-2002) shipped with an inbuilt modem and proprietary web browser, offering web and email access. Though the functionality of early versions of the web browser was limited, as it failed to recognize a number of plug-in media, the system offered a very easy to use method of online access for a cheap cost.


Video Game Console Specs


Video Game Console Specs





System Memory

Storage & Communication

Microsoft Xbox (2001)


Intel Pentium III 32-bit integer 80-bit floating-point 64-bit MMX 128-bit SSE 733 MHz 32KB L1 cache 128KB L2 cache 1980 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS 2.93 GFLOPS ~120.0 GFLOPS (CPU+GPU) 1.0 GB/sec external bus

NVIDIA xGPU 250 MHz 1.0 gigapixel per second 2.0 gigatexels per second 4.0 billion anti-aliased samples per second 60 million polygons per second programmable vertex and pixel processors texture compression full-scene anti-aliasing 32-bit color processing 24-bit color output

shares 64MB system memory 6.4 GB/sec memory bandwidth no swapping due to unified memory

NVIDIA MCPX APU 256 2D voices 64 3D voices Dolby Digital shares 64MB system memory 800 MB/sec via HyperTransport

64MB DDR 200 MHz 128-bit 6.4 GB/sec

DVD-ROM DVD-9 (8.54GB) 8GB Hard Drive 10/100 Mbps Ethernet

Nintendo GameCube (2001)


IBM Power PC Gekko 32-bit integer 64-bit floating-point 485 MHz 64KB L1 cache 256KB L2 cache 1125 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS 1.94 GFLOPS 10.5 GFLOPS (CPU+GPU) 1.3 GB/sec external bus

ATI/Nintendo Flipper 162 MHz 650 megapixels per second 650 megatexels per second 12 million polygons per second transformation and lighting engine texture compression subpixel anti-aliasing 32-bit color processing 24-bit color output

2MB frame buffer 1MB texture cache 10.4 GB/sec texture read 2.4 GB/sec texture swap

Macronix 16-bit DSP 64 2D voices ADPCM encoding shares 16MB DRAM 81 MB/sec bandwidth

24MB 1T-SRAM 325 MHz 64-bit 2.6 GB/sec

16MB DRAM 81 MHz 8-bit 81 MB/sec

Optical Disc 1.5GB discs 128ms access time

Sony PlayStation 2 (2000)


Emotion Engine 128-bit 295 MHz 24KB L1 cache 16KB Scratch Pad RAM 8KB VU0 cache 32KB VU1 cache 450 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS 6.2 GFLOPS 2.4 GB/sec system bus 1.2 GB/sec graphics bus

Sony GS 150 MHz 2.4 gigapixels per second 1.2 gigatexels per second 20 million polygons per second 32-bit color processing 24-bit color output

4MB video memory 19.2 GB/sec read 19.2 GB/sec write 9.6 GB/sec texture read 1.2 GB/sec texture swap

SPU2 48 2D voices ADPCM encoding 2MB RAM

32MB RDRAM 800 MHz 2 x 16-bit 3.2 GB/sec

DVD-ROM DVD-5 (4.7GB) CD (650MB)

Sega Dreamcast (1999)

Hitachi SH4 32-bit integer 64-bit floating-point 200 MHz 24KB L1 cache no L2 cache 360 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS 1.4 GFLOPS 800 MB/sec external bus

PowerVR Series 2 100 MHz 100 megapixels per second 100 megatexels per second 3 million polygons per second tile based rendering texture compression full-scene anti-aliasing 32-bit color processing 24-bit color output

8MB video memory 800 MB/sec memory bandwidth

ARM7 45MHz 40 MIPS 64 2D voices ADPCM encoding 2MB RAM

16MB SDRAM 100 MHz 64-bit 800 MB/sec

GD-ROM 1GB discs 56k modem

Nintendo 64 (1996)

MIPS R4300i 64-bit 93.75 MHz 24KB L1 cache 125 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS 100 MFLOPS (RCP) 250 MB/sec external bus

Reality Co-Processor (RCP) 62.5 MHz 62.5 megapixels/second (?) 62.5 megatexels/second (?) 150 thousand polygons per second sound and graphics processor pixel drawing processor 32-bit color processing 21-bit color output

shares 4MB system memory 500 MB/sec memory bandwidth no swapping due to unified memory

included in RCP 64 2D voices ADPCM encoding shares 4MB system memory 500 MB/sec

4MB RDRAM 500 MHz 8-bit 500 MB/sec expandable to 8MB


Sony PlayStation (1995)

MIPS R3000A 32-bit 33.87 MHz 5KB L1 cache 30 MIPS 132 MB/sec external bus

256 x 256 max sprite size sprite special effects 360 thousand polygons per second geometry engine motion JPEG decompression engine 24-bit color

1MB video memory

SPU 24 PCM channels 512KB RAM



Sega Saturn (1995)

2x Hitachi SH-2 32-bit 28.6 MHz 28 MIPS each

Hitachi SH-1 32-bit 20 MHz 20 MIPS

VDP1 sprite and geometry processor VDP2 background processor 200 thousand polygons per second 24-bit color

512KB frame buffers 512KB VDP1 RAM 512KB VDP2 RAM

Motorola 68EC000 11.3 MHz 1.5 MIPS Yamaha FH1 DSP 22 MHz 32 PCM channels 8 FM channels 512KB RAM



NEC PC-FX (1994)

NEC V810 32-bit 21.5 MHz 15.5 MIPS

640 x 448 9 background layers sprite special effects JPEG decompression 24-bit color 1.25MB video memory

2 ADPCM channels 6 sample channels



Atari Jaguar (1994)

Motorola 68000 16-bit 13.295 MHz 26.6 MB/sec external bus

Tom Chip

32-bit Graphics Processor 26.591 MHz 26.591 MIPS 4KB cache progammable graphics effects

64-bit Object Processor sprite engine

64-bit Blitter Processor high-speed logical operations z-buffering and gouraud shading

24-bit color programmable resolution

shares 2MB system memory 106.364 MB/sec memory bandwidth

Jerry Chip

32-bit DSP 26.6 MHz 26.6 MIPS 8KB cache software channels

shares 2MB system memory 106.364 MB/sec

2MB RAM 64-bit 106.364 MB/sec

cartridge CD-ROM add-on







The emergence of video games and gaming consoles as a mainstream form of culture and entertainment has resulted in a rapidly developing range of specialized electronic devices. Many of these devices are relatively cheap, high powered, reliable, and owned by large proportions of the population. An increasing number of offer, or will offer, Internet access (initially for online gaming purposes), which presents opportunities for remote information access, teaching and learning scenarios. Games themselves present, in relevant contexts, possibilities for learning and teaching support, and are used as such in an increasing number of classroom scenarios (mostly in the US).


There are a number of video game-related trends and developments which HE and FE need to monitor. These include:

·        the ease and openness of developing non-gaming applications for games consoles e.g. “pure” educational software.

·        independent software developments on relatively low technology gaming platforms e.g. handheld consoles such as the Game Boy Advance.

·        the use (in terms of numbers, method of use in games, non gaming use e.g. web browsing) of the online facilities incorporated into games consoles.

·        developments of software (for games consoles and the PC) that incorporate the best features of educational and gaming techniques.

·        the relevance of aspects of video game development to academic courses and research.

·        developments in game design, such as graphical techniques, plot and character  development, user interface design, and making the player learn, that can be incorporated into the development of learning and teaching materials.

·         demographics of video games e.g. the proportions of people in different social strands who own consoles and games (and are therefore familiar with them), as opposed to other devices and systems such as Interactive TV and PCs.


















“GameCube or Xbox? The Games, Not the Systems, May Decide,” (November 8, 2001; Technology), by Charles Herold



Video Game Consoles Specs



“PS2 and Dreamcast: The next step in the computer revolution?” by Ryan Erwyn Ko



“Which gaming console? Shootout between XBox, GameCube,”

by Farhad Manjoo



“The relevance of video games and gaming consoles to the Higher and Further

Education learning experience,” by John Kirriemuir Ceangal