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Microsoft Xbox One vs Sony PlayStation 4.

The fight is on. The two heavyweights of the console world are now ready to square off in the biggest deathmatch we've seen in many a year.

With Microsoft's big Xbox One reveal last week, we now have a clearer idea of the shape of things to come.

And on the surface there's little to choose between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Both will be 64-bit consoles, both will be running 8 AMD processor cores, both will have 8Gb of RAM, both will use the Cloud, both will allow tablets and other screens to be used alongside the main TV screen, both are designed to be entertainment and web centres as much as they are gaming platforms.

Neither will be backwards compatible with existing games, though Sony has unveiled plans to work PS4 compatibility through the Cloud, and both are being somewhat vague on the issue of DRM, lending games to mates and the second-hand games market.

But under the hood, there seems to be a crucial difference in graphical power, which reveals two very different strategies.

Now, these are very early days, and much of what we know - or guess - now will undoubtedly be superseded by announcements at E3 in a couple of weeks. At the very least, we may actually get to see what the PS4 looks like.

But it seems as though Sony are filling the PS4 with as much raw power as they can, while Microsoft are xboxing clever.

The PS4 will - according to a detailed analysis by Anand Lal Shimpi of - get 1.84 teraflops of peak shader throughput. The Xbox One will get 1.23 teraflops. The current Xbox 360, for comparison, manages just 0.24 teraflops.

Let's put that into English: when it comes to rendering onscreen pretties, the PS4 will handle 1.84 trillion calculations a second, 50 per cent more than the Xbox One.

That's a pretty significant difference. Except for pre-rendered cutscenes and video sequences, your console creates what you see on the fly. That extra power means the PS4 will handle more detail than the Xbox One, whether it be more detailed textures, reflections, smoke effects or just the number of characters moving around your virtual battlefield.

Sony, with the extra horsepower under the hood, are looking like the big studio's dream console.

But don't write off the Xbox One. While it's graphical power looks like it will lag behind the PS4, it's still got five times the power of the existing Xbox 360.

Nor will either console stand up against the best that PC gaming has to offer. The Geforce GTX Titan graphics card will manage 4.7 teraflops of peak shader throughput, and the Radeon HD CrossFire 8.6 teraflops. Mind you, the Titan will set you back a cool $1,000 for the card alone, and you'll pretty much have to build a box around it.

Against a typical mid-range gamer PC, both consoles should impress.

On raw power - even allowing for some variation in the specs - there's little doubt that the PS4 wins.

But Microsoft are trying something different with the Xbox One. For a startas well as the Xbox operating system, the Xbox One will be running a second OS, based on Windows 8.

And though both are using the same core processors - the AMD Jaguar - the supporting memory setup is different.

Shimpi suggests Microsoft's decision to go for SRAM and DDR3 memory is an attempt to broaden the base of the Xbox, whereas Sony's ultrafast GDDR5 memory is aimed at giving developers the highest-end set-up they can.

What that boils down to is two very different views on the way the games industry is going. Over the last year or two there's been a lot of debate over whether the development cost of games is becoming too much, even for big studios, coupled with a rise in indie gaming from the mobile market.

It's looking very much like Sony believes the big, expensive blockbusters will continue, while Microsoft is hedging its bets, giving developers enough to keep them happy but making it easier for smaller, cheaper games to make it onto the Xbox.

Whether that actually happens will depend on whatever licensing terms Microsoft sets up for its new baby.

At the end of the day, which console outsells the other will depend more on the games available for it. A killer game can make a huge difference - the first Xbox blasted onto the scene thanks to Halo, the second thanks to Gears of War.

Though both firms have released a preliminary list of titles, nothing really screams "must play". Of course, that's likely to change at E3.

For me, I'm pretty sure I'll be getting both boxes. The irony is that given the difference in graphical power, I'm already planning to hook Sony's PS4 up to the Samsung Smart TV in my games room, while the Xbox One will get the Sony Bravia in the lounge.

The undercard

First off there's Apple. Now, whatever their prestige in the design world, Apple have never been serious contenders in the gaminge world. Yes, you can get some pretty cool iPad games, including some impressive Warcraft clones, but both Sony and Microsoft have taken the iPad's measure and relegated it to aACAyaccessory'.

Even more worryingly for Apple, Microsoft are already pitching the Xbox One as a TV box as well as a games box, nicely pulling the rug from under all the muttering about Apple TV - and Apple are pretty serious about being a smooth entertainment provider. Microsoft haven't even broken into a sweat to do it. It's a by-blow that reminds me of the scene in the Avengers where Hulk casually punches Thor across the room. Puny Apple.

Then there's Nintendo, the old heavyweight champions who, like George Foreman, just seem to keep going. They had a pretty impressive comeback with the Wii but, sadly, the Wii U has failed to continue the Wii's form. Yes, it has its fans, but relatively few of them and in the latest round of the Console Wars, it doesn't really look like a contender.

And let's not forget the OUYA, the plucky little crowd-sourced open platform console. Let me declare an interest here: I am an OUYA Kickstarter backer, and I expect to get my console and controllers in a few weeks. I'm a sucker for a good underdog story.

But - to push the boxing analogy beyond any reasonable point - the OUYA isn't even Rocky Balboa in the days before his first shot at taking down Apollo Creed. It's a lightweight which has piqued the interest of dedicated fight fans on the amateur circuit and is just about to turn pro. It's got talent and dedication, it's light on its feet and it's a lovely little mover, but no lightweight fight is going to draw the crowds like a titanic heavyweight clash.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 28, 2013
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