The consoles war

Rumours surrounding the latest generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft are heating up. The so called Xbox 720 and Playstation 4 are expected to be released sometime this year but it is not yet known which will come first. Initial rumours suggest Sony may wait to see what the latest incarnation of Microsoft’s Xbox offers, before releasing their own console. This isn’t the first time Sony have used this tactic with the Playstation 3 coming out well behind the Xbox 360. Whether of not Sony’s console was any better however is subject to heated debate. Who knows what will happen at this point but lets not forget Nintendo’s intuitive Wii U console which was released last year and has already enjoyed some success.

It’s not all about the three gaming tech giants this year however. Valve’s hotly anticipated Steam Box and Nvidia’s project Shield are also expected to go on sale sometime this year. With such big releases expected, there is no doubt that 2013 is going to be a huge year for gaming. Lets have a look at what we know so far:

The Sony Playstation (PS4) may not exist yet but it is certainly on its way. We know that Sony is planning a press event on February 20th and it is strongly believed that their next gen console will be announced then. With regards to hardware specs we do know that both the central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) will be made by AMD. It is believed that the PS4 will share the same 8 core processor from the Xbox 720 and that this will be clocked at 1.6ghz to make it as power efficient as possible. The processor is based on AMD’s new Jaguar architecture but unfortunately – as Techradar have pointed out – this processor is very under powered compared to modern alternatives from the likes of Intel et al. The graphics are expected to be based on an AMD Radeon 7000 series GPU and whilst much faster than the graphic unit within the PS3, not so competitive compared to current high-end PC graphics cards. It will pack 4GB’s or RAM and will more than likely be capable of outputting video is Super High Definition 4K (See my article ‘what’s this 4K all about’). It has to be noted that these specs are not set in stone however so things may change before release. A recent rumour suggests the console will cost around $400 in the US and around £270 here in the UK.

Although there is no idea currently as to when the Xbox 720 is to be released, it would be wise to do so before the Christmas. It is strongly suggested that the 720 will build on the success of the kinect and may even incorporate Microsoft’s new Illumiroom to project images around you room. The 720 will share the CPU from the PS4 but not that much is known about the consoles GPU. what is known is that it will likely be clocked at 800MHZ but recent leaks suggest it may not be as capable as the PS4’s GPU. In the memory department the 720 is expected to have double the memory of its rival at 8GB vs. 4GB. With the release of the Xbox 720 it looks like Microsoft will finally bow out to Sony and Include a Blue Ray Drive. This is not confirmed however and it is still suggested that both consoles may even rely on cloud storage. I’m not so sure however! Like the PS4, the 720 will likely be capable of 4K video out. What was suggested lately is that the 720’s interface may resemble that of Windows 8. It is also unlikely that the popular Xbox controller will change too much.

At the end of the day the specs don’t really mean that much. It is likely that both the PS4 and the 720 will be very similarly matched in the graphics compartment and both will sell like hot cakes. What will likely set them apart will be innovation. The innovative Nintendo Wii pushed the boundaries and gave us something new. Lets hope that one of the next gen consoles is capable of giving us such a new experience and pushes the boundaries of what we are used to.

Personally I am very excited by Valves Steam Box. As a PC gamer I find it pleasing that the PC gaming community has grown massively in recent years. This has only been helped by new more affordable gaming PC’s. Alienware’s excellent X51 gaming PC for example has made PC gaming more affordable and with its compact console like design has made the PC more portable. For the first time PC gaming has been taken into the front room. The Steam Box however can only build on the success of the X51 and make PC gaming a true living room experience. The steam box will be the true living room PC; Small, affordable and accessible. Although not yet officially announced, we have already seen the ‘Piston’ from Xi3. What was originally though to be the Steam Box turned out to be a third party steam like server. This however is interesting as it shows how Steam Box may not be exclusive to Valves own system.

Lets also not forget the Nvidia’s project shield gaming hand-help. Powered by Nvidia’s latest Tegra 4 mobile processor it is shaping up to be a stunner of a gadget. What is basically a controller with a 720p full touch display has the potential to shake up mobile gaming. The console which runs on Android is a true streaming device. The console is capable of streaming Games direct from your PC providing you have a compatible graphics card and are connected to WiFi. As if this isn’t enough, with it being an android device you will be able to download the latest 3D games from the Play Store. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about getting one of these!

So 2013 is really shaping up to be a stunner of a year and its not all about Sony and Microsoft. Far from it in fact. This could potentially be the year of the of the affordable gaming PC. Microsoft and Sony need to watch their backs, theirs a new kid on the block!

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