Sony and Microsoft are all set to launch their PlayStation 5 and Series X consoles by the end of 2020, even though the novel coronavirus outbreak has put a spanner in the works.
While Sony is reportedly struggling with the rising prices of critical PS5 components, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X launch could be hit by distribution challenges.
COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains across the globe, and this threatens to make the PS5 and Series X consoles more expensive.
That’s why a surprise challenger – Nvidia – could quietly steal the thunder of the next-generation consoles with its upcoming slate of graphics cards.
The latest leaks about Nvidia’s next-generation Ampere graphics cards point toward a major performance upgrade. The Ampere architecture will be based on a 7-nanometer (nm) manufacturing process, compared to the existing Turing architecture’s 12nm process node.
The smaller process node means that Nvidia will be able to pack more transistors in a smaller die size . As a result, the electrons on the latest graphics card will have to travel a shorter distance, which will boost their calculation capacity while keeping heat generation low.
What’s more, a smaller die size will reduce manufacturing costs. So Nvidia can deliver a huge jump in the performance of its Ampere GPUs while keeping costs in check. This could be a big problem for the PS5 and the Xbox Series X.
The top of the line Ampere GPU – rumored as the RTX 3080 Ti – could be 40% faster than the current flagship card – the RTX 2080 Ti. That graphics card puts out 14.2 teraflops of computing power, exceeding the Xbox Series X’s 12 teraflops and the PS5’s 10.3 teraflops.
Throw in an extra 40% for the top-of-the-line Ampere GPU, and Nvidia’s next flagship card could churn out nearly 20 teraflops of computing performance.
The current model costs nearly $1,200, so the 20-teraflop GPU is unlikely to pose a threat to consoles such as the PS5 and the Xbox Series X.
But look deeper into Nvidia’s graphics card lineup, and that’s where things start to get interesting.
Nvidia is expected to launch five graphics cards based on the Ampere architecture .
The mid-range card – codenamed GA103 – is expected to deliver a 10% performance improvement over the current flagship. Move lower, and the card codenamed GA104 is expected to deliver nearly the same performance as the current flagship.
Going by Nvidia’s pricing conventions, its second-best graphics card – the RTX 2080 costs $799. But a lower-priced version of the same card – the RTX 2080 Super – is priced at $699 and packs a nice bump in the performance.
The next GPU in the pecking order – the RTX 2070 Super – retails for $499. The RTX 2070 Super can be assumed to be the GA104 graphics card going by the value chain of Nvidia’s product line-up.
This means that Nvidia’s third-best Ampere graphics card should deliver performance that’s identical to the current generation flagship, which boasts 14.2 teraflops.
As such, Nvidia’s mid-range Ampere GPU could undercut the PS5 and the Xbox Series X on pricing and deliver a stronger performance. This could spell bad news for the next console generation as the likes of Sony are reportedly finding it difficult to keep a handle on production costs.
Speculation has put the PS5 price tag as high as $800, which seems quite steep until you consider the high-end components that make up the console’s hardware. Gamers should expect at least a moderate price hike over the previous generation device.
Another analyst suggested last December that the Xbox Series X would be reportedly manufactured at a cost of $500 per unit, though it could take more than that to produce it considering the recent inflation in memory prices .
Of course, you can’t run games on a graphics card alone. You need a few other components to build an actual gaming rig, and they cost quite a bit of money.
But the extra money would buy you a better performance so that you can play games at a higher frame rate.
For instance, a gaming rig built using an RTX 2070 Super graphics card can cost $1,000 at the high end. That would still be more than the cost of a console, though one can cut corners to bring the price down.
And crucially, a PC can be upgraded over time – something that’s not possible with a PS5 or an Xbox. Not to mention the fact that it can do much more than just play games.
Finally, PC gaming titles are often cheaper than their console counterparts, considering the heavy discounts that the likes of Steam offer.
This is why, when the dust finally settles, the winner of the next console generation might not be the PlayStation 5 or the Xbox Series X.
It could be the dark horse you never saw coming: Nvidia.