Remember when bits were everything? 32 bit versus 64 bit…the “24-bit” neo geo, the Jaguar “do the math” controversy – then the Dreamcast came along, the first 128 bit system, and pretty much everyone stopped talking about it. I even remember a time when I thought the intellivision and 2600 were 4 bit, because they came before the NES. You doubled the bits with the next system, that was just how it worked! But then it started to be about how emotional your engine was. Anyway, I decided to mail sony and ask how many bits the PS3 has. A gajillion? Six? Here’s the official answer (bless them for indulging me, thanks to Sony PR boss dave karraker for getting a tech guy to respond to this – I can’t think of anyone else that would do something this awesome):
“The PS3 is 128 bit, but it is more 128 bit than the others.
The number of bits isn’t really a very good measure anymore.
To be honest, it hasn’t been a good measure since PS1 days.
Most single pieces of data fit in 32 or 64 bits. The benefit
of 128 bits is that you can operate on 4 pieces of 32-bit data
at the same time, which is called SIMD (Single Instruction,
Multiple Data). This is only useful for data that needs the
same operation on all 4 pieces, which is common in games
for things such as 3D graphical transformations, physical
simulation, collision detection, etc. 128-bits is the “sweet
spot” of price and performance, so that is what everyone
seems to have settled upon.
To get more power, people have instead now been moving
to more processor cores. (PS3 has 8, Xbox 360 has 3,
Wii has 1, PS2 had 1 + 2 special-purpose, Xbox had 1, etc).
For graphics, it is even trickier to explain. The biggest difference
is that in the past, graphics chips were “fixed-function”. Now,
they are programmable. But people don’t really talk about it in
terms of bits; instead, they usually measure in terms of flops.“
Aside from maybe a little fudging in terms of the PS2 cores, because by that logic the Saturn had three, that’s pretty interesting! So the PS3 is 128 bit – just like the Dreamcast! Which means the Dreamcast is still top of the line! The Intellivision, which I mentioned before, was actually 16 bit, according to the all-knowing wikipedia. So this clearly means the PS3 is worth 8 Intellivisions! I was also assured that the 360 and Wii are 128 bit as well. So while I knew bits no longer really ‘mattered’, I guess this is official confirmation that the bits war is over. It’s all about cores now, and flops. Now that’s a loaded word! As a bonus, here are some fun equations for you. Create your own!
Jaguar + N64 = PlayStation 3
Intellvision + Genesis + Jaguar – Saturn + Neo Geo + NES + 32X = PlayStation 3
Dreamcast – Wii + NES x SNES = PlayStation 3
Dreamcast / PS2 x supergrafx + PC-FX + Neo Geo Pocket Color – CD-i + Nintendo 64 + 3DO + MSX + (Pippin / CD32 x Game Gear) = PlayStation 3