Why are gaming consoles so much more EFFICIENT when it comes to playing games?

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by redsteven, Feb 18, 2008.

  1. redsteven macrumors 6502a


    Aug 22, 2006
    Sure, gaming consoles are made SPECIFICALLY for gaming... while most macs and PCs are made for lots of different things (gaming just happens to be one of them).

    However, even with HUGE disparities in hardware, consoles seem to always come out on top.

    The example that specifically comes to mind is the original Metroid Prime. I never played any of the sequels (though i'd by the third if i had a Wii), but I specifically remember how awesome the graphics in that game were... and it was on a GAMECUBE.

    Metroid Prime didn't feature as many enemies on the screen at once as some other games, but those graphics were AMAZING, and far better than anything I've seen on my macs. Right now I'm using a rev A 20" iMac - 2 GHz intel core duo, 2 gigs of ram, and ATI X1600 with 256 megs.
    It's by no means a top of the line system but still far better than what the gamecube had.

    The gamecube's hardware was - without getting really specific: (info from wikipedia)
    486 MHz Power PC 750 CXe - according to wikipedia this is a version of the G3!!!!!!!!! It was used in "Several models of iBook and the last G3 based iMac..."
    approx. 43 megs of total RAM
    162 MHz GPU

    You can check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamecube#Hardware_specifications for the full details.

    Now even though my iMac may not be gaming focused... should it be able to deliver comparable performance to at LEAST a gamecube?
  2. Muncher macrumors 65816


    Apr 19, 2007
    Y'know, you'd think that would be true. But with your mac splitting up its processing power between ~30 processes plus your game, and then the architecture of a computer is not necessarily set up for gaming, but rather to be balanced, and then last but not least, resolution.

    Gamecubes output a resolution of 640 by 480 (or 480i) in the US, @30 fps.
    Computers are expected a resolution of at least 1024 by 768, but nowadays around 1440 by 900 at about 60 fps. That means the computer has to compute ~5.12 pixels to every 1 pixel for the 'cube.
  3. hankolerd macrumors 6502


    Sep 19, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    OS takes alot of processing time. Resolution makes the video card work much harder. Games can't be written efficiently for every videocard, mobo, ram, and processor out there, so they just have to reach a neutral point so it runs somewhat equal on all systems.
    I think the biggest thing though is how companies are easily able to optimize their code for a console, because they know exactly how it is going to run on every system, and they can test it to be sure it runs smoothly. They can adjust the game so it is always running at say, 30fps, so they can get the most into the game, while making it look like it runs on the system with no problems whatsoever.:apple:

    EDIT: I've never played or even seen metroid prime in action, but I can only assume that it doesn't look as good as UT3, Crysis, or many of the other newer games that your computer can play. And yes I know it can play them, because I have the same exact set up and I have played UT3 and Crysis on it.
  4. mac2maverick macrumors regular


    Jan 19, 2008
    What did you have to change the setting to make things work reasonably well?
  5. motulist macrumors 601


    Dec 2, 2003
    For the same reason why your graphics card is a zillion times better at rendering on screen graphics. A computer's main CPU is a generalized function chip, meaning it can be made to do anything well. It can execute the code that runs your word processor, your web browser, the OS, and even the code that controls the video game itself.

    While a computer's CPU is designed to do everything well, it excels at nothing. So a chip that is solely dedicated to rendering how a 3D scene will look, and dedicated to that function only, will trounce the performance of the general CPU in that specific task, but ONLY in that specific task. If you took the chip out of your video card and could magically put it into the socket where your computer's CPU sits, then there are many functions it wouldn't be able to do at all, and for the tasks that it had the capability to handle at all it would handle them extremely slowly.

    Think of your computer's CPU like an SUV. It can be made to drive the kids to school, transport your old boxes of junk to storage, or bounce down some old dirt road. It can do all of those things well, but it excels at none of them. For just driving the kids to school it would be much better to have a small fuel efficient sedan. For hauling old junk to storage it would be much better to have a small u-haul type truck. And for driving off road you'd be much better off in an army issue Humvee. So the SUV isn't great at anything, but for general adaptability it's hard to beat. The army's Humvee is designed to withstand explosions that would blow the SUV to pieces.

    Basically, specialization allows you to greatly excel at 1 specific task, but generalization allows you do perform well at many different tasks.
  6. redsteven thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 22, 2006
    thanks for the replies.

    Yeah, it's not gonna look as good as Crysis on a Mac Pro, but it'll almost certainly look better than crysis on mine : \

    I probably can run Crysis, but i'm guessing only at minimum settings. (BTW i think your system is a Rev B. Mines a Rev A, so i only have the original core duo)

    Also, even with the overhead the operating system and everything else takes up, I still would think my computer would be able to run things better - as I type this post up I still have 90+% processing power available and over 1.5 gigs of RAM free... (right now i have the Finder, Safari, iChat, iTunes, iCal, and Activity Monitor Open).

    I guess a significant part of it does have to do with optimization though : \
    Quake IV actually looks really, really good on my system (under OS X). I'm waiting to see what Aspyr can do with Quake Wars and COD4.
    Something like BF 2142 (even the Windows version) doesn't look as good.


    Also, to go slightly off topic... I have 2 more questions.

    1) Why the disparity in resolution between computer monitors and televisions? On my standard TV 640x480 of course looks a lot better than it would on my iMac's monitor. I know it has to do with the computer running at a higher resolution, but still... i don't totally GET IT.

    2) If apple DID produce a gaming-focused mac... would it really be any different than the Mac Pro?
  7. GFLPraxis macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Pretty simple.

    1) Optimization. It can be assumed that Metroid Prime will only be played on a GameCube- a machine with a 486 MHz G3, exactly 43 MB of RAM split between three types in three locations, and an ATi GPU.

    Thus the code can be extremely optimized to run on that exact set of hardware best. It will never run on anything else.

    2) Lack of a middle layer, or smaller middle layer. Metroid Prime would be designed to run directly on the hardware or with only Nintendo's tools right in between. Minimal RAM usage, for one thing, and a bit less CPU as well.

    3) Low resolution. Metroid Prime will never run at anything higher than 640x480.

    It's a thing about LCD's called the native resolution...what that LCD is designed to run at.
    LCD's look very poor when they don't run at the native resolution. So a LCD designed to run at 1280x1024 looks really fuzzy when you display it at 640x480.

    CRT's adjusted to resolution a lot better, one of the few advantages of the old technology. Most of the old tube televisions look great at 640x480 and games looked decent on old TVs.

    You'll notice that if you hook an old game console up to a brand new LCD HDTV, it actually looks almost worse than if you hook it up to an old TV.

    It would probably have a desktop Core 2 Quad processor instead of the Xeons, use DDR2 RAM instead of that crazy ECC stuff, and be half the price. :)

    Mac Pro is massive overkill from a processor perspective for gaming. The Xeons are costly as is the RAM, and ECC RAM is great for a server but of no consequence to a gaming machine.
  8. redsteven thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 22, 2006
    we have to petition apple to build one lol
  9. Everythingisnt macrumors 6502a


    Jan 16, 2008
    Admittedly a gaming mac would be awesome.. Too bad that it probably will never be produced by apple :(.

    In any case, while consoles may still be much more efficient then, say, your average computer, they are easily trounced by systems built with gaming in mind.
  10. motulist macrumors 601


    Dec 2, 2003
    Well of course, because a computer system that's really designed for gaming will cost you much more money than a gaming console.
  11. Supaklaw macrumors regular

    Feb 8, 2008
    Mac has some patents for a gaming machine... there is some speculation as to what it will be. I doubt they'd make a console type machine out of the mac mini, but they could build a mid-level tower (something people have been begging for) that could be game specific, and be a little above the imac pricing, and below the Mac Pro. Using DDR3 RAM,a bad-ass nVidia card, & running Leopard... maybe with a specific cinema dispay paired with it as a discounted price... it would sell like the proverbial hot cakes.
  12. PkennethV macrumors 6502a

    Aug 16, 2006
    That would be AWESOME!
  13. Everythingisnt macrumors 6502a


    Jan 16, 2008
    Well yeah, any Gaming PC worth its stuff will run you AT LEAST $1,600 compared to a ~$300 Xbox360 or PS3...
  14. Ryox macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2007
    Yeah, I just wish I could use a keyboard and mouse on the 360
  15. pccking macrumors newbie

    Feb 23, 2008
    Processors on game consoles are specialized processors. That means they have instruction sets that allow programmers to use special APIs to write games efficiently. It's lean and highly-streamlined.

    In computer processors, we also find similar instruction sets. These CPUs are no longer "general purpose" as they have support for instruction sets for churning 3D graphics. For example, 3DNow!, MMX, SSE2, SSE3, etc. They are not exactly like those you find on game consoles but they do the same, i.e. provide vectorized processing capabilities necessary for matrix calculations commonly found in 3D rendering.
  16. sturob macrumors regular

    Nov 20, 2005
    Houston, TX
    You even see the same discrepancies between GPUs in a fashion which may, at first, seem as unintuitive as the distinction between a Mac Pro and your GameCube example.

    By stats, you'd think the Quadro card would outperform the 8800GT for games, but it's just not so. The Quadro, with all its graphic-specificity, is geared towards accuracy rather than speed of rendering. Games played even on high-end systems with Quadro video cards are trounced by the "lowly" (or lowlier) Quadro.

  17. Supaklaw macrumors regular

    Feb 8, 2008
    They make adaptors Ryox...


    But as an example of how efficient game-specific consoles are, you only need to look at Halo 1, which although ported to PC and Mac... and played on machines with superior processing power, and video cards... the original black Xbox I believe had a simple nVidia 128 MB processor and 256 Mb of RAM, and Halo looks superior on that to any other machine, including the 360.

    On the flip side though, now having played Oblivion on both a 360 and on a XP 64 bit partition on my Mac Pro... Oblivion is far superior on the PC side in terms of speed and rendering. So some of that simply boils down to coding, not neccesarilly efficiency of the hardware.
  18. Ryox macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2007
    Looks interesting... but still you need to pay extra for the privileges and you need a wired controller as well... Plus I don't have a desk in front of my plasma... (Nor do I own a 360 anyway:))
  19. ltldrummerboy macrumors 68000


    Oct 15, 2007
    Summary of earlier posts:

    Console is only running one process: the game.
    Video output is much, much lower.
    Developers can optimize the game because they know it will only run on one platform.
  20. katorga macrumors regular

    Oct 28, 2006
    Lower resolution

    IMO, it takes more money and horsepower to get a PC to match the performance and quality of a 360 or PS3. Nothing matches the unique gaming abilities of the Wii. It is a wash.

    I'm currently torn between getting a PS3 + Sharp Aquos 32" GP3 or a low-end Dell XPS630 SLI rig and the same display.

    It boils down to if I plan to get back into MMORPGs or not.
  21. Catfish_Man macrumors 68030


    Sep 13, 2001
    Portland, OR
    These are all correct. One additional bit is that the system architecture* on the gamecube is rather different from an equivalent G3 iMac. Memory is hooked directly to the GPU, for example, and a large chunk of that memory is sram rather than dram.

    * by system architecture I'm mostly not including the cpu; the gamecube processor is really pretty close to being a stock G3 of that era. Just has a few added instructions.
  22. redsteven thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 22, 2006

    My main gripe with consoles in the controllers... except for the Wii, none of them can come close to matching the accuracy of a mouse.

    Like you said, adapters ARE available.

    However, there are a few very, very significant problems with them.
    First off, they don't work flawlessly, as I found out from a simple google search : \
    They're also not supported by the console manufacturers, so configuring them might be a hassle.

    But most importantly... i've read that you will be banned from X-Box live if you're caught using a mouse/keyboard
    Now I can't confirm that as fact, but I HIGHLY suspect it's true. It gives you increased accuracy over your opponents... an unfair advantage.
    (note: this has NOTHING to do with whether or not you'll get caught)

    Take Halo 2 vista for example... that game supported a keyboard and mouse (of course), but you could also control it by plugging an xbox controller into your computer. IF YOU USED A CONTROLLER, though, you would be given a small amount of auto aim to compensate for your inherently crappy controlling device.

    Using a mouse on an xbox would give you the same autoaim everyone else is getting, except with the advantage of a mouse.

    So for now, I'm sticking with my mac and bootcamp. Some day in the future, I may get a wii... but i have trouble doing that when there are very few good shooters for it.

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