With Microsoft’s E3 Conference, we now have an idea of what the next-generation of video game consoles will be capable of. With the power of brand new, custom made processors and SSD technology, the new systems will blow the current generation out of the water and bring gaming to the next technological step.
However, many of the terms being used are either new or things that most gamers would not be expected to know. For example, you may have heard of Ray-tracing, but many gamers won’t actually know what it does, and how it will affect your games.
That’s where we come in! We have created a glossary of the terms that have been used to describe features of the next generation consoles in one place, so you can get excited about the power of the new consoles as much as we are! Let’s start with the one that both Sony and Microsoft have made a very big deal about:
An SSD, short for Solid State Drive, is a storage drive that will allow you to download and store games onto. Previously, consoles have used hard-drives as storage for games, but they have a huge difference.
Traditional hard-drives are disks that use mechanical elements to write the data to the disk that it is storing. The moving mechanical drive, along with the mechanism for the disc tray on consoles is what makes them noisy. As they are also mechanical, the speed at which they install data to determined by the speed of the mechanical element. This is why it can take some time to install a game to your hard-drive on a PS4 or Xbox One.
An SSD uses no mechanical parts, and instead use flash memory to store data, similar to that of a USB pen drive. Moving parts do not limit the speed at which it writes the data, and being directly connected to the main board of the console rather than by USB, the speeds at which it can be read (load data from the storage) and write (save data to the drive) are extremely fast in comparison to an old, mechanical hard drive. As there are fewer parts that can slow down mechanically, it should also be more resistant to losing its speed over time too.
There have been fears in the past about its durability over longer periods due to the flash technology, but this has improved immensely in recent years, and the price has dropped far enough that placing them in a console is now a viable option for Sony and Microsoft without pricing gamers out.
As shown by the video below in which Sony uses Marvel’s Spider-Man as a comparison for load times, it should give you a glimpse of what it can do in the next generation of consoles.
Sony’s official video comparing performance of PS4 Pro vs next-gen PlayStation pic.twitter.com/2eUROxKFLq
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) May 21, 2019
8K refers to a resolution that the game is being displayed in on your device.
When the data is transferred from a device to the TV, it sends the resolution data, in pixels by height and width, that the TV then calibrates to display what it is being sent. For example, if you are using a 4K TV and a PS4 Pro, and are playing a game that supports 4K, the PS4 will send the game data to the TV that is then displayed at the 4K requested resolution.
8K refers to the resolution 7680×4320. The Resolution is defined by the number of pixels arranged horizontally and vertically on a display, meaning that on an 8K TV, it will contain 33,117,600 (7680 multiplied by 4320) pixels. That’s a lot of pixels!
The benefit to 8K is simple: the bigger the resolution, the more detail that you can see on your screen. Both devices need to be using 8K to see this, but in doing so you make the detail much higher than if one is only displaying in 4K or Full HD 1080p.
Currently, most consumer TVs will offer 4K, but 8K is still very much in its infancy as a technology. TV technology grows fast though, so there’s no telling if 8K will be more affordable by the time the next generation comes out. All you need to know is that with 8K support, games on next-gen should look seriously good.
120 frames per second
One of the more contentious topics with games, especially with PC gamers, the frames per second (or FPS). It is sometimes referred to on a TV or display as refresh rate (measured in Hz), refers to the number of frames that the TV is displaying as you play a game or watch a piece of media, or more accurately, how many updates in frames your devices are sending to your TV over a one second period.
When you lower the frame-rate, the media comes across as slower than that of a higher frame-rate as the devices are sending fewer frame updates over the space of a second. For example, most soap operas are filmed at 60 frames per second and give a more real-time feel to what you are watching, whereas films generally tend to use 25 frames per second, which gives the feel of it running slightly slower, but also smoother. When games are described as having a ‘cinematic’ feel, that is because they are typically using a frame rate that is closer to 25 per second than 60.
A good gaming example of this is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End compared with the Call of Duty series. Uncharted runs at 30 frames per second, and as a result, it gives the gameplay a more cinematic feel. Call of Duty, on the other hand, uses 60 frames a second in multiplayer, and that gives it its frantic pace.
Increasing the frame rate can have a detrimental effect on performance. This means dropping to a lower FPS can sometimes be design choice, especially with games such as Uncharted where the action and set pieces such the more cinema styling of storytelling. Other times it’s due to hardware limitations, where increasing the frame rate higher than 30 would make the game unstable, making it feel like the game is lagging, even in single player games.
The current systems are only capable of playing games up to 60 frames per second. The new Xbox will be able to play games up to 120 frames per second. While the difference may not be immediately noticeable (the myth that you cannot see more than 60 frames be second is untrue), the action on screen will become smoother as a consequence, and it should also mean that controls become more responsive as a result. Professional E-Sports gamers will frequently use screens with a higher refresh rate than one with a higher resolution for the exact reason that it feels more responsive, so this addition to the console will see will be noticeable over time.
More recent technology and one that requires an awful lot of power, Ray-tracing refers to the lighting and reflections in a video game. Typically, when looking at something in a game that reflects light, the developers of the game have programmed that space to reflect off a certain area to give the desired shadow or reflective effect.
With ray-tracing, the light that hits a surface acts like a light would in real life, reflecting off the surface more realistically and offering a more immersive feel as a result. It also allows for a reflection off of multiple surfaces, something that requires a lot of work using the current tech. It doesn’t sound that impressive, but the results speak for themselves.
To help illustrate the difference that it makes, check out this demonstration by PC hardware manufacturer Nvidia and the difference it makes on Battlefield V for PC.
REAL-TIME ray tracing is coming to Battlefield V. Check out the stage demo from NVIDIA’s Gaming Celebration event in Cologne to see real-time ray traced reflections in action in Battlefield V. Learn More About Ray Tracing in Battlefield V: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce/news/battlefield-v-rtx-ray-tracing-reflections Learn More About GeForce RTX: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce/20-series/ Subscribe to GeForce!
This is the type of reflections that you can expect on the next generation consoles. The technology in its current form is incredibly demanding on the hardware that it’s being used with, where even the current top of Nvidia’s line of hardware struggles to maintain a high frame-rate with, so this will give you an idea of the power of the new consoles if they can run the tech smoothly.
The brains of the operations, both consoles are set to use processor manufacturer AMD’s new Zen 2 architecture to power their systems. These processors are brand new and are set to be one of the biggest evolutions in processor technology in some time. With some incredible results being displayed already with their testing, being able to utilise this in a console should yield excellent results.
Unlike with a PC where the processor is used up by a number of resources aside from gaming, the processor in a console is used specifically for running the console. This is why console gaming, despite PC advancements coming frequently, are able to keep the pace with PC gaming to an extent despite old tech. With brand new architecture though, this should put the consoles much closer in line with PC gaming (which currently is perfecting powering 4K gaming).
We hope that with these terms explained, the next generation will be simple to understand and allow you to get as hyped as we are for the new possibilities that are on the horizon.