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Is the PS3 broken; RAM Expansion Inevitable?


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336w ago - We're going to have to say this, so just bear with us for a second, and be aware that we mean it in the best possible sense. We don't want to indulge in any pointless console wars, and we certainly don't want to be tarred with the inevitable fanboy brush.

Okay... deep breath. The PS3 is kinda broken.

Now we don't mean that the PS3 will 'red ring' at any given opportunity, and we're not suggesting it's a console destined for the scrapheap - quite the opposite. When we say the PS3 is broken, we say it with the best of intentions, with a barely contained frustration towards a machine that, in its current state, will never fulfil its full potential.

We're talking of course about processing bottlenecks, and the PS3 has a tonne of them.

The first major bottleneck is a result of the Blu ray drive. Although Blu-ray has traditionally been seen as the major selling point of the PS3 (and to a certain extent it is) at this early stage the transfer speeds are insufficient to match the fastest DVD drives, hence the constant need to install games to the hard drive. So essentially the benefits of having huge storage space are rendered impotent by the need to install games - if the game needs to install then why are discs with a larger capacity even necessary in the first place?

The second major bottleneck is with regards to the overall architecture of the PS3 itself. Most gamers are aware that the PS3's cell processor is ridiculously fast in terms of sheer horsepower, however this means nothing without the ability to stream the information at the rate required for HD gaming. With only 256MB of system RAM, the PS3 struggles compared to the Xbox 360's more capable 512MB, hence the struggling frame-rates, and number of other issues multi-format games are laboured with on the PS3.

But the PS3 has 256MB of video RAM you might say to back up the 256MB of system RAM. Doesn't that compensate? That equals the 512MB, right? Well kinda, but the RAM in question is Video RAM specifically, which can only be distributed towards powering specific aspects of a game. It's not as flexible or as efficient as having a huge chunk of RAM that can be used wherever, whenever for whatever.

A good example of how this works in action can be seen in GTA IV: the Xbox 360 version had a tighter frame-rate, and full 720p resolution, whilst the PS3 had less pop-in and slightly more refined graphical effects. And this was from a developer smart enough to code to each console's strength - others haven't been so successful, resulting in sluggish frame-rates, and jaggies galore. So far, so pedestrian - you might possibly know this info already, especially if you have even a rudimentary understanding of how consoles work. But what if there was a solution.

So now we get to the big question: would you buy a RAM expansion pack for the PlayStation 3? 256MB in this day and age would be relatively cheap (512MB will cost you less that $20) and could even be bundled with a high profile exclusive for almost no added cost. This would be a simple, yet affordable, solution to the PS3's extensive bottlenecking.

It was only a couple of generations ago that we were asked to do the same thing with the N64, with an expansion pack bundled with Donkey Kong 64, and certain aspects of Perfect Dark remaining unplayable without the pack. Had Sony bundled a RAM expansion pack with a high profile exclusive like MGS4, for example, very few gamers would have complained about shelling out an extra $10 bucks for an experience that could have obliterated anything seen on the Xbox 360.

In fact talking of the Xbox 360, Gears of War developer Epic Games was actually responsible for the console's additional RAM. After showing Microsoft what Gears looked like with 256 MB of RAM, they petitioned for extra by showing MS what a quantum leap the game would make if they doubled the RAM. Had Kojima pulled the same stunt with MGS4 the console war may have already been over? We sense a real missed opportunity here - will it be too late if Polyphony Digital or Square Enix would push the same demand for Gran Turismo 5 and Final Fantasy XIII respectively?

Ultimately, at this stage, a RAM expansion seems inevitable. With the PS3 already struggling to compete with the Xbox 360, Sony's promise of the PS3's 10 year lifespan already seems laughable - but with an extra injection of RAM, the gap between the PS3 and its competitors would be more than tangible, allowing the console to fulfil it's lofty potential, becoming the stellar, high end product we were initially promised all those years ago.



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#8 - Transient - 334w ago
Transient's Avatar
It's also worth pointing out that while a cheap 512MB stick of DDR2 might cost you $20 for your PC, 512MB of GDDR3 or XDR is pricey stuff. Even in the case of a PC, memory pricing varies by quality. Personally, I wouldn't install a cheap brand of memory in my PC much less my PS3.

And although I would agree though that the memory capacity of the PS3 may very well be a limiting factor in the coming years, I just can't see Sony doing any kind of memory upgrades in the future. With over 13 million PS3s out there, I just can't see them offering an upgrade or screwing everyone over by releasing a new version with extra memory.

#7 - Techni - 336w ago
Techni's Avatar
Disc Transfer rate in Megabytes per Second
-Single Layered discs
PS3: 9 (average: 9)
360: 6.65 to 16 (average: 13.3)

-Dual Layered discs
PS3: 9 (average: 9)
360: 4.389 to 10.64 (average: 7.5145)


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The RSX GPU is connected to the Cell by a 35GB/s link (20GB/s write, 15GB/s
read), that's much more bandwidth than any present day CPU-GPU link on the
PC side.

The RSX can render pixels to any part of memory, giving it access to the
full 512MB of memory of the PS3. We'd expect the technology used here to be
similar to NVIDIA's TurboCache that we've seen on the desktop."




512 MB of graphics render memory "The RSX can render pixels to any part of memory, giving it access to the full 512MB of memory of the PS3."

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On the other hand, the RSX chip can access the PS3's auxiliary 256 MB of system RAM, so it once again comes down to programming chops.


So PS3 has 256 MB of dedicated video ram, 256 MB of shared vram
360 has 10 MB of dedicated vram, 512 MB of shared vram
shared is inferior to dedicated, because *gasp* the bandwidth is divided between components.

PS3 is not struggling at all. Unreal 3 (PS3) looks better than Gears of War (360) according to it's own developer who made both games, MGS4 looks like the best game ever made for consoles.

#6 - parkerparker - 336w ago
parkerparker's Avatar
Man ohhh man, this topic again... this is really lame in fact just childish. Different system and archietecture, in fact it doesn't really matter and the end of the day its down to content, game quality.. people don't understand that.

#5 - goldenone - 336w ago
goldenone's Avatar
yes i agree, sony wouldnt take all are ps3s back and add RAM, i dout they would even make something that we could put in are selves. I dont understand what sony was thinking when they made this ps3 at this point. Dont you think they would of cought this?

I know if i knew my system needed 512mb RAM then it would of had atleast 2GB to play with, just for backup. I am interested in hearing what sony has to say about this. I will be pretty mad if they just make a new system to buy that isnt so bottlenecked, i just bought another one, lol. I hope they just make something that can be added withouth to much effort..

#4 - wicked insanity - 336w ago
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There has been a lot of talk ([Register or Login to view links]) about the Playstation 3’s Random Access Memory (RAM) vs Xbox 360’s RAM, saying that the 360 has more RAM to work with etc. Here’s an article to explain the situation of its RAM.

Just so you know that the PS3 has 512MB of RAM (256 for video and 256 for system). The Cell chip has 256MB of completely sharable RAM, the GPU has 256MB of dedicated RAM. Now the key here is what type of RAM it is.

The Playstation 3 has 256mb of GDDR3 at 700mhz and 256Mb of XDR at 3.2ghz. So what exactly is XDR ram? Here are some of the highlights:

  • XDR makes PS3 super effiecient
  • XDR aids in faster cache mapping, both direct and indirect
  • XDR ram works by a pointer to pointer technology and needs very small buswidth for execution
  • XDR is not just faster than GDDR3 but it is much more efficient
  • XDR RAM works by breaking down data into several packets which prevents data loss and exceptions
[INDENT]"The Rambus XDR™ memory architecture is a total memory system solution that achieves an order of magnitude higher performance than today’s standard memories while utilizing the fewest ICs. Perfect for compute and consumer electronics applications"
[/INDENT]
The PS3 has two times as much cache at 2x the speed, making it way faster for direct/indirect mapping. Not only that but it has 512k of L1 cache + 1.7m of L2 cache for the 7 spes. The PS3’s GPU, RSX was made to work with the Cell processor, it is not some GPU they took and slotted in. It is made to be compatible with the Cell.

More RAM does not mean a faster system it means more data can be stored in a fast access area. Games don’t always need 512mb of RAM.

The RSX can freely use as much of the 512MB total RAM that the PS3 has because the Cell doesn’t need much RAM because its fast enough. And the fact that the PS3 has XDR means that it has faster access to data files.
A lot of people are saying that the RSX only has 256mb of RAM, whereas the 360’s GPU has 512MB of RAM. To make it sound a bit simpler, here’s the real deal. The PS3 has it’s RAM in two separate parts, 256MB for the RSX and 256MB that can be used be either the Cell or RSX.

 

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