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Funny you should mention Dreamcast. I personally think that machine was far ahead of its time, even compared to the original PS.
Here's a quote from wiki about the SH4 chip used in it:
FPU with four floating point multipliers, supporting 32-bit single precision and 64-bit double precision floats
128-bit floating point bus allowing 3.2GB/sec transfer rate from the data cache
64-bit external data bus with 32-bit memory addressing, allowing a maximum of 4GB addressable memory with a transfer rate of 800MB/sec
Built-in interrupt, DMA, and power management controllers
Although it's basically a 32 bit chip, Sega's marketing simply chose the bigger number (the 128 bit FP bus). Technically, you can get away by saying it's capable of four 32 bit single precision float (4x32 is 128). But the giveaway is the 32 bit memory addressing.
The N64 case is different. It's a 64 bit chip, but the bus is only 32 bit wide:
Clocked at 93.75 MHz, the N64's VR4300 was the most powerful console CPU of its generation. Except for its narrower 32-bit system bus, the VR4300 retained the computational abilities of the more powerful 64-bit MIPS R4300i, though software rarely took advantage of 64-bit data precision operations.
Recently, vendors used FLOPS, but that also got screwed since they don't measure them the same way.
Back to the original question.
Hard to say really when it comes to the CPU, but here's a comparison between the PS2 and PS3.
PS2: 6.2 GFLOPS.
PS3: 150 GFLOPS.
So that would make it roughly, 25 times more powerful. At least in theory.
ok thanks for the info (although I only understood about half of it)
So lets refine the question…...How much more powerful are the current generation of consoles compared to earlier ones? twice as powerful? 3 times? 4 times? 5 times? more?
Is there any kind of power/performance comparison that can be made? hopefully one that can be explained to non-tech guys like me?
So even if the PS1's spec says the CPU is a 32Bit RISC Processor, this does not refer to the CPUs architecture at all (bus width, register size)? Crazy Shit!
And here I thought SEGA's Dreamcast was considered a 128Bit console, because it had a 128Bit FPU (which is quite the marketing stunt as well imo…)
Actually, it's a misnomer.
The 'bit' as it is used to describe consoles is not at all related to amount of bits processed. But rather, how much bit/data is transfered. More precisely, it's the memory bandwidth of the graphics processor rather than the general purpose processor that actually runs the software/games.
Even with graphics processors, such as the ones we used on the desktop, using the term 256/384/512 bit is not completely true, since they're made up of several 32/64 bit controllers (ie, 2x64 bit for a 128 bit controller). But hey, it's marketing. More is always better.
Teh "Bit value" is the amount of bits processed during a single tact/cycle by the CPU, no?
It determines register size and thus stuff like addressable memory, maximum result of arithmetic operations and so on, fairly low level stuf ( ADD $1 $2 $5…)
This value did not increase in recent years since 2^64 (-1 is you are nitpicky) is already a pretty large number and you can address a lot of memory with this, encode a lot of information etc. Today you get more performance with specialized processing units (e.g. GPUs) multi-threading, multi-core architectures and other fancy stuff.
I think the current gen consoles still use 32-64bit CPUs. GPUs might have more... don't know.
Anyway the Bit value is not really a criteria to determine console "power" any longer and it's certainly not linear ( "a 128bit console is twice as powerful as a 64bit console" )