It seems strange to me that every 7th generation console has much less memory than contemporary PCs, but games on consoles still run pretty smooth today.

For example: PS3 has 256 MB memory for system and 256 MB memory for video. Xbox 360 has 512 MB of GDDR3 RAM clocked at 700 MHz. And, this is really strange, Wii has only 24 MB of video RAM and 64 MB GDDR3 system RAM.

But if you try to run GTA 4 on the PC with 256 MB of system RAM, even with 256 MB RAM on the video card, well, let's just say it won't work that way.


  • 3
    First of all, the games are not identical. Second of all, consoles are basically single-purpose machines, they are optimized to do a specific task (contrary to a PC, which is multi-purpose). Sep 13, 2012 at 11:44
  • games for consoles are optimized to run at one specific set of specifications, and often have reduced details. Also, GTA IV is a bad port.
    – Sathyajith Bhat
    Sep 13, 2012 at 11:53
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    Sathya - Its not actually a bad port because the pc version actually looks better then any of the console versions.
    – Ramhound
    Sep 13, 2012 at 12:40
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    @OliverSalzburg: Agreed, a lot of game developers also aim to show very similar graphics; like for instance limiting the render distance (less noticeable) to get some more detail (more noticeable). Making it harder to spot the difference... Sep 13, 2012 at 13:13

4 Answers 4


Let's do some comparisons...

PS3 has 256 MB memory for system and 256 MB memory for video. Xbox 360 has 512 MB of GDDR3 RAM clocked at 700 MHz. And, this is really strange, Wii has only 24 MB of video RAM and 64 MB GDDR3 system RAM.

Graphics on Wii games are usually kept simple, you won't see shiny graphics there apart from the nice intro to Mario & Sonic's introduction screen. Although that's just a video playing back, cheap...

If you don't believe me, this comparison shows it clearly.

A Visual Comparison Of Modern Warfare's Wii Debut And The Original

It doesn't seem easy to find other clear comparisons, the image search results are overloaded with results of the same game, the Wii U or pictures too small to tell the difference; you're always welcome to add another picture, but the Wii game console has yet to surprise me.

For the PS 3 vs XBOX 360, you clearly see a difference in texture.

Developers Speaking Out on the PS3

As for XBOX 360 vs PC, the difference lies in the resolution, textures and more...

Risen releases February on 360, will be proper port

Is it all about the memory?

No, certainly not. How fast the GPU can perform in terms of fill rate and shading also plays a huge role; this is why the XBOX 360 outperforms the PS 3, as they have the same amount of memory.

All those factors involved in the specifications contribute to being able to do effects like bloom, drawing things further in the distance, do better bump mapping and lightning, having even better AA and more...

Sometimes this takes a second look at the photo to actually see the difference, most often you can't always tell this due to compression of the picture (or YouTube video) such that it doesn't represent the actual graphics in the game.

Similarly, you can get a PC with a ton of memory, but have a card that can't even play a game at 720p.

It's about how much you can put into it for the price.

Let's say price wouldn't matter, well, we'd have something like the Fastra II.

That's right, we're looking at six NVIDIA GTX295 dual-GPU cards, and one GTX275 single-GPU card. That's 13 GPUs total! That's why it outperforms a typical GPU 12 times.

Although, well, yeah; this set-up requires some software / driver optimization to suffice for gaming.

To address the question... Do PCs need much more RAM?

Not necessarily, one could build a machine with a light-weight Linux kernel, light-weight X and perhaps wine as well (unless the game has native support); as a result you'll end up with barely any space taken by the Linux kernel and most space available to the game, then, you get the hardware with the same memory limits as the console, turn down the game graphics and actually have PS3 / XBOX 360 like graphics. I have no clue whether the Wii specs could be achieved, but most games on the Wii aren't available for computer architectures anyway (ignoring emulation).

The PC itself doesn't impose more memory, it's what the environment your game runs in does.

  • @HackToHell: I don't see what multiple monitors has to do with better graphics, other than showing you more. But I agree though that you can reach more through things like SLI. Sep 13, 2012 at 12:50
  • Now these pictures certainly explain a lot!
    – Dan Ganiev
    Sep 13, 2012 at 12:57
  • The lighting and shadows quality impacts performance far more than texture quality in my experience.
    – horatio
    Sep 13, 2012 at 14:28
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    @horatio: I focused on texture more throughout the post as memory surely has a much larger impact on the texture quality than it does for lightning and shadow, because the latter simply doesn't need much memory storage... Sep 13, 2012 at 14:54
  • Multiple monitors requires the GPU to be able to paint two "high-def" monitors in the same time a console's graphics card might only need to do half. Computers have been doing "high-definition" graphics for years. Only the latest round of consoles have even had 1080p TVs to draw HD graphics onto, and yes, Nintendo has notably lagged behind other consoles in the graphics department.
    – KeithS
    Sep 13, 2012 at 15:27

It's because PCs and Consoles are built differently, a PC is not built for dedicated gaming so it has a larger and more functional Operating System, you can multitask with a computer, attach several more monitors and you will find that top notch computers easily perform better than a console.

Consoles on the other hand are built entirely for gaming, the operating system it runs on does not need a large amount of memory like Windows as it has no proper functionality, that's why they have much less memory.

Multiple Monitor

With consoles, you cannot add multiple monitors because of memory and hardware constrains, you can do so in a PC however.

enter link description here

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    These consoles are also able to unload their underline operating system when you choose to run a game. They simply require allowing the user the ability to go back to the operating system. These consoles can no longer be considered single purpose machines` because of the addition of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu ect.
    – Ramhound
    Sep 13, 2012 at 12:42
  • The upcoming Ouya console, which will run Android 4.0 and would do anything your smartphone does, would certainly be single purposed.
    – Dan Ganiev
    Sep 13, 2012 at 13:01
  • @Ramhound: Agreed, the Wii implements this under the form of IOS. The system menu runs IOS80 for example, games take an IOS which best fits their purpose. They load the IOS thta fits their functionality to limit the amount of memory used, which due to the Wii's limits surely is a necessity... Sep 13, 2012 at 13:11
  • That game looks cool. Is that deep space 9? Sep 13, 2012 at 16:27

There are several reason for this:

  • Console games today are typically written to make the most of the limited hardware the console provides. This means that the game must operate within strict memory limits. For PS4, that's 8 GB of GDDR5 shared between the CPU and GPU. PCs are not subject to this limitation as they may be equipped with far more memory (as well as more powerful CPUs and GPUs), so games can be designed to utilize more resources. As a result, most cross-platform games tend to look better on a well-equipped gaming PC than on a console.
  • PCs generally have a larger background operating system which may have other applications running, so more physical memory will naturally be necessary. While modern consoles do have fairly sophisticated operating systems, they too are designed to operate within strict resource constraints so that the game always has a certain amount of memory, CPU power, etc. available to it.
  • Console hardware is homogeneous from unit to unit, so they can optimize for the specific hardware characteristics, which can reduce resource usage. PCs, on the other hand, do not have fixed hardware, so the same low-level optimizations are not always possible. This can increase memory and other resource usage on PC. Furthermore, depending on the PC hardware used, it may take varying amounts of resources to achieve the same graphical output.

because your OS remains loaded plus all the background processes (network management, viruscan, firewall,...) and other programs (IM, Skype, teamspeak, browser,...)

this will all take up memory while the console games can take up all memory available and manage it to their own pleasure (as the os unloads for the most part or even fully for the previous gen consoles) which PC games cannot fully (the only memory for PC games being virtual paged memory)

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