In comparing these 2 gaming platforms, you’ll immediately notice that their specs are quite far from one another in terms of raw power. But why is it that lots of times, you can play games much smoother on a console than on a PC? If you are a video game enthusiast for years, especially if you’re into PC games, you might have heard or even tried video game console emulation. To emulate a console means to try and copy the capabilities of a video game console on a personal computer.
An example is to play Sony Playstation 2 games on your PC. Please note that emulation isn’t meant for anyone to play these console games on the PC. It is usually meant for educational purposes in simulating/translating console instructions onto the PC platform. In any case, why do you usually need more powerful PC hardware to match up to the performance of a console? Here’s my take on this.
Let’s take the example above. The Sony Playstation 2 has the following technical specifications. Let us limit it to the most important hardware components:
CPU: 64-bit Emotion engine running at 294.912 to 299 MHz
Graphics: 4MB Graphics Synthesizer running at 147.456 MHz
System Memory: 32 MB
Now, if you want to try and emulate Sony Playstation 2 and play a game on your PC regardless of what type of emulation software you are using or developing, it will most likely take a much stronger computer to handle the instructions to play the game. You’d best use a Quad Core computer, an advanced graphics card (800 MHz 1 GB DDR3 and above) and 4 Gigs of memory. This is ideal and will most certainly run your software at the same pace as with the PS2.
But if you use older computer hardware such as single core processors (even at 2.0 GHz) and a 256MB video card (let’s say during the time of the NVIDIA 6000 series), it will most likely be disappointing to play PS2 games on your PC since it will be slow and quite unplayable.
Now, why is it that you need very powerful computer hardware to emulate such low power console hardware (regardless of what console it is this time)? The reason is that the hardware of a console has a specific purpose and that is to play games. Unlike a PC, it doesn’t require powerful hardware to maintain a complex operating system such as Windows and Mac OS.
On your PC, your computer’s resources will be used by the operating system to maintain its services and background applications such as your desktop, your icons, your folders, anti-viruses, word processors, internet browsers or any other program that is running in the background. Your processor, thus, is multi-tasking unlike the ones in consoles that are dedicated in playing games.
Well again, I just want to reiterate that console games are meant to be run on the consoles they were designed for and not for the PC. There are PC versions of some console games but not all of the console games have such. Emulation is really meant for educational and software development purposes only and not to play commercial console games.
Wikipedia – Sony Playstation 2