Dreamcast vs PS2


The Sega Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2 (PS2) are two iconic gaming consoles that were released during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Both consoles were highly successful and are remembered fondly by many gamers. However, there is a common myth that the Dreamcast is a superior console to the PS2. In this article, we will be breaking down the technical specifications of each console and comparing them in order to determine which console is truly the more powerful machine.

It is important to note that the Dreamcast was a revolutionary console in its time and was a pioneer in several areas such as online gaming, but when it comes to raw processing power and advanced capabilities, the PS2 is the clear winner. While the Dreamcast has its strengths, such as its impressive graphics capabilities for its time, the PS2 is a much more powerful machine.

dreamcast vs ps2

Our goal in this article is to provide a detailed analysis of the technical specifications of each console and to compare them in order to determine which console is the most powerful in each area. We will be looking at their like-for-like specs, their capabilities of both physics processing, graphics processing and video output quality. We will also be looking at memory and storage capabilities, and other important factors that contribute to a console’s overall power. By the end of this article, we will have a clear understanding of how the Dreamcast and PS2 compare and which console is truly the more powerful machine.

We’re also going to explain the myth of why some people have believed all these years that the DC was better.

Dreamcast vs PS2 Head on Comparison

SpecificationMeasurementDreamcastPlayStation 2
Geometry processorHitachi SH-4
(200 MHz)
Emotion Engine
(294.912 MHz)
Matrix
transformations
Matrix FLOPS1.4 GFLOPS5.5 GFLOPS
MACs/sec800 million2 billion
Vertices50 MVertices/s140 MVertices/s
Perspective transformations16 MVertices/s80 MVertices/s
Lighting1 light source14 MPolygons/s39 MPolygons/s
4 light sources6.8 MPolygons/s9.8 MPolygons/s
Rendering processorsPowerVR CLX2
(100 MHz)
Graphics Synthesizer
(147.456 MHz)
Tiled
rendering
Tiling FPU720 MFLOPSN/A
Tile size32×32 pixels
Pixel
fillrate
Opaque3.2 GPixels2.3 GPixels/s
Opaque/Translucent500 MPixels/s
Translucent200 MPixels/s
Texture
fillrate
Opaque3.2 GTexels/s1.1 GTexels/s
Opaque/Translucent500 MTexels/s
Multi-texture
fillrate
Opaque1.6 GTexels/s580 MTexels/s
Opaque/Translucent250 MTexels/s
Textured
polygons
32-pixel7.1 MPolygons/s30 MPolygons/s
100-pixel (opaque)7.1 MPolygons/s10 MPolygons/s
100-pixel
(opaque/translucent)
5 MPolygons/s
Multi-texture
polygons
32-pixel7.1 MPolygons/s18 MPolygons/s
100-pixel (opaque)7.1 MPolygons/s5 MPolygons/s
100-pixel
(opaque/translucent)
2.5 MPolygons/s
Texture compression ratio7.98:13:1 (palette)
CPU–GPU
transfer bus
Bandwidth800 MB/s1.2 GB/s
Texture compression6.3 GB/s3.6 GB/s
Internal
GPU
cache
Cache memory33 KB4 MB
Bandwidth15 GB/s48 GB/s
External
video
memory
External memory24 MB
(SDRAM)
32 MB
(RDRAM)
Texture compression190 MB96 MB
Bandwidth1.6 GB/s3.2 GB/s
Buffering
bandwidth
Framebuffer800 MB/s
(tiled 6.4 GB/s)
38 GB/s
Z-buffer12 GB/sN/A
Texture buffer800 MB/s
(compressed 6 GB/s)
9.6 GB/s

Note, these specifications related to the capabilities of each console, most games on both consoles did not push the console to their limits and some games can actually be better looking and performing on a worse console. To put this in context, compare PS2 launch titles such as Tekken Tag Tournament with Tekken 5 and TimeSplitters with TimeSplitters 3. Equally, compare the likes of Blue Stinger with Resident Evil Code: Veronica on the Dreamcast.

Processor Comparison

The geometry processor is an important component of a gaming console as it is responsible for the mathematical calculations that are required for rendering 3D graphics.

The Dreamcast’s geometry processor is the Hitachi SH-4, clocked at 200 MHz. While the PS2’s geometry processor is the Emotion Engine, clocked at 294.912 MHz.

From the data provided, it’s clear that the Emotion Engine of the PS2 is more powerful than the Hitachi SH-4 of the Dreamcast. The Emotion Engine is roughly 47% faster than the Dreamcast’s processor, which allows the PS2 to perform more complex mathematical calculations at a faster rate. This results in the PS2 having a higher matrix transformation rate (5.5 GFLOPS for the PS2 compared to 1.4 GFLOPS for the Dreamcast) and more advanced capabilities for physics and graphics processing.

In summary, the PS2 has a more powerful geometry processor, which allows it to perform more complex mathematical calculations at a faster rate, and this results in better graphics capabilities and more advanced physics and graphics processing.

Winner: PS2

Graphics processing

the MAC/sec (Multiply-Accumulate operations per second) and Vertices are measurements of a console’s processing power. MAC/sec is a measure of how many calculations a console’s processor can do at once, while vertices measure how many points in a 3D model a console can handle at once. The PS2 has a higher MAC/sec and vertex rate than the Dreamcast, meaning it can handle more calculations and 3D points at once, which results in better graphics and physics capabilities. In simpler terms, the PS2 can handle more information and process it faster, which makes it more powerful than the Dreamcast when it comes to creating 3D graphics and handling physics in games.

Winner: PS2

Lighting

The lighting capabilities of a console refer to its ability to render and display lighting effects in games. A console with better lighting capabilities can create more realistic and detailed lighting effects, such as shadows, reflections, and ambient lighting.

The table shows that the PS2 has better lighting capabilities than the Dreamcast. The PS2 can render up to 39 million polygons per second with one light source, and 9.8 million polygons per second with four light sources. On the other hand, the Dreamcast can only render 6.8 million polygons per second with four light sources.

In simpler terms, the PS2 has the ability to create more realistic and detailed lighting effects, such as shadows, reflections, and ambient lighting, in games. This means that games on the PS2 will look more realistic and visually appealing than games on the Dreamcast.

To sum up, better lighting capabilities on a console means that games will have more realistic lighting, shadows and reflections and this will enhance the overall visual experience of the game. The PS2 is superior to the Dreamcast in this aspect.

Winner: PS2

Rendering

The rendering processor is a specialized processor that is responsible for creating images on a gaming console’s screen. It takes the 3D models and lighting information, and uses it to create the final images that are displayed on the screen.

The Dreamcast’s rendering processor is the PowerVR CLX2, clocked at 100 MHz, and the PS2’s rendering processor is the Graphics Synthesizer, clocked at 147.456 MHz. From the data provided, it’s clear that the Graphics Synthesizer of the PS2 is more powerful than the PowerVR CLX2 of the Dreamcast. The Graphics Synthesizer is almost 50% faster than the Dreamcast’s processor, which allows the PS2 to create more detailed and realistic images at a faster rate.

The rendering processor is a very important component of a gaming console as it is responsible for creating the final images that are displayed on the screen. A more powerful rendering processor can create more detailed and realistic images, which results in a better visual experience for the player.

In summary, the PS2 has a more powerful rendering processor than the Dreamcast, which allows it to create more detailed and realistic images at a faster rate, resulting in a better visual experience for the player.

Winner: PS2

Pixel fillrate

Pixel fill rate, texture fill rate, and multi-texture fill rate are measurements of a console’s ability to render and paint the image into the TV or monitors empty pixels. How fast can it write, essentially. The PS2 has a higher pixel fill rate and texture fill rate than the Dreamcast, but the Dreamcast has a higher multi-texture fill rate, this means that the PS2 can render and display images on the screen with more detail and at a faster rate than the Dreamcast, except when it comes to rendering multiple textures, in that case, the Dreamcast is superior.

Winner: PS2

Polygons

Texture and multi-texture polygons refer to the number of textured and multi-textured 3D models that a console can render and display on the screen at a given time. The higher the number of polygons, the more detailed and complex the 3D models can be.

The table shows that the PS2 has a higher rate of textured and multi-textured polygons than the Dreamcast. The PS2 can render and display up to 30 MPolygons/s of textured polygons and 18 MPolygons/s of multi-textured polygons. On the other hand, the Dreamcast can only render and display up to 7.1 MPolygons/s of textured polygons and 7.1 MPolygons/s of multi-textured polygons.

This means that games on the PS2 will have more detailed and complex 3D models than games on the Dreamcast. This results in a more immersive and visually appealing gaming experience for the player.

In summary, the ability to render and display more textured and multi-textured polygons is important as it allows for more detailed and complex 3D models in games, resulting in a more immersive and visually appealing gaming experience for the player. The PS2 is superior to the Dreamcast in this aspect.

Winner: PS2

CPU-GPU Transfer

The GPU-CPU transfer refers to the speed and efficiency at which data is transferred between the graphics processing unit (GPU) and the central processing unit (CPU) of a gaming console. This includes the bandwidth, which is the amount of data that can be transferred per second, and the texture compression, which is the method used to compress and optimize the data before it is transferred.

It is worth noting that while the PS2 has a higher GPU-CPU transfer bandwidth (1.2 GB/s for the PS2 compared to 800 MB/s for the Dreamcast), the Dreamcast has a higher texture compression rate (6.3 GB/s for the Dreamcast compared to 3.6 GB/s for the PS2).

This means that the Dreamcast is able to compress the textures more efficiently, allowing more data to be transferred in the same amount of time. In simpler terms, it means that the Dreamcast can transfer more information in the same amount of time while using less bandwidth. This can result in a more efficient use of resources and less strain on the system, which can lead to a smoother gaming experience.

To sum up, the GPU-CPU transfer is important because it affects how quickly and smoothly the games run. The PS2 has a better transfer rate than the Dreamcast in terms of bandwidth, but the Dreamcast has a higher texture compression rate, which means it can transfer more information in the same amount of time while using less bandwidth. This can lead to a more efficient use of resources and a smoother gaming experience.

Winner: Dreamcast

GPU Cache

The internal GPU cache is a small amount of high-speed memory that is located on the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) itself. It is used to temporarily store data that the GPU frequently accesses, such as textures, to speed up the process of rendering images on the screen.

The table shows that the PS2 has a larger internal GPU cache (4MB for the PS2 compared to 33KB for the Dreamcast). This means that the PS2 can store more data in the internal GPU cache and thus, it can access it faster, resulting in a smoother and more efficient rendering of images.

In simpler terms, the internal GPU cache acts as a buffer for the GPU, allowing it to access frequently used data faster, which results in a smoother and more efficient rendering of images on the screen. The PS2 has a larger internal GPU cache, which means it can store more data and access it faster, resulting in a better performance.

To sum up, the internal GPU cache is a small amount of high-speed memory that is used to temporarily store data that the GPU frequently accesses, the PS2 has a larger internal GPU cache than the Dreamcast which results in a smoother and more efficient rendering of images on the screen.

Winner: PS2

External RAM

SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory) and RDRAM (Rambus Dynamic Random-Access Memory) are different types of memory that are used in gaming consoles.

SDRAM is a type of memory that is synchronized with the system clock, which means that it runs at the same speed as the CPU. It is a widely used type of memory and is relatively inexpensive.

RDRAM, on the other hand, is a type of memory that is developed by Rambus Inc. It uses a high-speed bus called Rambus Channel to transfer data between the memory and the CPU. It is a faster type of memory than SDRAM, but it is also more expensive.

The Dreamcast uses 24MB of SDRAM as its external memory, while the PS2 uses 32MB of RDRAM as its external memory. The Dreamcast has a texture compression ratio of 7.98:1, while the PS2 has a compression ratio of 3:1. The Dreamcast also has a bandwidth of 1.6 GB/s, while the PS2 has a bandwidth of 3.2 GB/s.

In the context of these consoles, the Dreamcast has a higher texture compression ratio, meaning it can compress the textures more efficiently, allowing more data to be stored and transferred in the same amount of time. Additionally, the PS2 has a higher bandwidth which means it can transfer data between the memory and the CPU more quickly. Overall, the Dreamcast and the PS2 have different strengths in terms of external memory, the Dreamcast excels in texture compression, while the PS2 excels in bandwidth. It depends on the specific use case, as to which one would be considered as having the better external memory.

Winner: Draw?

Buffering bandwidth

Buffering bandwidth refers to the speed at which data is transferred between the frame buffer and the Z-buffer in a gaming console.

The frame buffer is a memory location where the image data is temporarily stored before it is displayed on the screen. The frame buffer is used to store the final image that the player sees on the screen.

The Z-buffer, also known as the depth buffer, is a separate memory location that stores the depth information of each pixel in the image. It is used to control which pixels are visible in the final image and which are hidden. It helps to create the illusion of depth and smooth out the edges of 3D models by calculating which pixels are in front of or behind other pixels.

The table shows that the Dreamcast has a buffering bandwidth of 800MB/s and a Z-buffer of 12MB, while the PS2 doesn’t have a Z-buffer. The Dreamcast’s Z-buffer allows it to calculate the depth information of each pixel and create the illusion of depth in games more efficiently than the PS2, which does not have a Z-buffer. This results in a more immersive and visually appealing gaming experience for the player.

In summary, the frame buffer is a memory location where the image data is temporarily stored before it is displayed on the screen. The Z-buffer is a separate memory location that stores the depth information of each pixel in the image. It is used to control which pixels are visible in the final image and which are hidden. It helps to create the illusion of depth and smooth out the edges of 3D models by calculating which pixels are in front of or behind other pixels. The Dreamcast has an advantage over the PS2 by having a Z-buffer, which allows it to create the illusion of depth in games more efficiently.

Output:

Winner: Dreamcast

Output

480i and 480p are both standard definition resolution formats, but they have a significant difference in terms of image quality. Most Dreamcast games were 480p, and although some PS2 games could do 480p, most were 480i. There is a huge difference.

480i, also known as interlaced resolution, is a video format where the image is composed of two fields of 240 lines each. These fields are displayed alternately, with the first field displaying the odd-numbered lines and the second field displaying the even-numbered lines. This method of displaying the image results in a lower image quality and can cause flickering and distortion on fast-moving images.

480p, also known as progressive resolution, is a video format where the image is composed of a single frame of 480 lines. The entire frame is displayed at once, resulting in a higher image quality, less distortion and flicker on fast-moving images, and a more stable picture.

480i vs 480p
Courtesy of https://www.reddit.com/r/crtgaming/comments/z09j7c/240p_vs_480i_vs_480p_illustrated/

The Dreamcast had VGA cables and most of its games were 480p, which allowed for a higher quality picture. The PS2, on the other hand, most of its games were in 480i, which resulted in a lower image quality. This is one of the reasons why some people believed the Dreamcast was a more powerful machine, as the VGA cables and 480p resolution provide a better visual quality compared to the PS2’s 480i resolution.

In summary, the Dreamcast had an advantage over the PS2 in terms of resolution, as it had VGA cables and most games ran on 480p resolution which is twice the resolution of 480i, providing a better visual quality, less distortion, and flicker on fast-moving images, and a more stable picture. This is one of the reasons why some people believed the Dreamcast was a more powerful machine.

Winner: Dreamcast

Which is the overall winner?

The PS2 is considered to have a better overall performance than the Dreamcast due to its more powerful CPU and graphics processors, superior lighting capabilities, faster rendering, better pixel fillrate and more detailed polygons. Additionally, the PS2 has a larger GPU cache, which results in a smoother and more efficient rendering of images on the screen.

On the other hand, the Dreamcast has a higher CPU-GPU transfer rate and buffering bandwidth, which allows it to transfer data between the CPU and GPU more efficiently. Additionally, it has the capability of outputting games in 480p resolution more often which results in better visual quality.

Overall, the PS2 is considered to be a more powerful console in terms of its hardware and performance, allowing for a smoother and more visually appealing gaming experience. While the Dreamcast has some advantages in terms of data transfer and resolution, the PS2’s superior hardware performance makes it the better option for overall gaming experience.

Why do some people truly believe the Dreamcast was better than the PS2?

It is somewhat of a myth that Dreamcast games look better than PS2 games, but there are some truths to this statement. One of the main reasons why Dreamcast games are believed to look better is because of its native 480p output with VGA compared to the PS2’s 480i output with component. The 480p resolution provided a higher quality picture and less distortion and flicker on fast-moving images. Additionally, the Dreamcast was much more user-friendly to work with, which allowed for exclusive titles to be ported poorly to the PS2.

Another reason is that the Dreamcast had a two-year head start on the PS2 in terms of game releases, which allowed for developers to take advantage of the Dreamcast’s hardware capabilities and create visually impressive games. However, as the PS2 began to release more advanced games such as Metal Gear Solid 2, Silent Hill 2, Final Fantasy X, and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, the Dreamcast’s hardware became increasingly outmatched and these games became impossible for the Dreamcast to handle.

Lastly, the Dreamcast also leaned heavily on its advantages and strengths such as lighting and other features that have a significant impact on the visual quality of the games. This allowed for Dreamcast games to stand out and be remembered for their visual quality.

Recent Posts