What if you could take the Zen 2 CPU cores found in the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, transplant them to a PC motherboard, install Windows, and play PC games on them? Unless we hack the console and create drivers for it, it’s a pipe dream, but we can do the next best thing. AMD recently – and somewhat stealthily – released the 4800S desktop kit for Chinese OEMs. This is a Micro ATX motherboard built around the Xbox Series X APU, which comes with 16GB of GDDR6 memory. The integrated GPU is disabled, but it is possible to install Windows on it, you can connect a decent graphics card to it – and yes, you can play PC games on an Xbox processor.
The idea that this product even exists is baffling, but there is some logic to it. Not every PS5 or Series X chip that rolls off the production line is functional. There may be imperfections in the silicon that scratch the chip – or parts of it. In this case, AMD chooses chips with defective GPUs, disables this graphics component and uses only the CPU part. As you’ll see in the accompanying video – and indeed in the title image – we can be sure it East X-series silicon because if you put the two chips side by side, they match.
There is also a precedent with what happened before. The AMD 4700S desktop kit follows the same principles, although it’s built around faulty PlayStation 5 processors. I own a 4700S, but it’s a bit of a dead weight. PCI Express bandwidth is too limited to support high-end graphics, there’s no NVMe functionality, and only two SATA ports. Meanwhile, the cooler is light to say the least. With the 4800S, AMD solves all these problems. There are four SATA ports, an NVMe slot, a meatier cooler, and while GPU bandwidth is still limited, the 4x PCIe 4.0 interface produces good results with high-end graphics cards.
I actually own the 4700S desktop kit – and others have covered it extensively. I canceled our coverage because PS5-level gaming just wasn’t possible, due to the PCI Express bandwidth limitation. We bought the 4800S on the recommendation of DF supporter Fidler_2K, who noted its more luxurious specs. However, acquiring one was problematic. I bought the 4700S on eBay from an Italian supplier. While we knew the 4800S was for sale, we found it nearly impossible to get it exported.
Luckily my colleague Will Judd and his wife Stella traveled to China a few months ago and managed to get one – but even then it involved liaising with a local PC shop, getting a pre-built system shipped whole from elsewhere in China, then picking it up for its return trip to the UK. So, thanks to Will, Stella and of course Fidler_2K for making this project possible.
Where to start with testing the 4800S desktop kit, though? Before I mess around with the gameplay, I thought I’d do some basic benchmarks comparing it to the mainstream CPU we of course use in our PC gaming reviews – the now classic Ryzen 5 3600. CineBench R20 we gives a 1184 point single thread score on the 3600 and a 1148 point score on the 4800S – so the 4800S is barely outside the margin of error in terms of differentials, which isn’t surprising since both are Zen 2 processors with similar single-core turbos. On the multi-core scores, the 4800S has more cores and therefore a higher score – 10539 versus 8113 on the 3600.
However, the biggest performance hit will be in the memory system. A standard desktop processor is paired with SDRAM modules that you choose yourself and insert into the motherboard. The 4800S desktop kit comes with GDDR6 on board. This memory is usually used for graphics purposes, not for the CPU. Bandwidth is massively higher, which is a good thing, but latency – access time – is also higher, which is most certainly not a good thing. On top of that, the console’s CPUs, and in turn the 4800S, have far less onboard cache than AMD’s Ryzen chips. You can see how this plays out in the charts below.
Across the benchmark, the 3600’s much larger cache provides much higher levels of bandwidth, and as transfer sizes increase, the 4800S can’t keep up because it runs out of cache and has to go back to memory modules. However, something interesting happens when transfers cross the cache limit of the Ryzen 5 3600. Now it’s the 4800S that takes over, with GDDR6 memory offering almost double the level of bandwidth offered by the memory G.Skill 3200MT/s CL16. Unfortunately, latency is problematic, as the graphs show – regardless of transfer size.
Before proceeding, a few words of caution about how the data should be interpreted. On a basic level, we should have an idea of the power available to developers for their console titles. However, we also have to accept that consoles are very different beasts. The Xbox processor has come out of its natural habitat. So, just at a superficial level, the Xbox CPU and GPU are integrated into the same chip – there’s no need to send graphics commands and data through a PCI Express slot like we do on PC. Also, the nature of console and PC development is very different: for Xbox Series machines, we should expect developers to adapt their CPU code to the fixed platform that Microsoft has developed for them. On PC, games need to run on a multitude of different hardware.
On the other hand, this PC version of the Xbox Series X processor has some advantages over the console configuration. With active SMT – meaning eight cores and 16 threads – the console runs the processor at 3.6GHz, with one core in reserve for OS-level functions. On the AMD 4800S desktop kit, the processor acts more like a standard Zen 2 processor in that the clocks are variable. Generally, it seems to run all cores at around 4.0 GHz like other Zen 2 processors we’ve tested. That’s a roughly 11% increase in speed, and Windows can access all eight cores and 16 threads as well. There is no OS reservation here.
So in summary we can get a rough indication of how much processor power is available to console developers compared to other processors but more specifically what we are definitely getting are the results of the PC versions of console games running in a Windows 11 environment. Nevertheless, I hope you find the following pages quite interesting!