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Sega Mega Drive/Hardware comparison

From Sega Retro

For technical details on the Sega Mega Drive, see Sega Mega Drive/Technical specifications.


This article presents a hardware comparison between the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) and other rival systems in its time, most notably the SNES. It compares the technical specifications and hardware advantages/disadvantages between the systems.

Vs. SNES

Main CPU

The Mega Drive's main CPU (central processing unit) is clocked over two times faster than the one in its rival product, the SNES. Sega's Motorola 68000 processor is clocked at 7.67 MHz, compared to the 3.58 MHz clock speed of Nintendo's Ricoh 5A22 S-CPU (an adaptation of the 65c816 with additional features). However, the idea of simply comparing CPU clock rates to determine performance, regardless of other characteristics, is commonly known as the megahertz myth. While the S-CPU did run slower in clock cycles per second, it required less clock cycles for most instructions, giving it an overall comparable MIPS (million instructions per second) performance to the 68000. In other words, the 68000's higher clock rate is not the reason the 68000 performs faster than the S-CPU.

The 68000's faster performance essentially comes from having a wider data bus, or higher "bits", than the S-CPU. The 68000 is a hybrid 16/32-bit CPU, whereas the S-CPU is a hybrid 8/16-bit CPU. The 68000 has a wider 32-bit internal data bus (double the S-CPU's 16-bit internal data bus) and a wider 16-bit external data bus (double the S-CPU's 8-bit external data bus). This means that, in a single cycle, the 68000 can process a 32-bit instruction while accessing 16-bit data from memory, whereas the S-CPU in a single cycle can process a 16-bit instruction while only accessing 8-bit data from memory. The 68000 also has a hybrid 16/32-bit instruction set,[1] 16×16-bit multiplier, and 32/16-bit divider, whereas the SNES has a hybrid 8/16-bit instruction set, 8×8-bit multiplier, and 16/8-bit divider. This means that the Mega Drive is essentially a hybrid 16/32-bit system, whereas the SNES is a hybrid 8/16-bit system.[2]

The wider multiplier and divider gives the 68000 a performance advantage for arithmetic. While the 68000 and 5A22 are roughly on-par for arithmetic involving smaller 8-bit numbers (up to 256), the 68000 is faster for arithmetic involving larger 16-bit numbers (up to 65,536) and 32-bit numbers (up to 4 billion). So while both are on-par for basic arithmetic involving smaller numbers, the 68000 is faster for more complex arithmetic involving large numbers or more precision (such as calculating 3D polygons, for example). In addition, the 68000 has faster memory bandwidth (due to having a wider data bus) and more registers. The 68000 also had a shared codebase with arcade games, where the 68000 saw widespread use, allowing more efficient arcade conversions.

Overall, the 68000 is only slightly faster than the S-CPU for most operations, but is significantly faster for some operations, such as arithmetic operations dealing with multiplication or larger 32-bit numbers. On the other hand, the S-CPU has a DMA unit, which the 68000 lacks, though that is because the Mega Drive's DMA unit is located in its VDP graphics processor instead. The 68000 alone does not give the Mega Drive a significant performance advantage, but it's the combination of the 68000 with the VDP's DMA unit, along with faster memory, that gives the system a significant performance advantage over the SNES.

Console Sega Mega Drive[3] Super Nintendo[4][5][6][7]
Main CPU Motorola 68000 Ricoh 5A22 S-CPU (based on 65c816)
Clock rate NTSC 7.670454 MHz 2.684658–3.579545 MHz
PAL 7.600489 MHz 2.660171–3.546895 MHz
Bits Data bus width 32-bit internal, 16-bit external 16-bit internal, 8-bit external
Word length 16-bit 16-bit
Internal
instructions
Registers 16× 32-bit registers 4× 16-bit registers, 4× 8-bit registers
Instruction set 16-bit, 32-bit 8-bit, 16-bit
Instructions per
second
1.342329 MIPS (NTSC),
1.330085 MIPS (PAL)
1.125–1.5 MIPS (NTSC),
1.114738–1.486318 MIPS (PAL)
Arithmetic logic
unit(s)
ALU(s) 16-bit data ALU,
32-bit address ALU (2× 16-bit ALU)
16-bit ALU
Multiplier 16×16-bit[2] 8×8-bit[2]
Divider 32/16-bit[2] 16/8-bit[2]
Work RAM Memory 64 KB PSRAM
(16-bit, 5.263157 MHz)
128 KB DRAM
(8-bit, 2.660171–2.684658 MHz)
Bandwidth 10.526314 MB/s 2.684658 MB/s (NTSC), 2.660171 MB/s (PAL)
CPU access (NTSC) 3.835226 MB/s,[n 1] 62 KB per frame 2.684658 MB/s,[n 2] 43 KB per frame
CPU access (PAL) 3.800244 MB/s,[n 3] 73 KB per frame 2.660171 MB/s,[n 4] 51 KB per frame
Cartridge
ROM
Memory 128 KB to 8 MB 128 KB to 6 MB
Bandwidth 10–15.340906 MB/s 2.5–3.579545 MB/s
CPU access 3.835226 MB/s (NTSC),
3.800244 MB/s (PAL)
2.684658–3.579545 MB/s (NTSC),
2.660171–3.546895 MB/s (PAL)[n 5]
8-bit arithmetic
(-128 to 256)
Additions (8+8-bit)[n 6] 1.7 million adds/sec[8] 1.7 million adds/sec[n 7]
Multiplications (8×8-bit) 540,000 multiplies/sec[n 8] 440,000 multiplies/sec[n 9]
Divisions (16/8-bit) 200,000 divides/sec[n 10] 180,000 divides/sec[n 11]
16-bit arithmetic
(-32,768 to 65,536)
Additions (16+16-bit)[n 6] 1.7 million adds/sec[8] 1.1 million adds/sec[n 12]
Multiplications (16×16-bit) 120,000 multiplies/sec[8] 32,000 multiplies/sec[n 13]
Divisions (16/16-bit) 120,000 divides/sec[8] 51,000 divides/sec[n 14]
32-bit arithmetic
(-2 billion to 4 billion)
Additions (32+32-bit)[n 6] 880,000 adds/sec[8] 100,000 adds/sec[n 15]
Multiplications (32×32-bit) 100,000 multiplies/sec[n 16] 17,000 multiplies/sec[n 17]
Divisions (32/16-bit) 120,000 divides/sec[8] 20,000 divides/sec[n 18]
3D polygon
geometry calculations
Vertices 10,000 vertices/sec[18] 2200 vertices/sec[n 19]
Triangle polygons 3300 triangles/sec 700 triangles/sec

GPU and DMA

The Sega Mega Drive's Yamaha YM7101 VDP graphics processor has a powerful DMA unit that could handle DMA (direct memory access) operations at significantly faster speeds than the SNES. This is sometimes referred to as "blast processing".[1]

The Mega Drive's DMA unit is part of the VDP, which is located on the same Yamaha IC6 integrated circuit as the sound chips.Media:Sega Service Manual - Genesis II - Mega Drive II (PAL) - 001 - June 1993.pdf[19] The combination of the VDP's high-speed DMA unit with the 68000 CPU as well as faster memory is essentially what gives the Mega Drive a significant performance advantage over the SNES. In comparison, the Super Nintendo's DMA unit is part of its Ricoh 5A22 S-CPU,[5] while its PPU graphics chips lack DMA. On the other hand, the PPU chips come with more built-in hardware graphics features, such as more colors on screen, larger sprites, and background scaling (Mode 7), most of which the VDP is also capable of with its fast DMA, but requires developers to manually program these features.

The Mega Drive's DMA unit could write to VRAM during active display, VBlank, and HBlank,Media:GenesisTechnicalOverview.pdf[20] whereas the SNES CPU's DMA unit could only do so during VBlank and HBlank. The Mega Drive has higher memory bandwidth and is capable of quicker DMA transfer rates, giving it a faster performance than the SNES,[6] and helped give the Mega Drive a higher fillrate, higher gameplay resolution, faster parallax scrolling, fast data blitting, and high frame-rate with many moving objects on screen, and allowed it to display more unique tiles (background and sprite tiles) and large sprites (32×32 and higher) on screen, and quickly transfer more unique tiles and large sprites (16×16 and higher) on screen. The Mega Drive's graphics are also rendered with a packed pixel format, which is more flexible and efficient than the Super Nintendo's planar graphics format (except for Mode 7 which also uses packed pixels).

The Mega Drive's DMA capabilities, higher bandwidth, and packed pixel format, give it more flexibility, allowing the hardware to be programmed in various different ways. Combining the CPU's fast arithmetic with the VDP's fast DMA, it could replicate some of the SNES PPU hardware features with software programming, such as larger 64×64 sprites (combining 32×32 sprites), the scaling and rotation of background planes (like the Sega X Board and Mode 7), and direct color (increasing colors on screen). Other programmable capabilities include mid-frame palette swaps (increasing colors per scanline), bitmap framebuffers, sprite scaling and rotation, and ray casting. The Mega Drive could also playback full motion video (FMV) at a higher quality than the SNES. The base Mega Drive hardware (without needing any cartridge enhancement chips) could also render 3D polygon graphics with a performance almost approaching the SNES's optional Super FX (SFX) cartridge enhancement chip,[21][22] which itself was significantly outperformed by the Mega Drive's optional Sega Virtua Processor (SVP) cartridge enhancement chip.

One aspect of the SNES hardware that the Mega Drive cannot replicate with DMA is its color palette. While DMA programming techniques such as those mentioned above could allow the Mega Drive to match the 256 on-screen color display of the SNES, the Mega Drive cannot come close to the overall 32,768 selectable color palette of the SNES. But when in direct color mode (required for certain types of three-dimensional graphics, such as ray casting and 3D polygons), the SNES and Mega Drive are both on-par in terms of colors, as the SNES cannot use its 32,768 color palette in direct color mode.

Console Sega Mega Drive[3] Super Nintendo[4][5][6][7][23]
System
master
clock rate
NTSC 53.693175 MHz 21.47727 MHz
PAL 53.203424 MHz 21.28137 MHz
Graphics processing unit (GPU) Sega 315‑5313 VDP (Yamaha YM7101) Ricoh S-PPU (PPU1 & PPU2)
Clock rate NTSC 13.423294 MHz 5.579545 MHz (PPU1), 3.579545 MHz (PPU2)
PAL 13.300856 MHz 5.320343 MHz (PPU1), 3.546895 MHz (PPU2)
Internal
GPU cache
Cache 232 bytes
(72 bytes CRAM, 80 bytes VSRAM, 80 bytes sprite buffer)
1056 bytes
(544 bytes PPU1 OAM, 512 bytes PPU2 CGRAM)
Bandwidth 26.846588 MB/s (NTSC), 26.601712 MB/s (PAL) PPU1 OAM:
11.15909 MB/s (NTSC), 10.640685 MB/s (PAL)
PPU2 CGRAM:
7.15909 MB/s (NTSC), 7.09379 MB/s (PAL)
Video RAM
(VRAM)
Memory 64 KB VRAM (Dual-Port)
(64 KB FPM DRAM, 256 bytes SAM buffer)
64 KB SRAM (PPU1 VRAM)
Bandwidth 13.423294 MB/s (NTSC), 13.300856 MB/s (PAL) 11.15909 MB/s (NTSC), 10.640685 MB/s (PAL)
Pixels Pixel format Packed pixel Planar (Modes 1-6), packed pixel (Mode 7)
Read fillrate 6.650428–6.934358 MPixels/s
(103,912–108,349 tiles/sec)
5.320342–5.369317 MPixels/s
(83,130–83,896 tiles/sec)
Tiles on screen 1808 tiles 1395 tiles (NTSC), 1536 tiles (PAL)
Resolution Overscan 427×262 (NTSC), 423×312 (PAL) 341×262 (NTSC), 341×312 (PAL)
Display
resolution
Gameplay: 256×224 to 320×480 (default 320×224) Gameplay: 256×224 to 256×239 (default 256×224)
Pseudo-hires text: 512×448, 512×478 (half-pixels)
Sprite
capabilities
Sprite fillrate 4.90887 MTexels/s (76,701 sprites/sec),
320 texels per scanline
4.282881 MTexels/s (66,920 sprites/sec),
272 texels per scanline
Sprite tiles
on screen
1280 sprite tiles (8×8) 512 sprite tiles (8×8)
Sprite sizes 16 sprites sizes (16 sizes on screen)
(8×8, 8×16, 8×24, 8×32, 16×8, 16×16, 16×24, 16×32,
24×8, 24×16, 24×24, 24×32,
32×8, 32×16, 32×24, 32×32)
4 sprites sizes (2 sizes on screen)
(8x8, 16x16, 32x32, 64x64)
Sprites per
scanline
20 sprites (8×8 to 16×16), 13 sprites (24×24),
10 sprites (32×32), 5 sprites (64×64)
32 sprites (8×8), 17 sprites (16×16),
8 sprites (32×32), 4 sprites (64×64)
Sprites on
screen
80 sprites (8×8 to 32×32), 20 sprites (64×64),
5 sprites (128×128)
128 sprites (8×8, 16×16), 69 sprites (32×32),
17 sprites (64×64), 4 sprites (128×128)
Unique sprites
on screen
80 sprites (8×8 to 32×32), 20 sprites (64×64),
5 sprites (128×128)
128 sprites (8×8, 16×16), 32 sprites (32×32),
8 sprites (64×64), 2 sprites (128×128)
Background
planes
Background tiles
on screen
1344–1808 background tiles 256–1024 background tiles
Tilemap planes 2 scrolling planes (1344–1808 tiles),
1 static window plane,
20–32 overlapping scrolling layers per scrolling plane
1–4 planes (256–1024 tiles)
Tilemap
resolution
256×256 to 512×512 (2 planes, 1344–1808 tiles),
1024×256 (2 planes, 1344–1424 tiles)
256×256 to 512×512 (1–4 planes, 256–1024 tiles),
1024×1024 (1 plane, 256 tiles)
Scrolling
capabilities
Parallax scrolling, line scrolling, tile scrolling,
row/column scrolling, overlapping scrolling layers
Parallax scrolling, line scrolling, tile scrolling
Colors
(without DMA)
Color palette 512 colors (default),
1536 colors (Shadow/Highlight)
32,768 colors
Colors on screen 61–64 (default), 183–192 (Shadow/Highlight) 128–256 (1–2 planes), 128–160 (3 planes),
128 (4 planes)
Colors per tile 16 colors (2 planes) 16 colors (1–2 planes), 8 colors (3 planes),
4 colors (4 planes)
DMA controller Sega 315‑5313 VDP (Yamaha YM7101) DMA unit Ricoh 5A22 (CPU) DMA unit
Clock rate NTSC 13.423294 MHz 2.684658–3.579545 MHz
PAL 13.300856 MHz 2.660171–3.546895 MHz
DMA blitting
bandwidth
VBlank
(inactive display)
VRAM: 3.21845 MB/s, 205 bytes per scanline
VDP cache: 6.4369 MB/s, 410 bytes per scanline
NTSC: 2.684658 MB/s, 170.5 bytes per scanline
PAL: 2.660171 MB/s, 170.5 bytes per scanline
During active display
(VRAM)
320×224: 708.406 KB/s (NTSC), 1.09701 MB/s (PAL)
320×160: 1.437846 MB/s (NTSC), 1.702026 MB/s (PAL)
256×224: 443.228 KB/s (NTSC), 795.11 KB/s (PAL)
256×192: 763.435 KB/s (NTSC), 1.061548 MB/s (PAL)
During active display
(cache)
320×224: 1.416813 MB/s (NTSC), 2.194021 MB/s (PAL)
320×160: 2.875692 MB/s (NTSC), 3.404052 MB/s (PAL)
DMA blitting
fillrate
Write fillrate
(VBlank/inactive display)
6.4369 MPixels/s,
410 pixels (51 tiles) per scanline
5.320342–5.369317 MPixels/s,
341 pixels (42 tiles) per scanline
Write fillrate
(during active display)
1.416813–2.875692 MPixels/s (NTSC),
2.194021–3.404052 MPixels/s (PAL)
886,457 pixels/s (NTSC),
1.59022 MPixels/s (PAL)
Tile blitting per frame
(during active display)
369 tiles (NTSC), 1070 tiles (PAL) 230 tiles (NTSC), 496 tiles (PAL)
Sprite blitting
per frame
NTSC 80 sprites (8×8 to 16×16), 41 sprites (24×24),
23 sprites (32×32), 5 sprites (64×64)
128 sprites (8×8), 57 sprites (16×16),
14 sprites (32×32), 3 sprites (64×64)
PAL 80 sprites (8×8 to 24×24), 66 sprites (32×32),
16 sprites (64×64), 4 sprites (128×128)
128 sprites (8×8), 124 sprites (16×16),
31 sprites (32×32), 7 sprites (64×64)
Scaling and
rotation
Background DMA software rendering Mode 7 hardware rendering
Sprites DMA software rendering SuperFX enhancement chip required
Color DMA Color palette Up to 4096 colors (bitmap image) 32,768 colors (default),
256–4096 colors (direct color)
Colors
on screen
256–512 (direct color), 1536 (scrolling image),
4096 (static image)
256-512 (direct color), 2723 (static image)
Colors per tile 16–256 colors (palette swap),
64–512 colors (direct color)
16–256 colors (direct color)
3D polygon
rendering
Flat shading 1800 polygons/sec 400 polygons/sec[n 20]
Texture mapping 1000 polygons/sec 100 polygons/sec[n 21]
Full motion video
(FMV)
Maximum bitrate 4.608 Mbps (576 KB/s, 24 KB per frame) 1.773 Mbps (222 KB/s, 18 KB per frame)[32]
Maximum quality 320×224 resolution, 8-bit color 256×224 resolution, 8-bit color[32]

Audio

The Mega Drive's audio hardware includes a sound CPU, the Zilog Z80, along with two sound chips, the Yamaha YM2612 and the Sega PSG, both located on the same Sega-Yamaha IC6 integrated circuit as the Yamaha VDP graphics processor, with the PSG located within the VDP itself. The Super Nintendo's audio processing unit, the Sony S-SMP, includes an audio CPU, the Sony SPC700, and a DSP sound chip, the S-DSP.

The Mega Drive's Z80 audio CPU has over three times the clock rate of the Super Nintendo's SPC700 audio CPU. However, the SPC700 requires less cycles per instruction, so the Z80 is only slightly faster for most operations. What gives the Z80 a significant performance advantage, however, is that it has direct memory access to the 68000 address space (in addition to its own internal 8 KB sound RAM), allowing it to stream data directly from the ROM cartridge, whereas the SPC700 only has direct access its limited 64 KB internal sound RAM (where the main 5A22 S-CPU needs to transfer the audio data). This allows the Mega Drive to stream audio data from the ROM cartridge at a higher speed than the SNES, as well as giving the Z80 more flexibility to be used for non-audio purposes (such as Sega Master System emulation, for example).

The Mega Drive's YM2612 sound chip has a sound output of 53 kHz, higher than the Super Nintendo's S-DSP which has a 32 kHz output, giving the YM2612 a wider frequency range. The S-DSP also uses Gaussian filtering, which eliminates noise by cutting-off the lowest and highest frequencies, at the expense of further limiting the frequency range, creating a muffled sound. The Mega Drive's greater frequency range, on the other hand, provides sharper audio clarity, but with more noise heard at at the highest frequencies, while a lowpass filter reduces noise at the lowest frequencies on both systems (with the Super Nintendo's Gaussian filter further reducing noise at the expense of muffling).

The Mega Drive's sound chips have more sound channels than the Super Nintendo's S-DSP. The S-DSP only supports PCM sampling, whereas the Mega Drive's YM2612 supports both FM synthesis and PCM sampling while the PSG provides additional synthesized channels. In terms of PCM sampling capabilities, the S-SMP supports 8 PCM channels, higher than the YM2612 which supports up to 4 PCM channels with software mixing. The S-SMP's PCM sampling is limited to 16-bit 32 kHz quality, slightly higher than the YM2612's PCM sampling which is limited to 8-bit 32 kHz quality. Due to the Z80 having direct access to the ROM cartridge, the YM2612 can stream PCM audio directly from the ROM cartridge, whereas the S-SMP can only access samples from its limited 64 KB sound RAM, relying on the main S-CPU to transfer samples from the ROM cartridge. This allows the YM2612 to stream high-quality PCM audio at a high bitrate without straining the main 68000 CPU (saving most of its bandwidth for graphics or game logic), whereas streaming high-quality PCM audio on the SNES strains the main S-CPU (significantly reducing its bandwidth for graphics or game logic).

The Mega Drive's secondary sound chip, the PSG, can also play PCM samples, by using its three tone channels to make up a single PCM channel. It can play mono samples with up to 44.1 kHz sample rate (at 4-bit depth) or up to 12-bit audio depth (at 11.025 kHz). Some Mega Drive games use the PSG for playing PCM samples, such as After Burner II.[33] However, playing a high-quality 44 kHz sample with the PSG can strain the Z80, whereas playing a 32 kHz sample with the YM2612 uses only a fraction of the Z80's bandwidth. Nevertheless, it is technically possible to use the 68000 CPU to handle PCM playback (1-4 channels) on the YM2612 chip, and the Z80 CPU to handle PCM playback (1 channel) on the PSG chip, for a total of 2-5 PCM channels on the Mega Drive, in addition to 5 FM channels.

Console Sega Mega Drive[3] Super Nintendo[4][5][6]
System master
clock rate
NTSC 53.693175 MHz 24.576 MHz
PAL 53.203424 MHz 24.576 MHz
Audio CPU Zilog Z80 Sony SPC700
Clock rate NTSC 3.579545 MHz 1.024 MHz
PAL 3.546894 MHz 1.024 MHz
Bits Bus width 8-bit 8-bit
Word length 8-bit 8-bit
Instruction set 8-bit, 16-bit 8-bit, 16-bit
Instructions per
second
NTSC 0.519034 MIPS 0.44032 MIPS[34]
PAL 0.5143 MIPS 0.44032 MIPS
Sound RAM Memory 8 KB SRAM/XRAM (8-bit, 3.030303 MHz) 64 KB SRAM (8-bit, 1.024 MHz)
Bandwidth 3.030303 MB/s 1.024 MB/s
Memory access Addressable memory 8 KB sound RAM,
64 KB work RAM (32 KB banks),
128 KB to 8 MB cartridge ROM (32 KB banks)
64 KB sound RAM
RAM access bandwidth 1.193182 MB/s (NTSC),
1.182298 MB/s (PAL)[35]
1.024 MB/s
Cartridge ROM
access bandwidth
1.191969 MB/s (NTSC), 1.181096 MB/s (PAL) 128 KB/s (S-CPU)[36]
Sound chip(s) Yamaha YM2612, Sega PSG[37] Sony S-DSP
Clock rate NTSC 7.670454 MHz (YM2612), 3.579545 MHz (PSG) 2.048 MHz
PAL 7.600489 MHz (YM2612), 3.546894 MHz (PSG) 2.048 MHz
Sound output Speakers Mono, stereo Mono, stereo, virtual surround sound
Frequency 53.267 kHz (NTSC), 52.781 kHz (PAL) 32 kHz
Sound channels Total channels 11 channels (hardware),
12-14 channels (software mixing)
8 channels
Synthesis channels 11 channels
(6 FM, 1 LFO, 3 square waves, 1 noise)
N/A
PCM sample channels 1-2 channels (hardware),
2-5 channels (software mixing)
8 channels
FM synthesis FM channels 6 channels (or 5 channels with PCM) N/A
Operators 24 operators (4 operators per channel)
PCM sampling File formats PCM, DPCM, ADPCM, VGM, XGM, TFM, WAV, MOD PCM (16-bit), ADPCM (4-bit),[38] BRR[39]
Streaming bandwidth 1000 KB/s (8000 Kbps) 128 KB/s (1024 Kbps)
Maximum bitrate 1200 Kbps (150 KB/s)[n 22] 1024 Kbps (128 KB/s)[n 23]
Maximum PCM
sample rate
4-bit depth (mono) 44.1 kHz (1 channel)[41] + 22.05 kHz (2 channels)[40] 32 kHz (8 channels)
4-bit depth (stereo) 22.05 kHz (2 channels) 32 kHz (4 channels) / 16 kHz (8 channels)
8-bit depth 32 kHz (1 channel)[40] / 20.5 kHz (2 channels)[42] /
16 kHz (4 channels)[40][41]
N/A
12-bit depth 11.025 kHz (1 channel)[41]
16-bit depth (mono) N/A 32 kHz (2 channels) / 16 kHz (4 channels) /
8 kHz (8 channels)
16-bit depth (stereo) N/A 32 kHz (1 channel)[36] / 16 kHz (2 channels) /
8 kHz (4 channels) / 4 kHz (8 channels)

Enhancement chips

Console Sega Mega Drive[3] Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Cartridge enhancement chip Sega Virtua Processor[43] DSP-1[5][44] Super FX[45][46] Super FX 2[45][46]
Co-processor Sega 315-5750
(Samsung SSP1601)
NEC µPD77C25 Nintendo GSU-1 Nintendo GSU-2
Clock rate 23.01136 MHz 7.647059 MHz[n 24] 10.738635 MHz 21.47727 MHz
Cartridge RAM Memory 128 KB (FPM DRAM) 2-32 KB (SRAM)[47] 40-72 KB (SRAM) 40-72 KB (SRAM)
Bandwidth 34.679066 MB/s
(16-bit, 18.181818 MHz)
6.666666 MB/s
(8-bit, 6.666666 MHz)[47]
10.738635 MB/s
(8-bit, 10.738635 MHz)[48]
14.285714 MB/s
(8-bit, 14.285714 MHz)[48]
Fixed-point
arithmetic
Additions 23,011,360 adds/sec 596,000 adds/sec 10,738,635 adds/sec[n 25] 21,477,270 adds/sec
Multiplications 23,011,360 multiplies/sec 294,117 multiplies/sec 2,147,727 multiplies/sec[n 26] 4,295,454 multiplies/sec
Divisions 719,105 divides/sec 77,519 divides/sec 335,582 divides/sec[n 27] 671,164 divides/sec
Scaling and
rotation
Background Hardware rendering Mode 7 Mode 7 Mode 7
Sprites Hardware rendering N/A Hardware rendering Hardware rendering
3D polygon
graphics
Geometry
calculations
50,000 polys/s 1,900 polys/s[n 28] 10,000 polys/s[n 29] 20,000 polys/s
Flat-shaded
rendering
20,000 polys/s 940 polys/s[n 30] 2000 polys/s[n 31] 4000 polys/s
Texture
mapping
3000 polys/s 660 polys/s[n 32] 1000 polys/s[n 33] 2000 polys/s

Vs. Amiga

The Mega Drive was generally more powerful than the Amiga. The Mega Drive's 68000 CPU is clocked at 7.6 MHz, while the Amiga's 68000 CPU was clocked at 7.16 MHz (NTSC) or 7.09 MHz (PAL). The Mega Drive displays eighty 15-color sprites at 32×32 pixels each, while the Amiga displays eight 3-color sprites at 8 pixels wide.[50] The Mega Drive displays 61–64 colors standard and 183–192 colors with Shadow/Highlight, while the Amiga displays 2–32 colors standard and 64 colors with EHB. The Mega Drive's VDP can DMA blit 3.21845–6.4 MB/s bandwidth (6.4 MPixels/s fillrate), while the Amiga's Blitter can blit 1.7725–3.58 MB/s (2.363333–4.773333 MPixels/s with 64 colors). During active display, with 64 colors at 60 FPS, the VDP can write 708 KB/s to 2 MB/s (1.4–2 MPixels/s) during 320×224 display, while the Blitter can write 332.5–700 KB/s (443,333–933,333 pixels/s) during 320×200 display.[51] The Mega Drive supports tilemap backgrounds, reducing processing, memory and bandwidth requirements by up to 64 times compared to the Amiga's bitmap backgrounds,[52] giving the Mega Drive an effective tile fillrate of 6–36 MPixels/s. The Mega Drive has a Z80 sound CPU and supports 10 audio channels, while the Amiga lacks a sound CPU and supports 4 audio channels.[50]

Vs. other systems

It was the most powerful console at the time of its release in 1988, surpassing the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16), and it was not surpassed in power until the Neo Geo in 1990.

Compared to home computers at the time, it was not as powerful as the Japan-exclusive X68000 (released 1987) or FM Towns (released 1989). But the Mega Drive was generally more powerful than Western home computers in the late '80s.

Notes

  1. 16-bit data bus, 7.670454 MHz (NTSC), 4 cycles per word, 16-bit (2 bytes) per word, 2 cycles per byte
  2. 8-bit data bus, 2.684658 MHz (NTSC), 1 cycle per byte
  3. 16-bit data bus, 7.600489 MHz (PAL), 4 cycles per word, 16-bit (2 bytes) per word, 2 cycles per byte
  4. 8-bit data bus, 2.660171 MHz (PAL), 1 cycle per byte
  5. 8-bit data bus, 2.684658–3.579545 MHz (NTSC), 2.660171–3.546895 MHz (PAL), 1 cycle per byte
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Same performance for subtractions
  7. 2 cycles per 8-bit add[9]
  8. 14 cycles per 8×8-bit multiply[10]
  9. 8 cycles per 8×8-bit multiply[11]
  10. 38 cycles per 16/8-bit divide[12]
  11. 19 cycles per 16/8-bit divide[5]
  12. Minimum 3 cycles per 16-bit add[9]
  13. 38 cycles per 16×8-bit multiply (3 cycles SEP, 7 cycles STA, 3 cycles XBA, 6 cycles STA, 6 cycles STY, 3 cycles REP, 2 cycles LDA, 2 cycles LDY, 6 cycles RTS)[13][9]
    109 cycles per 16×16-bit multiply: 2× 16×8-bit multiplies (38 cycles each), 32-bit add (33 cycles)[14]
  14. 70 cycles per 16/16-bit divide (3 cycles STZ, 2 cycles LDY, 2 cycles ASL, 2 cycles BCS, 2 cycles INY, 2 cycles CPY, 4 cycles BNE, 7 cycles ROR, 3 cycles PHA, 2 cycles TXA, 2 cycles SEC, 7 cycles SBC, 4 cycles BCC, 2 cycles TAX, 7 cycles ROL, 4 cycles PLA, 7 cycles LSR, 2 cycles DEY, 6 cycles RTS)[15][9]
  15. 33 cycles per 32-bit add (3 cycles REP, 2 cycles CLC, 2 cycles CLD, 8 cycles LDA ADR, 10 cycles 16-bit ADC ADR, 8 cycles STA ADR)[16][9]
  16. 70 cycles per 32×32-bit multiply (MULU.L)[17]
  17. 209 cycles per 32×32-bit multiply: 2× 16×16-bit multiplies (88 cycles each), 32-bit add (33 cycles)[14]
  18. 173 cycles per 32/16-bit divide: 2× 16/16-bit divides (70 cycles each), 32-bit add (33 cycles)[14]
  19. SNES CPU polygon geometry calculations:
    • 1597 cycles per vertex: 11x 16×16-bit multiplies (109 cycles each), 6x 32-bit adds (33 cycles each), 9x 16-bit adds (3 cycles each), 32/16-bit divide (173 cycles)[14]
  20. SNES CPU polygon rendering:
    Framebuffer rendering: 256×160 framebuffer (double-buffered, 40 KB), 15 FPS (614.4 KB/s), 819.64 kHz framebuffer DMA (1.334 kHz per KB,[24] 30 cycles setup), 30 cycles per DMA setup (4 cycles LDX, 6 cycles STX, 8 cycles LDA, 12 cycles STA)[25][9]
    Polygon rendering: 1.865018 MHz (15 FPS), 4363 cycles per 8×8 pixel polygon
    • 1597 cycles geometry per polygon
    • 496 cycles polygon rendering per polygon: 24 comparison cycles (12 comparisons,[26] 2 cycles per CPY comparison),[9] 7 assignments (6 rasterization assignments,[26] 1 flat shading assignment),[27] 218 multiply cycles (2x 16×16-bit multiplies), 132 add cycles (4x 32-bit adds), 5 broadcasts,[28] 110 cycles DMA access (40 bytes per polygon, 2 cycles per byte, 30 cycles setup)[29]
    • 2270 cycles pixel rendering per 8×8 (64-pixel) polygon: 2112 add cycles (32-bit add per pixel),[30] 158 cycles DMA (1 byte per pixel, 2 cycles per pixel, 30 cycles setup)
  21. SNES CPU texture mapping: 17.308 kHz per 8×8 texel polygon (12.945 kHz texture mapping per 8×8 texel polygon)
    • 316 cycles DMA per 8×8 texel texture: 2 block moves, 2 cycles per texel (1 byte per texel), 30 cycles setup
    • 12.629 kHz per 8×8 texel polygon: 73x 32/16-bit divides per polygon (173 cycles each), 1557 vertex divide cycles per polygon (9 divides per polygon), 11.072 kHz texel divides per 8×8 texel polygon (64 divides, 1 divide per texel)[31]
  22. YM2612 - 128 KB/s (4× 8-bit stereo 16 kHz samples)[40]
    PSG - 22.05 KB/s (4-bit mono 44.1 kHz sample)[41]
  23. 16-bit stereo 32 kHz sample[36]
  24. 3.4 microseconds per 26 cycles,[44] 2.136322× CPU clock rate
  25. 1 cycle per add[45]
  26. 5 cycles per 16×16 multiply[45]
  27. 32 cycles per 16-bit divide[45]
  28. DSP-1 geometry calculations: 3,939 cycles per polygon (80 adds, 111 multiplies, 9 divides),[49] 2.136322 cycles (1 CPU cycle) per add, 26 cycles per 16-bit multiply, 98 cycles per divide[44]
  29. Super FX geometry calculations: 923 cycles per polygon (80 adds, 111 multiplies, 9 divides),[49] 1 cycle per add, 5 cycles per 16×16 multiply, 32 cycles per 16-bit divide[45]
  30. DSP-1 assisted rendering:
    • CPU framebuffer rendering: 256×192 framebuffer (double-buffered, 48 KB), 15 FPS (737.28 KB/s), 983.562 kHz CPU framebuffer DMA (1.334 kHz per KB, 30 cycles setup), 2.101205 MHz DSP-1 cycles
    • Polygon rendering: 5.545854 MHz (15 FPS) DSP-1 cycles available, 5.869 kHz per 8×8 pixel polygon
    • Geometry per polygon: 3,939 DSP-1 cycles
    • Polygon rendering per polygon: 772 DSP-1 cycles (361 CPU cycles)
    • Pixel rendering per 8×8 pixel polygon: 1,158 DSP-1 cycles (542 CPU cycles)
  31. Super FX rendering:
    • Framebuffer rendering: 256×192 framebuffer (double-buffered, 48 KB), 15 FPS (737.28 KB/s), 983.562 kHz CPU framebuffer DMA (1.334 kHz per KB, 30 cycles setup), 2.950686 MHz Super FX cycles
    • Polygon rendering: 7.787949 MHz (15 FPS) Super FX cycles available, 3.632 kHz per 8×8 pixel polygon
    • Geometry per polygon: 923 Super FX cycles
    • Polygon rendering per polygon: 1083 Super FX cycles (361 CPU cycles)
    • Pixel rendering per 8×8 pixel polygon: 1626 Super FX cycles (542 CPU cycles)
  32. DSP-1 assisted texture mapping: 11.462 kHz per 8×8 texel polygon (7.83 kHz texture mapping per 8×8 texel polygon)
    • 676 DSP-1 cycles (316 CPU cycles) CPU DMA per 8×8 texel texture
    • 7154 divide cycles per 8×8 texel polygon: 73 divides per 8×8 texel polygon, 882 vertex divide cycles per polygon (9 divides per polygon), 6272 texel divide cycles per 8×8 texel polygon (64 divides, 1 divide per texel)
  33. Super FX texture mapping: 6.916 kHz per 8×8 texel polygon (3.284 kHz texture mapping per 8×8 texel polygon)
    • 948 Super FX cycles (316 CPU cycles) DMA per 8×8 texel texture
    • 2336 divide cycles per 8×8 texel polygon: 73 divides per 8×8 texel polygon, 288 vertex divide cycles per polygon (9 divides per polygon), 2048 texel divide cycles per 8×8 texel polygon (64 divides, 1 divide per texel)

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Blast Processing 101
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Why Are SNES and Genesis “16-bit”?
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Sega Mega Drive/Technical specifications
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Super Nintendo Entertainment System technical specifications
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 SNES hardware specifications
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Sega Genesis vs Super Nintendo
  7. 7.0 7.1 Anomie's Register Doc
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 SGDK 1.34 Benchmark
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 SNES Development: 65816 Reference
  10. 68k details
  11. SNES Development Manual (page 2-15-1)
  12. 3D on the Sega Genesis is possible
  13. Super NES Programming: Multiplication
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Why no SNES homebrew scene?
  15. Programming the 65816 Including the 6502, 65C02, and 65802
  16. Programming the 65816
  17. The University of Alabama in Huntsville
  18. SGDK Maths3D
  19. File:Sega Service Manual - Genesis II - Mega Drive II (PAL) - 001 - June 1993.pdf
  20. File:GenesisTechnicalOverview.pdf
  21. 3D math engine (SGDK)
  22. Interview: Lee Actor (Sterling Software Programmer)
  23. SNES Developer Manual (Nintendo)
  24. SNES Development: DMA & HDMA
  25. SNES Development: Grog's Guide to DMA and HDMA on the SNES
  26. 26.0 26.1 Algorithms for Parallel Polygon Rendering (pages 33-34)
  27. Transformation Of Rendering Algorithms For Hardware Implementation (page 53)
  28. Algorithms for Parallel Polygon Rendering (page 36)
  29. Computer Organization and Design: The Hardware/Software Interface (page C-44)
  30. Algorithms for Parallel Polygon Rendering (page 35)
  31. State of the Art in Computer Graphics: Visualization and Modeling (page 110)
  32. 32.0 32.1 SNES FMV
  33. md.squee.co/PSG (archived: 2018-08-17 06:59)
  34. Obsolete Microprocessors
  35. File:Zilog Z80 Programmer's Reference Manual.pdf, page 33
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 16-bit stereo 32 kHz streaming success
  37. Sega Master System/Technical specifications
  38. Super NES Programming: SPC700 reference
  39. Bit Rate Reduction (BRR)
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 ResComp 1.5 (April 2016)
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 pcmenc: Advanced PCM encoder for 8-bit sound chips
  42. Dual PCM
  43. Sega Virtua Processor
  44. 44.0 44.1 44.2 SNES Development Manual: DSP1 Command Summary
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 45.3 45.4 45.5 Super NES Programming: Super FX tutorial
  46. 46.0 46.1 SHVC-1RA2B6S-01 (PCB)
  47. 47.0 47.1 SHVC-2QW5B-X1 (PCB)
  48. 48.0 48.1 KM68512LG-7 Datasheet
  49. 49.0 49.1 Design of Digital Systems and Devices (pages 95-97)
  50. 50.0 50.1 What's hot: Amiga or Sega?, Compute!, Issue 125 (January 1991), page A32
  51. Blitter Speed (Amiga Hardware Reference Manual)
  52. Before the Crash: Early Video Game History, page 173


Hardware comparisons
SG-1000 / SC-3000 (specs) vs. Famicom | vs. Master System | vs. C64 | vs. MSX
Sega Master System (specs) Hardware comparison | vs. NES | vs. Atari 7800 | vs. Game Gear | vs. Mega Drive | vs. C64 and ZX | vs. Amiga
Sega Mega Drive (specs) Hardware comparison | vs. 32X | vs. Amiga | vs. Atari Jaguar | vs. Atari ST | vs. Mega-CD | vs. Neo Geo | vs. Saturn | vs. SNES | vs. TurboGrafx-16
Sega Game Gear (specs) vs. Atari Lynx | vs. Game Boy | vs. Master System
Sega Mega-CD (specs) vs. 32X | vs. 3DO | vs. Amiga CD32 | vs. Atari Jaguar CD | vs. Neo Geo CD | vs. SNES | vs. Saturn | vs. TurboGrafx-CD
Sega 32X (specs) Hardware comparison | vs. 3DO | vs. Atari Jaguar | vs. SNES | vs. Saturn
Sega Saturn (specs) Hardware comparison | vs. Atari Jaguar | vs. Dreamcast | vs. Nintendo 64 | vs. PC-FX | vs. PlayStation | vs. SNES | vs. PC | vs. Sega Model 2
Sega Dreamcast (specs) Hardware comparison | vs. GameCube | vs. Nintendo 64 | vs. PlayStation | vs. PlayStation 2 | vs. Xbox | vs. Arcade | vs. PC