Sony just announced the PlayStation 4, along with some high level system specifications. The high level specs are what we've heard for quite some time:

  • 8-core x86-64 CPU using AMD Jaguar cores (built by AMD)
  • High-end PC GPU (also built by AMD), delivering 1.84TFLOPS of performance
  • Unified 8GB of GDDR5 memory for use by both the CPU and GPU with 176GB/s of memory bandwidth
  • Large local hard drive

Details of the CPU aren't known at this point (8-cores could imply a Piledriver derived architecture, or 8 smaller Jaguar cores—the latter being more likely), but either way this will be a big step forward over the PowerPC based general purpose cores on Cell from the previous generation. I wouldn't be too put off by the lack of Intel silicon here, it's still a lot faster than what we had before and at this level price matters more than peak performance. The Intel performance advantage would have to be much larger to dramatically impact console performance. If we're talking about Jaguar cores, then there's a bigger concern long term from a single threaded performance standpoint.

Update: I've confirmed that there are 8 Jaguar based AMD CPU cores inside the PS4's APU. The CPU + GPU are on a single die. Jaguar will still likely have better performance than the PS3/Xbox 360's PowerPC cores, and it should be faster than anything ARM based out today, but there's not huge headroom going forward. While I'm happier with Sony's (and MS') CPU selection this time around, I always hoped someone would take CPU performance in a console a bit more seriously. Given the choice between spending transistors on the CPU vs. GPU, I understand that the GPU wins every time in a console—I'm just always an advocate for wanting more of both. I realize I never wrote up a piece on AMD's Jaguar architecture, so I'll likely be doing that in the not too distant future. Update: I did.

The choice of 8 cores is somewhat unique. Jaguar's default compute unit is a quad-core machine with a large shared L2 cache, it's likely that AMD placed two of these together for the PlayStation 4. The last generation of consoles saw a march towards heavily threaded machines, so it's no surprise that AMD/Sony want to continue the trend here. Clock speed is unknown, but Jaguar was good for a mild increase over its predecessor Bobcat. Given the large monolithic die, AMD and Sony may not have wanted to push frequency as high as possible in order to keep yields up and power down. While I still expect CPU performance to move forward in this generation of consoles, I was reminded of the fact that the PowerPC cores in the previous generation ran at very high frequencies. The IPC gains afforded by Jaguar have to be significant in order to make up for what will likely be a lower clock speed.

We don't know specifics of the GPU, but with it approaching 2 TFLOPS we're looking at a level of performance somewhere between a Radeon HD 7850 and 7870. Update: Sony has confirmed the actual performance of the PlayStation 4's GPU as 1.84 TFLOPS. Sony claims the GPU features 18 compute units, which if this is GCN based we'd be looking at 1152 SPs and 72 texture units. It's unclear how custom the GPU is however, so we'll have to wait for additional information to really know for sure. The highest end PC GPUs are already faster than this, but the PS4's GPU is a lot faster than the PS3's RSX which was derived from NVIDIA's G70 architecture (used in the GeForce 7800 GTX, for example). I'm quite pleased with the promised level of GPU performance with the PS4. There are obvious power and cost constraints that would keep AMD/Sony from going even higher here, but this should be a good leap forward from current gen consoles.

Outfitting the PS4 with 8GB of RAM will be great for developers, and using high-speed GDDR5 will help ensure the GPU isn't bandwidth starved. Sony promised around 176GB/s of memory bandwidth for the PS4. The lack of solid state storage isn't surprising. Hard drives still offer a dramatic advantage in cost per GB vs. an SSD. Now if it's user replaceable with an SSD that would be a nice compromise.

Leveraging Gaikai's cloud gaming technology, the PS4 will be able to act as a game server and stream the video output to a PS Vita, wirelessly. This sounds a lot like what NVIDIA is doing with Project Shield and your NVIDIA powered gaming PC. Sony referenced dedicated video encode/decode hardware that allows you to instantaneously record and share screenshots/video of gameplay. I suspect this same hardware is used in streaming your game to a PS Vita.

Backwards compatibility with PS3 games isn't guaranteed and instead will leverage cloud gaming to stream older content to the box. There's some sort of a dedicated background processor that handles uploads and downloads, and even handles updates in the background while the system is off. The PS4 also supports instant suspend/resume.

The new box heavily leverages PC hardware, which is something we're expecting from the next Xbox as well. It's interesting that this is effectively how Microsoft entered the console space back in 2001 with the original Xbox, and now both Sony and MS have returned to that philosophy with their next gen consoles in 2013. The PlayStation 4 will be available this holiday season.

I'm trying to get more details on the CPU and GPU architectures and will update as soon as I have more info.

Source: Ustream

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  • cknobman - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    NO. Look at the larger picture here.
    Regardless of Intel or AMD Sony has chosen an x86 multicore CPU which most games today are not even close to being optimized for.
    This new console will mean that game developers will specifically start coding for multicore x86 architectures and we will likely see huge leaps in performance for games.

    This is a win for PC and console gamers, heck it is a win for the entire gaming and software industry.
  • medi01 - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    It's a loss for Intel (single threaded crown, multi threaded, much much less so) and nVidia.
  • Sivar - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    This guy knows what he's talking about.

    PC processors have been fast enough that many games still are poorly optimized for more than a few cores. As a software engineer, I can understand why -- it's a pain in the ass.

    Consoles are a different world, though. Your game has to compete with the other guy's game on hardware that won't change for years, so there's a strong push to get every bit of performance you can get. This is a huge win for all platforms (even mobile phones have 4+ cores), and will greatly strengthen the market for a highly thread-optimized ecosystem.
  • Belard - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Which gives consoles the PROs and CONS.... like the Amiga computers from the 80s~90s. The Amiga 500 sold from 1987~1991 with no change other than systemboard tweaks and shrinks.

    The games hit the hardware very very tightly. So much that most games didn't allow for the multi-tasking OS to run. Remember, this is a 7,14Mhz single core computer... so they needed as much as they could from it.

    This hurt the Amiga as a computer... even with my 25Mhz high end Amiga 3000, I had to run "emulation" of the Amiga500 with ADOS 1.3, rather than my full 32bit/ADOS 2.x or 3.0 OS.
  • DimaB - Monday, March 4, 2013 - link

    From what I have experienced and many of has is that for the most part Gaming will always be based on resources of the Company and tools as well as hardware.
    CPU bound gaming ? Well from what AMD has planned APU is a CPU and GPU. ;)
    Does this make any sense?
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I'm betting Mr. Shimpi is kicking back the drink right about now. He's probably surrounded by a few dozen high capacity SSDs.

    God help us if the HDD isn't user replaceable.
  • tipoo - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Lol. But SSDs in a console is needless cost imho, games load from optical media anyways unless you want a SSD large enough to fit every game in it, which would make the console so much more expensive.
  • Flunk - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I don't think we really know enough about the PS4 to say that yet.
  • meyerkev248 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    And then in 5 more years, we'll be complaining about the console limitation of 8 GB.
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    512 MB was on the low side when they released the last gen. 8 gigs is on the high side now. 4 gigs of ram is really all a gaming PC needs. 8 gigs is nice tho. I think we wont see ram size as a problem in these consoles for 10 years.

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