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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  • SlyNine - Saturday, February 23, 2013 - link

    When you are talking about ram. It's kinda implied that you're talking in bytes and not bits.
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    The rumours/leaks pegged the PS4 at 4GB of faster GDDR5 whereas the next XBox is thought to have 8GB of slower DDR3. It's good that the PS4 now turns out to have 8GB after-all. It might cost more now, but the cost will drop over the console's life-cycle while the extra RAM will no doubt prove useful to developers.
  • tipoo - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Yup, I thought it would either be 4GB GDDR5, or 8GB DDR3. Got the best of both worlds. Nice. Even the fanciest of graphics cards usually don't have half of that GDDR5 on them,and none of us can get it for system memory.
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

  • Zink - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    No it will be all locked down. A $550 PC with an HD 7870 will get you the same performance and allow you to upgrade the hardware.
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    what is locked down? Steam? It runs on any PC linux, mac, or windows. Thats locked down?
  • KitsuneKnight - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    The PS4 is locked down. Assuming Sony didn't have a sudden change of heart (a completely massive one...) they'll likely try even harder to lock this thing down than they did with even the PS3.

    People will eventually break that (like all prior systems), but then there will be the challenge of getting a regular operating system to actually run on it (getting graphics fully functional will likely be the hardest problem... even leveraging the open source radeon drivers it likely won't be easy). Eventually people might be able to have Steam up and running on it... but by that point, the hardware in the PS4 will likely look fairly antiquated by normal PC standards (just like the PS3/360's hardware is very low end by today's standards).
  • medi01 - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    It took 4 years to break their last system, and actually breaking into i twas a lucky combination of Other OS running on it on top of insanely silly crypto mistake on programmers part.
  • Pariah - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I can't believe how often idiocy like this gets parroted. You cannot compare to the specs of a PC to the specs of a console. Even when relatively similar base hardware is used, it is like comparing apples to tires. The console is highly optimized to drive graphics and other calculations that are game related. A PC using an HD 7870 will get crushed by a console if it is based on the hardware Anand says it is.
  • user991 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    According to AMD the same hardware can be 5 or 6 times faster when directx or opengl layers can be bypassed. Coding for the GPUs native instructions and not going through an abstraction layer can have big performance improvements

    Since the GPU and CPU share a die and it's likely a custom chip, a shared cache between the GPU and CPU may be possible. If that's done it would put a PC to shame

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