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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  • evilpaul666 - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    Although I don't know what all PS3 devs are using (obviously), but I've heard on PixelJunk's podcast that they use OpenGL for graphics.
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I call shenanigans on those claims. I've wondered wy no one's ever really addressed them.

    They don't match up to what we see in real life-a similar GPU as what the consoles have delivers similar results (I know, I've got a Geforce 9650m GT I still use daily).

    For another, the Xbox is already using Direct X, and the Playstation 3 Open GL. If that was really killing performance that much, the Playstation 2, Playstation Portable, Wii, and 3DS could all run the same games as the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

    For another-if this was true, someone like Carmack would have been talking about it YEARS ago. He's certainly railed against dumb moves in APIs before. All sorts of developers would be talking about it and demanding action from Microsoft.

    Maybe there's some bizarre situation where some graphics function really is that much slower through Direct X still than Open GL or something, but there's just no way it's really making things 10 or 100x slower.
  • Blighty - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    No, facts are kind correct. The reason performance on a PC is so slow (comparitivly) to the same hardware in a console is all about those layers and other overheads.

    First you have Windows Direct3D (or Open GL), which is a general 3D API, lots of other performance hugging systems, and then you have the graphics card drivers themselves.

    The ps3 in particular does a really good job (nowdays) of getting rid of those things with the GPU command buffer generation library (libgcm). It's a better way than OpenGL or Direct X for when the hardware is known. An openGL will be written on top likely for the ps4 (just like the ps3) so as to ease developers into it.

    There is so much capability that cannot be used with standard API's - especially in these new GPUs, and particularly with AMDs new tech and the new APU tech that will be in the PS4.

    I'll point you to a great article on why this PS4 will be pretty astonishing in the years ahead, as they are working on a new libgcm.
  • medi01 - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Jesus, who says it's slower on PC???
    Ever seen how, say, Dragon Age looks like on PC vs PS3/Xbox?

    What is vastly different with consoles is IT MAKES SENSE TO OPTIMIZE FOR PARTICULAR HARDWARE. Now how much you could win from such optimization depends, of course, on how much your generic code+API it is based on sucked. But there is no way a mature API would slow something down 5-6 times. Even 1.5 times slower is hard to imagine.
  • SlyNine - Saturday, February 23, 2013 - link

    Compare a X800XT GOW to Xbox 360 GOW. Your "facts" were just destroyed because the 800XT looks better!

    The reason PC games run slower now are because of effects that are really easy to implement and hard to execute, like HBAO for example.
  • Zink - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    I've never seen an article like that and just assumed console development was also done with a 3D API. It seems misleading then to be comparing the "performance" of the PS4 GPU to an HD 7870 when the actual code and graphics that get rendered on the PS4 are at a much higher performance level. I understand that the comparison in an article like this is of the hardware and low level performance but most people probably just extrapolate that to in game performance.
  • poohbear - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    what pariah said. A 7870 in a PC is not optimized because developers have to develop for it and 2 dozen other configurations, so a lot of efficiency is lost. whereas in a console they know EXACTLY what it's capable of and can optimize specifically for it. a 7870 in a console would be similar to a 7950 in a PC. :)
  • SlyNine - Saturday, February 23, 2013 - link

    I can't believe how often this stupidity gets repeated. The NUMBER ONE REASON PC's require a lot to push games on max is because devs take the cheap way out and use effects like HBAO,HDAO,SSAO that require a lot of GPU power for almost no return. For example, GOW played at med settings 800x600 with a 9700pro. If PC hardware was SO inefficient that wouldn't be possible.

    There are some efficiencies to be had but not on the level that you're suggesting or that have been suggested.
  • sohcermind - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    It is a fact that consoles are more efficient you got one example and my 7600gt with 1gb of ram and 3800+ amd single core lagged on gears of war and lowest settings and 640x480 so I don't buy it.
  • SlyNine - Monday, February 25, 2013 - link

    Well, I dont buy that shit at all either. a 7600gt should be able to play GOW no problem on low @640x480.

    my 9700pro only had a 3200 barton backing it up. Med 800x600. 20-40 fps. Don't believe it, I dont care.

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