There has long been speculation that we would see next-generation consoles hit the market sometime next year. Sony recently announced that they would be bringing the PlayStation 5 (PS5) to market for “Holiday 2020”. Like any new system announcement, the internet went crazy with speculations about how powerful the new console would be. Lucky for us, Wired did an exclusive with the lead system architect, so we have some information to work with.
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PlayStation 5 CPU
The central processing unit (CPU) is the brain of any modern computing system. The CPU is in charge of running calculations at lightning speeds, so a powerful CPU is usually a good sign. To that end, it looks like the PlayStation 5 is going to have a pretty beefy brain.
Yet again, Sony will be partnering with chipset giant AMD. According to the information currently available, the PS5 will be running a custom CPU based on the third-generation Ryzen line. Additionally, it is purported that this custom CPU will leverage AMD’s new 7nm Zen 2 micro-architecture. Best guesses at compute power look like 8 cores/16 threads at 3.2GHz clock speed.
PlayStation 5 GPU
If the CPU is the brain, then the graphics processing unit (GPU) is the heart of any gaming system. The easiest way to think about the GPU (or graphics card) is that it is the CPU in charge of rendering images. Often you will hear a lot about teraflops; this is just the GPU’s measurement of computing speed. More is better.
According to available information, we should expect a pretty powerful GPU. According to Mark Cerny, the lead system architect for the PlayStation 5, the custom GPU will be based on Radeon’s Navi family of chips. The big news out of this component is that it will allow the PS5 to upscale to 8K resolution and support ray tracing.
Ray tracing is one of the most exciting pieces of technology being included in the PS5. Up until now, it has only been available in very high-end processors and has been primarily used in Hollywood visual effects. In short, ray tracing mimics the way light naturally interacts with the world around it. The impact this technology could have on the realism of videogames is fascinating.
PlayStation 5 RAM
Random-access memory (RAM) and how it plays into the PS5 is a bit of a mystery right now. We can make some educated guesses based on current knowledge. RAM’s primary function is to give you short term storage of data. Think about having a bunch of browser windows open; the more RAM, the less bogged down your machine will get.
When we take into account that the PlayStation 5 looks to support 4K resolution natively, with 8K up-res, we need to think about how much buffering may be required. If information has to be buffered, it has to sit in RAM. Following that line of logic, I will make a bold guess and say Sony triples the RAM they have in the PS4 Pro. I’m calling for at least 24GB of RAM, but don’t bet on it.
Sony has elected to go with a solid-state drive (SSD) on the PS5, and gaming fans everywhere are cheering. An SSD offers incredible read and write speeds when compared to the standard hard disk drives (HDD) found in the current systems. Faster read and write rates mean faster installs and faster loading times while playing your games.
What is even more exciting is that Sony claims that the SSD in the PlayStation 5 will have the highest bandwidth on the market. Cerny has been clear in saying the raw power of the SSD is only the beginning; Sony has also put a specialized software stack on top of that revolutionary hardware.
So how fast is fast? Blazingly so. A quick-travel sequence in Spider-Man that took 15 seconds on a current PS4 Pro took only 0.8 seconds on the PS5 dev kit. All of that time saved loading and the world never loses its 4K crispness, which is incredibly exciting.
The last consideration, one that there is little insight on, is storage capacity. Modern SSDs can easily hold terabytes of data. The current world’s fastest SSD (and largest) has incredible read and write speeds and can hold 8TB. This is important because game installs seem to double each generation.
An interesting wrinkle: Sony has invested heavily in its cloud infrastructure in the last few years, so how much capacity we can expect is anyone’s guess.
This will be short and sweet. The AMD chipset that Sony is using should allow for the capability of some great audio. The expectation is that developers will have the ability for 3D audio. You will be able to hear sound from all angles with no specialized hardware. Standard TV speakers or a speaker bar will work just fine. If you are a hardware dork like me and want the best, you can start saving for speakers or headphones.
The PlayStation 5 is still something of a mystery. We have insight into a few expected capabilities but not a robust list of hard specifications. This leaves many of us in the industry playing best-guess-dart-board. While a lot of these guesses are educated, there are no guarantees that the system we discussed here is what Sony delivers next year.
It is clear that Sony is investing a massive amount of effort into bringing high-end gaming to the living room. If the PS5 has anywhere near the power we are guessing it will, a lot of gamers will be smiling ear-to-ear next holiday season.
Let us know what you think about the rumored PlayStation 5 tech specs in the comments below!