PS5: Reduced loading times, ray-tracing, backward compatibility … What it should bring compared to the PS4.
The PlayStation 4 is coming to the end of the cycle and it is soon time for her to take a well-deserved retirement. Power, processor, graphics card, backward compatibility … let us look now at what could technically be the PlayStation 5 and try to outline what will differentiate her from her big sister.
Note: In the preamble, let us assume the “Nostradamus” side of this article: the precise information on the next console of Sony – that we will call here PlayStation 5 – are still rare and it is necessary for the moment to be based on speculations and, especially, on the few official words of the builder. Mark Cerny (below), a principal architect of the console, thus gave at the beginning of the year an interview with Wired, in which he shares several interesting pieces of information. Let’s try to put it all flat.
PROCESSOR, GRAPHICS CARD: INSIDE THE BEAST.
In terms of architecture, PS4 and PS5 should be close enough, at least much more than were the PS3 and PS4 (the first being known to be a programming nightmare). The PS4 is based on a processor and an AMD graphics card, which will again be the case for the PS5. But, of course, in 7 years, the technologies have evolved and the computing power has greatly increased. Mark Cerny has confirmed that the PS5 will run with a 3rd generation AMD Ryzen processor with 8 hearts. Based on Zen2 architecture, it will be engraved in 7 nm. Currently, the commercially-available processors that come closest to this description are the Ryzen 7 3800X and 3700X, both of which have 8 cores / 16 threads (virtual processors) and have frequencies between 3, 9 and 4.5 GHz. We can, therefore, estimate that the CPU that will equip the PS5 will be a variant of one of these two models. For comparison, the PS4 is equipped with an AMD “Jaguar” CPU with two modules of 4 cores each, engraved in 28 nm, for a frequency of 1.6 GHz. The PS4 Pro has the same chip but clocked at 2.13 GHz. The new architecture, greater engraving finesse, frequencies revised upward … A logical upgrade to a new generation of console.
RAY-TRACING, YES, BUT IN WHAT FORM?
For the graphics part, we know that the PS5 will be based on a Navi generation AMD Radeon GPU, under RDNA architecture, as is the recent 5700XT. It is easy to imagine that the next Sony console will have a GPU very close, which could be the case, with one detail: Mark Cerny speaks in his interview of the possibility of doing ray-tracing, the impossible thing on the latest graphics cards as of AMD. For now, only Nvidia, with the GeForce RTX, offers hardware ray-tracing.
AMD, for its part, has repeatedly confirmed its interest in this technology and has filed a patent for the introduction of ray-tracing in its next GPU, via a hybrid solution, half-hardware, half-software. It could be implemented in the next iteration of the RDNA architecture, which might be present in the PS5 GPU. AMD also talks about the possibility of doing ray-tracing calculated from a remote server. An unlikely option for the PS5, which does not seem to bet more than that on the cloud. So we are far from the GPU PS4, pretty close to what the Radeon HD 7800 released in the second quarter of 2012.
Control on PC is sublimated thanks to the ray-tracing of GeForce RTX
In short, the GPU and the CPU of the PS5 are for the moment mysterious, but still stand out a few main lines: engraving fineness in 7 nm, 8 hearts at least, ray-tracing, native 4K and 8K in upscale … It remains to be seen how all this will be implemented.
In his interview for Wired, Mark Cerny also discusses a whole new audio experience, much more immersive, and this without additional hardware needed, only with the speakers of a TV or stereo headphones. Difficult to know more for the moment, but is evoked again ray-tracing which, in addition to bouncing the light on an object, can bounce the sound. Cerny also said he had some regrets about the sound of the PS4, which had not really changed since the PS3. PS4 also turned with an equivalent of AMD True Audio technology.
STORAGE IN SSD: THE REAL REVOLUTION
Where the PS4 and PS5 should differentiate the most, and where the second would dig a gap particularly important with the first is the storage side. A crucial point raised by Mark Cerny and which was also the subject of the only demo of the console made public so far. So, exit the good old hard disk tray, up to an ultra SSD swift. Recall that in fact, the basic PS4 and PS4 Pro integrate a hard disk of 500 GB, 1 or 2 TB, turning only at 5400 revolutions/minute, on a SATAIII interface. A storage system from another time, which is bowing out on computers, both fixed and portable. The SSD of the PS5, which will most likely be at least 1 TB, will have several advantages: greatly reduced game installation times (PS4’s Achilles’ heel), much shorter charging times, and more Generally, the acceleration of many calculations, including the loading of textures. The recently released demo was made on Marvel’s Spider-Man: on PS4 Pro, the quick trip from one point to another in Manhattan resulted in loading time of 8 seconds (15 according to the Wired article). On the new hardware, we go to less than a second. Impressive.
Storage is often a secondary factor in this kind of product, but the arrival of the SSD in the next generation of PlayStation is probably a real “game-changer” and could make the gaming experience much smoother and more enjoyable. It remains to be seen what SSD technology will be present in the PS5. Mark Cerny remains vague on this point, but says that this storage is “faster than anything on PC”. At the moment, players like Samsung – with 6th generation V-NAND chips – or SK Hynix – which offer 128-layer NAND 4D chips – represent the flagship SSD builder, but there is no evidence that we will find them in the PS5. One thing is certain: the cost of an SSD has dropped dramatically in recent years, while storage capacity has exploded. His arrival in a console of the new generation is not surprising. We will also find one in “Scarlett”, the next Xbox.
WHAT IS RETROCOMPATIBILITY?
The huge common point between the PS4 and the PS5 is simply their games, launching at least. Mark Cerny confirmed: all the PlayStation 4 catalog will work on the PlayStation 5. A welcome return, which was clearly missing on the current Sony console. Remember that, given the huge differences in architecture between PS3 and PS4, the games of the first were not readable on the second. Sony had found a palliative by offering the subscription to PlayStation Now, which allowed launching PS3 titles via the cloud. For this next generation, none of this and you should be able to restart your God of War, your Uncharted 4 or yourBloodborne without worry. It remains to be seen if the PS4 titles played on PS5 will benefit from any technical boost (upscale 4K, 60 frames per second …).
The PS5 still has a lot of secrets to deliver: we expect to see more on the famous ray-tracing made in AMD, its interface and the services that go with it, or on the future controller (lets at least a switch to USB-C). One thing is certain: the developers should be on familiar ground, since it will share the same roots as the PS4 (x86 platform), itself very close to an Xbox One … and therefore a PC. The coming months will, in any case, be important for Sony: the manufacturer could well regularly distill some additional details on his console, before an official presentation during the first months of 2020.