When Sony unveiled their new computer tech friendly GPU (graphics processing unit) inside the PlayStation 4, many video game developers rejoiced because the console was given sexy amounts of power and uniform architecture akin to midrange gaming computers. The semi-custom APU (accelerated processing unit) co-developed with AMD will combine the CPU and GPU duties together to share the workload. The previous rendering architecture on the PS3 had a uniquely designed GPU co-created by Nvidia, which was more powerful than what the Xbox 360 offered. However, the entire heart and guts of the PS3 was ultimately flawed because the Cell microprocessor and memory constraints made asset sharing painful for developers.
Since giving too many assets to the CPU, GPU, or microprocessor made the PS3 fail, cross-platform games had to be ported differently as a work around to unique challenges provided by the Sony console. In many ways, the PS3 was too powerful for its competitors and many of the features found on the custom RSX “Reality Synthesizer” GPU like more realistic physics, dynamic lighting, crisper sound, and sharper environment rendering were never fully realized. With the PS4 adopting a more streamlined and common GPU, video game developers will get faster development cycles with less cost associated with writing brand new code when porting games. Sony also gets to proudly eliminate the headache-inducing constraints made with their "hard to code" and compartmentalized PS3.
Heart and Guts of the PS4
The new heart and guts inside the PS4 essentially consists of four parts: (1) a Jaguar-inspired CPU with eight x86-64 cores developed by AMD for orgasm-inducing amounts of virtual and physical memory; (2) a GPU consisting of 18 compute units for intense graphics and realistic on-the-fly physics calculations; (3) a dedicated custom chip used for downloading, uploading, and social features like cross-game chat; and (4) eight gigabytes of GDDR5 unified system memory, which provides a huge system pool for queuing processes.
Sony seemed to have figured out which assets should be separated from the rest when they’re using non game-related memory. By combining the CPU and GPU together while maintaining a secondary custom chip for external features not found in the games you’re playing, the PS4 will have plenty of room to render environments and make them pretty. For the computer techs out there, the GPU's performance has been clocked at somewhere between the Radeon HD 7850 and 7870, which are decent graphics cards. The eight gigs of memory give the APU a lot of system memory to call assets from, an upgrade from the previous PS3 non-pooled memory that required checking, waiting, and then receiving the asset.
Theoretically, the new GPU has the performance to crank out 1.84 teraflops, which determines how many calculations the PS4 can solve per cycle. Everything inside a video game requires calculating from where your character walks to how clouds move in the sky. Seeing a number like 1.84 teraflops gives high hopes for developers who want to create living, breathing worlds and actually populate them.
For those looking for next generation graphics with less load times to see them, the PS4’s new computer-like core will provide both those options. The single-chip CPU/GPU combo will share processing assets with the more sought after visual features heavily assisted by the power 18 compute unit GPU.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
For comparison, Sony’s previous CPU/CPU architecture on the PS3 had a maximum of 230 gigaflops while the Xbox 360 had a maximum of 77 gigaflops. While those numbers seem incredibly low compared to the PS4, you need to remember these consoles are over seven years old. In computer terms, that’s a lifetime and a half ago. Even so, the 1.84 teraflops is only a maximum operational number that can never be fully achieved or maintained in any game because of the GPU handling a limited number of calculations per cycle. However, for those looking for the simplest head-to-head, the PlayStation 4 is 4.5 times more powerful than the PS3 and 7.5 times more powerful than the Xbox 360 in terms of CPU/GPU output.
The other hilarious numbers for the seventh generation consoles include a 512 MB GDDR3 RAM pool on the Xbox 360 shared between the CPU/GPU while the PS3 had 256 MB XDR RAM dedicated on the GPU with an extra 224 MB shareable by the system. The eight gigabytes on the PS4 may seem like overkill as even high-end gaming PCs don’t generally bother going beyond eight because there aren’t many processes right now requiring that much system memory. However, when you combine social media features, messaging and voice chat options, the ability to stream, the option to download and upload content in the background while you play, and using the PS4 as a web browser, you might be glad you have lots of RAM. Then again, even with everything mentioned on the PS4, you probably won’t even come close to eight gigs.
A Virtual Handshake
For any gamers out there worried about the potential pitfalls in the PS4 because you’ve heard the painful developer stories, rest assured Sony has figured out what the best gaming console should look like on the inside. While it’s definitely more of a computer than a console now, the PS4 is actually more streamlined and easier to code for and that is a beautiful thing. Get ready to shake hands with the next big thing in console gaming sometime during the holiday season of 2013.
Article by - Collin Mak
Insert Date: 4/14/2013