Playstation 4 CPU - Central Processing Unit

An in-depth look at one of the PlayStation 4's components and analyzing what it is, why it improves on the past generation of consoles and what this component will do for your PlayStation 4 gaming experience. In this article, we will be focusing on the PlayStation 4's CPU.

Quick Specs
- AMD X86-64 Jaguar Processor
- 8 Cores
- Single GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon Graphics Engine Chip Custom Processor

The CPU is the workhorse of a gaming console or the PC; while your graphics card handles the efforts of making your games look pretty, the CPU handles all the other complex calculations. For example, physics in games relies heavily on your CPU, as does frame rate and resolution. It doesn't matter how fast your graphics card is if your CPU isn't up to the task, creating what is known as a bottleneck: when your CPU is holding your computer or gaming console back from achieving graphical perfection or a higher degree of realism. For consoles, a bottleneck rarely occurs as the components inside the system are meant to complement each other; for PC users who frequently upgrade their systems, bottlenecks are more prevalent especially when you upgrade your components one at a time.

PS4 CPULooking at Sony consoles throughout the years reveals just how far the PlayStation brand has come. The original PlayStation sported only a 32-bit RISC CPU running at 33.9 MHz; in plain English, this CPU probably couldn't even run Windows. When the PlayStation first launched, we couldn't believe how far gaming had come in terms of graphics and realism thanks to this CPU; however, we quickly saw how much better games could look when the PlayStation 2 launched with Sony and Toshiba's own Emotion Engine, running at speeds ranging from 294 to 299 MHz. With the PlayStation 3, Sony again looked to Toshiba and also to IBM to develop the Cell microprocessor, made up of one 3.2 GHz processor and eight ancillary processors. While the Cell CPU was built for power, and was the most powerful CPU on the console market last generation, developers found it difficult to work with, often commenting on the struggles they had porting a game to the PlayStation 3. This is the reason that games were either not ported to the PlayStation 3 or were worse compared to other consoles; for all the power the Cell processor had, only a few developers, notable Sony's own development studios, could unlock its power. When they did, such as in Uncharted and Heavy Rain, the results were amazing.

With the PlayStation 4, Sony has teamed up with hardware giant AMD to create what is called a semi-custom APU. AMD describes the CPU as “a single chip that combines general-purpose x86 central processing unit (CPU) cores (in this case, 64-bit x86) with a graphics processing unit (GPU) and a variety of system elements, including memory controllers, specialized video decoders, display outputs, etc. Our semi-custom solutions take the same treasure trove of graphics; compute and multi-media IP found in our APUs, and customize them for customers who have a very specific high-volume product that could benefit from AMD’s leading-edge technologies.” What this translate to is that the PlayStation 4's CPU is going to deliver jaw-dropping graphics and amazing physics; if you were impressed by Uncharted 3 on the PS3, the power of the PS4 will blow you away.

The PlayStation 4 CPU not only increases the power tenfold over the PlayStation 3, as you would expect, but is also easy to develop for as the CPU is based off x86 architecture found in your average everyday computer. Sony has abandoned the idea of creating something unique that requires developers to learn a brand new skill set and has gone with something that will enable developers to create the best games they can. Developers are already intimate with the x86 architecture, as most developers use x86 CPUs to develop their games in the first place.

With the increase in CPU power comes the ability to add increased physics in games. For example, the PC version of Tomb Raider features TressFX, a physics engine that carefully replicates Lara's hair to how it would act in the real word, further enhancing the realism of the game. Such intense physics were not possible on the PS3; however, with the PS4, this is just the start of the possibilities we will see. Games featuring realistic physics engines won't just become a bullet point for one out of 30 releases, it will become the standard.

While the CPU in the PlayStation 4 clocks in at 1.6 GHz, new rumors state this may not be the number it ships at. To combat the new Xbox, rumor has it Sony may overclock its CPU to 2.0 GHz, making the PS4 CPU the strongest console CPU on the market. While this won't have a profound effect on PlayStation 4 games, it will give Sony the edge graphically in a head-to-head comparison which can help sway buyers who own both systems. This generation most games went Xbox 360 over PlayStation 3 for multiplatform releases; next generation we will most likely see the opposite.

If all this information is flying over your head, the proof of what the PS4 is capable of is best seen in this Killzone: Shadowfall trailer:

Unfortunately, there is one drawback to using a new CPU that is wildly different from past Sony systems: all backwards compatibility is lost. While some gamers may lament this fact, the upside is that we get a PlayStation system that will be able to stand toe-to-toe this generation with not only the next Xbox but the PC as well.

Are you happy with Sony's choice in CPU? What would you have personally choose to power the new system? What are you most looking forward to about it? Post your comments below.

Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 4/11/2013

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