Samsung have just announced they are to begin mass producion of the industry’s first 8 gigabit GDDR5 DRAM ram modules, thanks to 20nm process technology. This announcement has sent rumors flying Sony might consider releasing a slim-line version of their Playstation 4 console, but would the news also be beneficial to Nintendo? It’s little secret that Nintendo are indeed working on their own next generation gaming system, and rumors indicate we’ll be seeing the system popping up on the radar during 2016.
“Designed for use in graphics cards for PCs and super computing applications, and on-board graphics memory for game consoles and notebook PCs,” begins Samsung’s press release “discrete graphics DRAM provides an extensive amount of bandwidth to process large high quality graphically-oriented data streams.”
“We expect that our 8Gb GDDR5 will provide original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with the best graphics memory solution available for game consoles as well as general use notebook PCs,” said Joo Sun Choi, Executive Vice president of Memory Sales and Marketing at Samsung Electronics. “By expanding our production of 20nm-based DRAM products including the new GDDR5, we will meet increasing global customer demand and take the lead in accelerating the growth of the premium memory market.”
I’m sure most of you are familiar, but it’s important to clarify the difference between GB and Gb. 8 Gb (Gigabits) of data equals to the same as 1 GB (GigaByte). GDDR5 memory is of course the DRAM Sony opted to use on their Playstation 4 system, but one of its drawbacks is that the density of the modules only went to 512 MB (or, 4 gigabits). In turn, this required Sony to solder 16 GDDR5 chips onto the Playstation 4’s motherboard to achieve the 8GB of RAM available on the system. Samsung actually tackle that in their press release, “Samsung’s new GDDR5 DRAM offers outstanding bandwidth. Combining only eight of the new 8Gb chips will achieve the same density as the 8 gigabytes (GB) needed in the latest game consoles.”
We know team Xbox aren’t wasting time shrinking down the APU which powers their console, working with AMD to bring the size to only 20nm (from 28). Despite criticism for Microsoft’s choice of DDR3 memory (because it provides less memory bandwidth compared to that of GDDR5), it does benefit Microsoft because the technology is so common place. Thus, shrinking down the size of the Xbox One (thanks to DDR3) isn’t so difficult.
Since Microsoft have already started refining a cost reduced version of their own APU (and likely console… if you believe the rumors) logically Sony would want to do the same thing and put out a Playstation 4 slim. For what it’s worth, the PS3 slim came out roughly 3 years after the original version of the system, while the Playstation 2 took a bit over 4 years (both depending upon region, naturally). Just like the Xbox One, there’s very little probability there’ll be a difference in the physical specs of the machine (outside perhaps changing of the odd port or perhaps a different hard drive configuration).
Samsung’s news likely benefits Nintendo heavily too – as there has been a few reports AMD are working on providing another APU to yet another gaming vendor. Since Nintendo are releasing a new console, it fits Nintendo are AMD’s new customers (but both are remaining tight lipped for now). Let’s assume for the sake of argument, that Nintendo are indeed working with AMD’s components and the console will see a 2016 release (this year is unlikely, as Nintendo have said they’re focusing on the Wii U for this year), it’s then logical to conclude the Next Gen Nintendo console will feature a more advanced APU (more powerful) than either the Playstation 4 (or PS4 Slim) and the Xbox One (or X1 slim).
Nintendo aren’t fans of clunky and unwieldy looking systems, and so a slimmer and aesthetically pleasing system sporting say 8GB of GDDR5 RAM would be very pleasing to customers. In a few years time for desktop, an APU from AMD will easily have the number of GPU shaders (and cpu grunt) to keep up with say the PS4, so Nintendo shouldn’t have too much of a problem. Technically speaking, if the OS is lean enough, 4GB of RAM might be acceptable (because the PS4 and Xbox One only give 5GB for games developers of the 8GB total), but Nintendo would possibly prefer to go for 8 to give themselves more breathing room on the OS front. I suppose technically they could implement 16GB of GDDR5, and it’s possible – but doesn’t fit with Nintendo’s track record (using the GameCube, Wii and Wii U as a gauge).
If you’re reading this and now scratching your head and wondering if you should wait for the Playstation 4’s Slim model (or the Xbox One’s slim model for that matter) to come out before plonking down your cash, remember we don’t know when that will be. It’s unlikely we’ll see either console this year (particularly the PS4) and it might be better for both Sony and Microsoft to wait for 2016 so they’ve got some ammo to shoot at Nintendo. Nintendo would be the new kids on the block, and new console launches bring in a lot of hype, both for Christmas 2016 both Sony and Microsoft could possibly counter than with price dropped, slim-line releases of their systems complete with a reasonable games package (particularly a couple of digital titles).
Most of this is of course, conjecture based on LinkedIn profiles, press releases and announcements, but a the pieces to the puzzle do seem to fit into place rather neatly. Straying from the topic of consoles, Samsung’s news will be a nice benefit to both AMD and Nvidia’s discrete GPU’s too. GPU PCB’s are loaded down with a lot of physical RAM, and Nvidia came under a lot of criticism that their GTX 980’s are only loaded with 4GB of RAM. With both gamer’s and developers demanding increased graphical effects (and gamer’s now playing at 4K), the VRAM required is ballooning. 1080P titles require north of 2GB, and some are nudging the 3GB – and remember, that’s before really tackling high resolution. Then again, with news and reports AMD’s R9 390X will benefit from HBM who knows what the future holds?
Thanks to NeoGaf