Sources are reporting Sony are working on a new version of their Playstation 4 system and are already briefing developers, claiming the PS4.5 will be capable of running games at up to a 4K resolution.
New sources and information on the Playstation 4K has been released, find it here.
Based on developer conversations who’re in direct contact with Sony, the Upgraded PS4 will include a beefier GPU than currently found in the ‘vanilla’ system. The goal of the upgraded GPU of the PS4.5 is to provide extra grunt to the PSVR, which is going to be launching towards fall this year.
What’s rather impressive about all of this is the levels of GPU performance required to actually achieve the resolution of 4K; in terms of pixel count 4K is 4x that of 1080P (which both consoles are currently struggling to achieve on a regular basis). To be clear, the PS4 can technically output video at 4K, but this is digital content and not games being rendered locally on the system.
What is less than clear is how this upgrade will affect current PS4 users; for example – will you be able to swap out your existing model for a 4.5, or will you need to purchase an entirely new unit – or will there be someway to connect your system to an external box to give you the boost.
The latter is unlikely (given the bandwidth the GPU and other components would require to ‘speak’ to the rest of the system, and the fairly slowly ports available on the PS4). And let’s face it, Sony aren’t going to offer end users chips for them to solder on to the board themselves.
So it naturally raises questions as to how developers will opt to release games across two potentially different sets of hardware – after all, this isn’t a subtle increase in performance. If one were to be ultra conservative and assume the PS4.5’s GPU is twice the performance of the vanilla machine (so about 1.84TFLOPS vs 3.68TFLOPS) the difference is staggering and would mean huge differences in the level of detail, resolution, frame rates and overall quality they’d be able to go for.
It’s also rather interesting that news of this upgraded system emerges when we know AMD, who’re the company responsible for producing the APU (which is the chip containing the CPU and GPU) powering the console, talk about their Polaris architecture.
Polaris supposedly offers 2.5x performance per watt compared to the current iteration of GCN (Graphic Core Next) GPU’s, and remember the current crop of GPU’s are a little more advanced than what is found inside the PS4s. And we’re not just referring to the performance of the chips, it’s just a case of the PS4’s GPU architecture is older than say the Tonga range of GPUs, or other cards found the Radeon 300 or Radeon Fury range for the PC.
Potentially, AMD could be leveraging a variant of their Polaris 10 or Polaris 11 cards for Sony, and if this would make a great deal of sense; AMD’s roadmaps show Polaris in 2016, with 2017 introducing Vega, and then 2018 will be Navi. AMD’s Raja Koduri recently made a lot of fuss on the companies comittment to “Performance Per Dollar” and a recent presentation of Hitman 2016 showed the Polaris 10 GPU running Hitman at 1440P at 60FPS at max settings without breaking a sweat.
This is rather important, because Polaris is created on the 14nm FinFet process, which means a rather large reduction in power consumption compared to the 28nm parts found in current AMD desktop solutions, or for that matter the GPU found inside the Playstation 4. The move to 14nm would allow Sony to put in a considerably more powerful GPU but without needing to feed in lots of extra power, and this would mean the system could maintain a fairly small and sleek design, obviously important for a console.
For memory, AMD and Sony could either use High Bandwidth Memory (either 1 or 2, depending on the systems release date) or the more tried and true GDDR5, or potentially venture into GDDR5X; which provides twice the performance per pin over GDDR5 (14 gbps vs 7 gbps). Currently the PS4 has 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, and clocked at 5500 MHz on a 256 bit bus, the system has 176 GB/s of bandwidth.
While this might sound impressive compared to the Xbox 360 (or other last generation systems), it pales in when compared to the 300GB/s + of many current GPU’s of the PC, and that level of bandwidth is what’s needed to push the pixels of such high resolutions. Finally, the PS4 has just 5GB (if you include Flexible Memory) of memory available to games, which isn’t much considering the ultra high quality textures the PS4.5 will be targeting. It would make sense to at the least double the amount of RAM available to games, which means Sony will have little choice but to increase the total amount available on the system to say 16GB. Remember that PC GPU’s currently ship (in the high end) with between 4 and 8GB, and with another 8 to 16GB (typically) for the main system RAM. Only having 8GB of RAM (with only 5GB available for the entire game code) wouldn’t be realistic with an upgraded PS4 targeting high resolutions and quality.
What’s more up for debate would be the PS4.5’s (which isn’t an official name) CPU, currently the console runs 8 AMD Jaguar cores clocked at a fairly conservative 1.6 GHz. The Jaguar CPU doesn’t offer tremendous performance per core compared to that of a desktop, and with news AMD are updating a plethora of its APUs and CPU’s (including with Zen…) a CPU upgrade would make a great deal of sense. Considering a stronger GPU invariably requires a faster CPU to run it, we can at the very least expect a higher clocked Jaguar to help things out. Currently 6 CPU cores are dedicated to the PS4’s games, and with a seventh core available to run game code in certain instances.
Plans for upgraded systems aren’t strictly in the realms of Sony either, it wasn’t long ago that Phil Spencer hinted they were planning an upgraded Xbox One. Though he later backtracked somewhat, and was quoted as saying “Am I going to break open my console and start upgrading the individual pieces of my console? That’s not out plan.”
But let’s face facts, Nintendo’s NX is on the way, and with how famously secretive Nintendo are to the systems specs, it’s a complete mystery how much pixel pushing power the system will really pack into its plastic. To make matters more complex, a growing number of gamer’s are switching to the PC, and with higher resolution TV’s and displays, plus the emergence of Virtual Reality, current consoles just lack the performance required to thrill gamer’s in the long term.
The sources who’ve been speaking with Kotaku seem pretty confident in their reports, and this isn’t the first time these rumors have swirled around. Let’s see what happens, shall we?