What New PlayStation Hardware Means For Games

Story by Tim Trahan

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The last updates to console hardware were in 2016 with minor upgrades to the PS4 Pro in 2016 and the Xbox One X in 2017, from the base models of each released in 2013. While these increased the processing power and graphics capabilities of each, they still rely on the same general architecture, and do not represent a push toward modern computing capabilities.

In a recent exclusive with Wired, the lead system architect of the PlayStation 4, Mark Cerny, gave us a look at the specs of Sony’s next generation console hardware.

Before we get too excited, Cerny made it clear that the console will not be available in 2019, and details we’re getting now are still subject to potential changes before official release. However, Sony is sharing these details officially, so these specifics should be close to what actually ships, especially since they’re also accelerating release of devkits to select studios which need to have very similar hardware to the final product.

The CPU is an 8-core chip based on AMD’s 7mm Zen 2 microarchitecture, which is slated for a mid-2019 commercial release.

The GPU is a custom chip based on AMD’s Radeon Navi specifically geared to support ray tracing. This also includes the technology to simulate 3D sound without a full surround sound system.

Ray tracing is an approach to graphics which calculates the paths of light through a scenario in detail, allowing for incredibly realistic animation of things like water and reflective surfaces. This is quite computationally intensive, and while this has long restricted it to prepared works, recent advances in GPUs available to consumers have made real-time handling possible. While only a handful of games currently support this technology (Battlefield V, Metro Exodus, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, to name most of them),  pushing this technology into consoles makes it very likely that more games will be leveraging these capabilities moving forward.

Other features are less focused on advances in technology and more focused on quality of life. These include a solid state drive that brings some in-game load times from 15 seconds to under one second, and support for video output up to 8K. It will also be backward compatible to PS4 games, and have a Blu-ray disc drive.

The exact specs of some of this hardware are still under wraps, but this announcement represents what we’d expect from a generational upgrade in gaming consoles, and I’m looking forward to seeing what experiences the spread of this level of hardware allows gaming to provide.

Thanks for the read! For more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter, and check out my other video game related stories here.

All pictures and artwork courtesy of their respective owners.

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