NEW YORK – Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Wednesday (Feb. 20) dropped a bombshell at the press launch of its PlayStation 4 gaming console, revealing that the new platform will use an X86 CPU.
The Japanese consumer electronics giant, which developed its own CELL processor to power the high-performance PlayStation 2 gaming console in 2000, is now dropping CELL--and an Nvidia Corp. graphics chip used in PlayStation 3-- altogether, and switching in PS4 to a new AMD accelerated processing unit (APU) that integrates an X86 CPU and GPU on the same die, according to Mark Cerny, lead system architect of PS4 at Sony.
While Sony did not disclose the SoC supplier during the press event, the company’s press release later revealed that PS4 will use a single-chip custom processor that includes an 8-core 64-bit x86 "Jaguar" CPU built by AMD, with a Radeon GPU capable of 1.84 TFLOPS operation to process graphics.
Mark Cerny, lead system architect of PS4 at Sony's PS4 press event.
By choosing the X86 CPU for its next generation gaming platform, Sony will gain two things, said Rick Doherty, research director at Envisioneering Group. “One is time to market, which is critical, and another is supercharged PC game developers excited to use their code and graphics rendering experience on PS4,” Doherty said.
Although Sony’s move is not an endorsement of the PC as a gaming platform, the switch to the X86 CPU should also attract a large installed-base of “extreme PC gamers” to PS4, he added.
In a way, Sony might have been announcing “an ultimate PC gaming machine called PS4,” quipped Doherty. Referring to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console based on the PowerPC architecture, Doherty said, “Bill Gates must be banging his head on the wall now, saying ‘why didn’t we do this?’” Microsoft’s original Xbox was based on Intel’s X86 CPU.
According to Cerny, Sony’s PS4 development started five years ago, during the early days of the PS3 rollout.
Cerny said three principles that drove the development of the PS4 system architecture were: superior core performance whereby “nothing should come between the platform and the game play”; enhanced connectivity by building “a much more fluid, easy access among console, mobile devices and PlayStation Network”; and “what do developers want?”
Calling PS4 a gaming platform “by developers and for developers,” Cerny described its hardware system as consisting of “X86 CPU, enhanced PC GPU, 8 Gigabytes of unified memory using GDDR5 and hard disk drive.”
Brian Dipert, the founder and principal of Sierra Media, noted that the use of GDDR5 is “probably the most proprietary aspect of this otherwise very PC-reminiscent hardware design.” Although GDDR5 is already used on standalone graphics cards, he added that it probably won't be in PCs as main memory for a while yet.
The comment about PC gamers seems to ignore the why of PC gaming .... continuous hardware upgrades (its a hobby thing), cheaper games, sitting at a desk, versus in front of the TV environment, Skype while gaming, etc., etc.
I think the hardware is well targeted for the price point, but the average PC gamer will be well beyond this a few years into the PS4 life cycle.
I am not putting down the hardware, but if they think they are going to win back PC gamers, they are sadly mistaken.
"the switch to the X86 CPU should also attract a large installed-base of “extreme PC gamers” to PS4, he added."
This was hilarious - as though PC gamers use a PC because of how much they love the x86 architecture.
Given there's about 0% chance PC games will run on the PS4, the choice of CPU is irrelevant.
Agreed. In a game console, backward compatibility is actually a bad idea, as long as the developers support the new platform.
When people buy a new console, you want them to buy all new titles as well. The old games they already have were bought to be played on the old console.
That's an interesting and kind of important question. One of the problems Microsoft had with the original X-Box was PC compatibility. It was easy to put Linux on it. But Microsoft needed something like five title sales per X-Box just to break even on the hardware.
And given the actual computing demands of most people, the PS4 looks pretty able to replace a regular PC. Sony must have some plan to avoid the "wrong kind" of popularity.
Seems like a well thought out path to follow. Given the relatively long product life cycle of Sony Play Stations. Employing AMD X86 architecture will be well suited for upgrades and enhancements, in particular GDDR6 has my attention, which should be going into production next year (if I remember right, AMD essentially created the GDDR memory standard for what it's worth). It would not be surprising if GDDR5 was skipped in the PS4 platform altogether. I find this news fascinating.
I wouldn't think it was a 32 nm capacity issue at IBM as I believe they have as much 32 nm capacity as they did at 45nm. I believe they still are supplying the newest game processors for Nintendo and Microsoft.
I have to agree it is the software and to a lesser extent the hardware. If the games are ready and of high enough quality then who cares what the platform is? On the other hand if the hardware platform can't get out of it's own way then no amount of software can make up for the lack of responsiveness. I am guessing that the X86 tried and true platform with a lot of horsepower will win a lot of software developer support and therefor more/better games!