PlayStation 4 hardware analyzed: AMD inside and a Radeon 6970 GPU?

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Sony is in the midst of its event in New York right now, where they have just announced the PlayStation 4 and now talking about the new console’s features. As a big time gamer and fan of various video game franchises myself, one thing that caught my attention was early in the event where Sony talked about the key hardware specifications of the PlayStation 4.

The new PlayStation 4 is said to have ‘supercharged PC architecture’ featuring an X86 CPU, ‘enhanced PC GPU’, 8 GB of unified memory and a hard disk. Now, they didn’t go into any specifics of what hardware it runs on, which is expected since Sony would want to focus on its features instead, such as the PlayStation 4’s social networking capabilities and why the console is great for game developers.

I’ve taken a look at what little Sony has said about the PlayStation 4 hardware and it’s safe to say the PlayStation 4 runs on AMD hardware. Sony mentions an ‘APU’ and 8 CPU cores, so it definitely can’t be an Intel processor since no Intel processor has 8 cores (they do have 4 cores, but 8 threads). AMD does make 8 core processors and brands their single combination of CPU paired with a GPU as an “APU”, the exact term used by Sony during the press conference.

Sony also dropped a few hints of the GPU specifications of the PlayStation 4, but enough for me to piece together and say that it is probable that GPU is an AMD Radeon 6970. Sony mentioned the GPU will have fast GDDR5 memory and 176 GB/s bandwidth. That’s exactly what the Radeon 6970 graphics card has.

Although Sony did mention ‘8 GB of unified memory’, we are pretty sure that most of this is RAM is general memory, not the graphics card’s memory. The AMD’s Radeon 6970 has 2 GB of dedicated memory; there’s a high possibility that it will be overclocked since they did mention ‘supercharged PC architecture’ but I don’t think Sony will modify physical memory of the GPU for cost reasons.

Again, here’s the breakdown of the hardware on the PlayStation 4 (Processor and graphics model not officially confirmed by Sony):

  • Unknown 8 core, X86 CPU from AMD
  • AMD Radeon 6970 GPU with GDDR5 and 176 GB/s
  • 8 GB memory
  • Hard disk
  • Secondary processor for background processing such as updates (this 2nd processor will likely be a mobile chip shared by tablet devices)

Overall this is excellent news for all gamers and developers because the use of PC hardware would mean better hardware to power more graphics intense games, easier development of games and significantly better chance of games being ported across platforms (PC and PlayStation 4 and a future Steam Box console from Valve). If the next generation Xbox also uses PC hardware, then we get two of the biggest consoles and the countless configurations of laptops and desktops using hardware configurations that would make all three (PC, PlayStation and Xbox) theoretically compatible with one another.

For developers, that means the ability to release games across all platforms with reduced development time (compared to having to code for proprietary hardware, such as what the PS3 and XBox 360 current have). For gamers, that means higher quality games (instead of mere ‘ports’, which have sometimes been poorly optimized, from other platforms) and more games to choose from (unless Sony or Microsoft decides to pay developers to make an ‘exclusive’ title for their own platform).

2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year for gaming and I can’t wait to see what new things, both hardware and software, we will see in the next 10 months.

Be sure to check out our recently launched sister site that focuses on video games, Games Per Second.

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