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Analysis: PlayStation 4 powered by AMD APU; Radeon 6970 GPU?

playstation-4-hardware

The Sony PlayStation 4 event in New York just ended but probably the most exciting, key part of the event happened 2 hours ago at the beginning – the confirmation of the PlayStation 4 name and its key features such as hardware, social sharing capabilities, ‘instant on’ and ability to interface with the PlayStation Vita.

Update: AMD has officially confirmed that the APU (including graphics) will be a ‘semi-custom’ solution, not an off-the-shelf product

We can now breathe a sigh of relief that it’s finally been confirmed and sit in anticipation for Sony’s next-generation console to arrive. Sony concluded the event with a note that the PlayStation 4 will be coming in Holiday 2013, with no price announced so far.

I’ve done an analysis based on what Sony has mentioned during the event and have concluded that the PlayStation 4 very likely uses AMD hardware. Or more specifically, an unnamed AMD APU (accelerated processing unit) with 8 CPU cores and AMD Radeon 6970 graphics card. The graphics card is likely dedicated (separated from the integrated graphics module on said APU) and will have its own 2 GB of dedicated memory.

Here’s evidence why: Sony mentions “X86 processor”, “APU” (an AMD specific term that the company uses for a single board that combines a CPU and powerful integrated graphics) and “8 cores” (Intel has 4 core processors with 8 threads, but only AMD makes consumer CPUs with 8 physical cores at the moment).

For those wondering “maybe they meant 8 threads”, there is no mistake here that Sony mentioned 8 cores – the CPUs with the most cores Intel makes are hexa-core (6 cores) processors for servers and enthusiasts but even an affordable model of that costs upwards of $500. It would be even more expensive if Sony were to have 8 physical cores from Intel, since that would involve using a server-class motherboard (pricey!) and a pair of compatible quad core processors – I don’t think Sony will be willing to sell, subsidized or unsubsidized, a console with a hardware cost of $2000.

Next up, we have the GPU where Sony specifically said it will have high-speed “GDDR5 memory” and “176 GB/s bandwidth”. There was also ’2 teraflops’ thrown around. This precisely matches the numbers of AMD’s Radeon 6970, a graphics card with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory, 2.7 teraflops of processing power and 176 GB/s of bandwidth introduced by AMD in December 2010. This shoots down speculation of using AMD’s 2012 Radeon 7000-series graphics, but lines up nicely with the history of consoles using graphics cards which are one to two generations behind current hardware for stability and driver testing purposes.

ps4-holiday-2013-release

It won’t be a surprise if said Radeon 6970 is a dedicated graphics card, seeing it would help in heat dissipation by not being on the same board as the CPU. However, this would also mean the presence of a secondary graphics module – integrated graphics from the APU. If this is the case, the PlayStation 4 could be capable of graphics switching to boost performance when needed (using the Radeon 6970 for heavy-lifting game graphics) while utilizing the integrated graphics for less intensive tasks such as movie streaming, casual games and general UI browsing (hence reducing energy consumption and heat output).

The graphics card might be slightly overclocked (and if so, will probably use a non-stock cooling system) in the PlayStation 4. This bit of speculation comes from Sony’s use of the term “highly-enhanced PC GPU” when they described the graphics hardware of the PlayStation 4 during the unveiling event.

The PlayStation 4′s holiday 2013 launch would make the Radeon 6970 almost 3 years old by the time of the console’s release. However, the Radeon 6970 was AMD’s flagship single GPU for 2011 until they announced a more powerful Radeon 7970 in January 2012. This makes the Radeon 6970 graphics card a more future-proof solution than using a newer but weaker model, and a great candidate for running games at native 1080p on the PlayStation 4 (though not at the highest settings that a modern PC is capable of).

AMD hardware seems highly probable based on the tentative information Sony has announced, though Sony has not officially confirmed the use of AMD internals for the PlayStation 4 or the specific graphics card model. Also, hardware specifications might be subject to change since there’s at least half a year till the release of the PlayStation 4; though we do suspect if there are changes, they will likely be minimal.

Other specifications include 8 GB of unified system memory and use of a built-in hard disk; available capacity options for the hard disk have not been announced. It will also have a secondary processor for background tasks such as updates.

The PlayStation 4 will be coming holiday 2013 along with plans from various game developers such as Ubisoft, Activision, Square Enix and more to support and release games for Sony’s next-gen console.

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One Comment

  1. Trololol February 21, 2013 Reply

    So can I run minecraft on it?