Earlier today Sony’s system architect Mark Cerny revealed the “Road to PS5,” a presentation which comes hot on the heels of a large dump of information from Microsoft about the Xbox Series X. Sony claims this presentation was originally scheduled to be part of its GDC plans.
The presentation was very developer-focused, and from the opening Cerny was dedicated to waxing lyrical about the solid-state drive Sony has decided to use in the hardware. Cerny claims the SSD will hit speeds of 5.5GB of input data per second, a read speed approximately one hundred times quicker than the HDD in the PlayStation 4. This will, according to Cerny, essentially eliminate load times entirely. One downside is that the SSD itself is only 825GB. This will mainly be for cost, with SSDs priced much higher than HDDs, but it’s disappointing, to say the least. Even with 1TB HDDs, people have been having issues with storage on the PS4 and Xbox One for years, often having to delete old games to install new ones upon each purchase.
Eliminating load times isn’t all the SSD will bring to the table, according to Cerny. He believes it will fundamentally change the way developers create a game.
“The primary reason for an ultra-fast SSD is that it gives the game designer freedom. Or to put that differently, with a hard drive, the 20 seconds it takes to load a gigabyte can sabotage the game the developer is trying to create. Say we’re making an adventure game, and we have two rich environments where we each want enough textures and models to fill memory, which you can do as long as you have a long staircase or elevator ride or a windy corridor where you can ditch the old assets and then take 30 seconds or so to load the new assets.”
Cerny stated that most developers “chop the world into a number of smaller pieces” to avoid long load times or boring elevator rides. Cerny cites the PlayStation 2 game Jak II as an example of what developers in the past tried to do to alleviate this. The side effect was that Naughty Dog made many twisting passages in the environment to stop large stress on the CPU and keep load times to a minimum. He feels this won’t be an issue moving forward with the PlayStation 5. It should be noted than the PlayStation 5’s SSD will read data much quicker than the Xbox Series X.
Cerny’s concerns aren’t farfetched. If you’ve played video games for a considerable amount of time you would have experienced situations like this. Long, winding corridors. Boring elevator sequences. The original Mass Effect was notorious for the latter. So the prospect of design mechanics such as these being eradicated is promising.
As for the core architecture, the main technical specifications of the PlayStation 5 are as follows:
- CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz
- GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHZ, custom RDNA 2
- Memory: 16GB GDDR6/256-bit
- Bandwidth: 448GB/s
- Storage: Custom 825GB SSD
- IO Throughput: 5.5GB/s raw, 8-9GB/s compressed
- Expandable Storage: NVMe SSD Slot
- External Storage: USB HDD Support
- Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
While some of the technical specifications are comparable to the Series X, the PlayStation 5 GPU will only be 10.27 TFLOPs compared to the 12 TFLOPs of the Series X. This has confirmed rumours which were circulating a few months ago which correctly predicted as such. It’s 3.5GHz CPU also clocks lower than the 3.8GHz of the Series X. It will have the same amount of GDDR6 RAM, at 16GBs, both will support external HDDs and both will have 4K Blu-ray drives.
Outside of hardware, Sony revealed very little in regards to software. Cerny did announce that the system will be backwards compatible with almost 100 PlayStation 4 games at launch. Originally the plan was to place the PS4s chipset in the PlayStation 5 to ensure full compatibility, which is what Sony did with the PlayStation 3 at launch to make it compatible with PlayStation and PS2 software, but this was ruled out on a cost basis. This leaves emulation, which is less than ideal. It’s also a knock for players, as rumours had claimed the PlayStation 5 would be compatible with all previous PlayStation software. As it stands, it looks like the Xbox has a serious edge in that department.
We will keep you updated with any further developments.