Today’s “Road to PS5” technical presentation gave us a strong idea of what to expect when Sony’s next console arrives in Holiday 2020. Whereas before details relating to the system’s architecture were scarce and pure speculation, lead system architect Mark Cerny finally opened up about what PlayStation 5 purchasers have to look forward to from a hardware perspective.
The 52-minute presentation went into such minute detail that we won’t cover absolutely everything here, but instead we’ll break down the five main takeaways. Just bear in mind, today’s presentation featured no news on design, price or games – it was purely technical.
Cerny explained how Sony’s development of the PS5 was primarily driven by three core principles: Listening to game developers, balancing evolution and revolution and finding new dreams. We won’t bore you with the details of what each of these mean specifically, but the general gist is that the PS5 hardware has been designed with both convenience and ease of use – for both players and game creators – in mind.
Perhaps the most consumer-friendly portion of the presentation came in the form of how PS5 will handle backwards compatibly. This is, of course, something that the Xbox Series X has already cracked, offering players an extensive library of games originally release on all previous consoles. PS5, by comparison, going by Mark Cerny’s words will only be backwards compatible with a select number of PS4 games at launch.
This is incredibly surprising. While it may have been a little hopeful to expect PS5 with PS2 and PS3 games in some fashion, the news that only the top 100 PS4 games will be playable on your PS5 on day one is kind of shocking. Still, there might be room for this to be expanded in the future, but the news that PS5 will only have access to a limited PS4 library is disappointing. Xbox Series X is definitely out in front when it comes to backwards compatibility.
Cerny went into great detail about the Tempest 3D AudioTech capabilities possible with PlayStation 5. Essentially this new technology will enable developers to make full use of something called Head-related Transfer Function to create sounds as realistically as possible. 3D Audio is all based around delivering players a true sense of presence and locality. This will primarily be achieved by somehow taking the size and shape of players’ ears into account, to the point that you’ll be able to hear individual raindrops and precisely track where objects are through sound.
One of the major topics was the importance of an SSD, which relates to how the console will handle loading speed, storage space and expansion capability primarily.
Cerny went into detail how the PS4 HDD struggles to meet today’s consumer demands, spending far more time searching for data and only a small amount actually loading the game up. The answer to this problem that PS5 hopes to resolve comes in the form of a custom 825GB SSD engineerd in partnership with PlayStation and AMD. This will make the new console’s seek time near instantaneous compared to the PS4’s 5-10 seconds going by 1GB of data. With an SSD, long elevator rides will be a thing of the past as there is no longer any need for PS5 developers to hide or mask loading times creatively. The goal of an SSD with PS5 is to reduce patch installs, avoid compromised loading and to lay the foundation for levels to be rendered instantaneously through streaming.
To get near this Sony built a lot of custom hardware for PS5. The full list of PS5 specs are as follows:
8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz (variable frequency)
10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (variable frequency)
Custom RDNA 2
Custom 825GB SSD
5.5GB/s (Raw), Typical 8-9GB/s (Compressed)
NVMe SSD Slot
USB HDD Support
4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
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