So the Playstation 4… Come on, we all knew it was bound to be talked about, however while many people are laughing and slating and generally mocking the -what will almost certainly be a- black monolith I am not. I personally embrace our new insect Overlords!
I can almost hear the cries of “but, but, but you are no Console gamer! You are a man of taste and impeccable pecks* how can you not be filled with mocking jelly of mock?! IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!”. To this I reply, relax my friend. I shall explain. First though, let’s just quickly run through this whole “Next Gen” stuff and have a little word from Epic Games.
“Next-gen is here. It’s a high-end PC,” said Bleszinski.
Thanks Cliffy B for that perfect title for this little section! Shame he is no longer at Epic, he was always one of my favourites, anyway to business! When the Xbox 360 came out, it was quite a leap away from the PCs at the time. I was running one HELL of a PC back then and I couldn’t touch the Xbox at all… Now however my PC can run rings around it with ease. Now with the prices of things coming down and the sheer amount of Oomph you can get for your cash I would have expected the next generation of Consoles to be Super Powered boxes of PC-killing Doom.
Now all reports indicate that the PS4 will be the most powerful of the 3 (The Wii-U, Xbox One and PS4) so lets look at the specs and take them apart a little. Then for fun let’s compare what I am running now…
So the brains of the PS4 is an 8-core AMD CPU (now there is talk that the whole system will be an APU rather than a seperate CPU/GPU but let’s split it down just for easier discussion). That sounds impressive, it sounds big, it sounds… MEATY. Now let’s say they’re clocked at 1.6 ghz… Suddenly it goes found sounding like a whole cow to just an ear… Hmmmm.
If the brains are massive but underpowered how about the heart… The “highly enhanced PC GPU” under the hood? Again an AMD part… Now where AMD lack in CPU technology they certainly make it up in GPU tech. Now basically the card inside the PS4 is equivalent (already a bad sign) of a current HD7850… So we’re talking 1.84 Terraflops of graphical horsepower.
Backing it all up we have 8gb of GDDR5 memory. Not a lot can say about that apart from it is interesting that they seem to only be including GDDR5 memory and now any standard DDR3 stuff… I wasn’t aware that graphics memory could be substituted for normal memory but maybe I just know nothing!
The Dr. Is In.
So, my current system (Dr. Beasty Mk I.5) is a few years old, a little long in the teeth and 2 WHOLE generations out… However, can it out perform a PS4 when it is released? I am willing to bet a solid – Yes. Now soon I shall in fact be upgrading to Ivybridge (once I can afford the processor!) but let’s go with what I have right now.
CPU wise the PS4 is having this 8-core 1.6ghz under the hood. My poor ailing system has 4 physical and 4 logical cores. So totalling 8 (a draw!) but let’s be honest, hyper-threaded cores aren’y physical cores so how about we strip them out leaving me with just 4 cores… So I have lost, right? Not quite, lets add up raw Clocks now shall we. The PS4 -running flat out- has a total of 14.4ghz worth of power under that hood (that no-one has seen!). That is many numbers… So how about me with my 4 cores? At my standard clock speed (without turboboost or other technologies) I have a total of 12.24 ghz worth of power.
This certainly looks like a loss for the PC until you remember that this is running half the cores of the PS4 and ignoring the hyper-threads (which if they added say 750mhz to the overall numbers would stick me at 15.24 ghz), plus remember than AMD are not as efficient when it comes to CPU tech so an AMD processor clocked at the same as an Intel chip is around 10-20% slower. We’re also talking a CPU from 2009 vs one from 2013 plus lets add in the fact that what is running in the PS4 is a low-power Mobile chip rather than a full fat CPU!
Now the interesting part… GPU. This is the most important part of an console. If games look amazingly good then they’ll sell well, if they look poor then they won’t (Note: This only applies to the “hardcore” or “core” gamers, after all the Wii sold AMAZINGLY well and it looked like crap! They went for the approach of the Old School of making REALLY solid and fun games with Great GAMEPLAYrather than just ‘splosions and gore!) so it has got to have a LOT of grunt… So we have basically a HD7850 (with some upgrades admittedly) with 1.84 tflops of Oomph backed up by 8gb of GDDR5. Lets look at the memory first, shall we?
The memory numbers… Now -obviously- there is still a lot of speculation on these numbers so they might be WAY off but let’s go with what we mostly know. Approx 1-2gb of that ram if off the table for actually running systems so the console works right. You NEED a cache and suchlike after all so we’re down to 6gb of high bandwidth but as a consequence higher latency memory… How high bandwidth? Expected to be around the 176gb/s mark. However, DDR3 has a lower bandwidth but MUCH lower latency. So my system is running 6gb of said DDR3 memory, plus my graphics card is running 1gb of GDDR5. Again my card came out in 2009 vs a 2013 chip but I have a memory bandwidth of 153.6gb/s and that is from an old fashioned 256 bit memory bus!
Okay, so that is kinda a win for the PC but marginal as memory doesn’t play such a large part in things. Let’s look at the score card – Close call with the CPU but the PS4 won that. Memory… Meh, that is pretty much a draw. So it comes down to this… The very POINT of a console… Graphical power…
Here the PS4 wades in with its 1.84 tflops. See it looking all hard, especially as all three of the last gen consoles ADDED TOGETHER with by CPU and GPU power didn’t exceed 2 tflops, so it must be feeling pretty confident against a 4 year old GPU… Now see my ATi card step in to the ring… It’s Nolan-style Batmobile armour surrounding it, it towers over the punny little runt in the other corner and laughs Jabba style. That’s right, my 2009 card produces a MASSIVE 2.72 tflops of Oomph… 0.12 off being a WHOLE Teraflop more powerful… Now let me tell you, even *I* was amazed by this result…
But What Does This Mean?!
My 4 year old PC has done enough to beat what looks to be the most “powerful” of the “Next Gen”… And yet I am glad about the PS4, I am happy for its existence… Why? Let me tell you why.
For a start off, I love AMD. Their processors are terrible now, but my first home-brew system had a £700 AMD FX-57 at it’s heart and still today that processor can handle anything that is thrown at it (for example it is now acting as a mini server in a school!) so I still have that loyalty, and it broke my heart that I had to move to Intel for my latest system but if AMD cannot be competitive then I shall look elsewhere, but graphically when they bought ATi I was sad that ATi had been bought, but I was happy AMD bought them, and they have done Amazing things with them. Now my card is the LAST ATi card to ever exist, it says ATi on the PCB and on the heatsink and I will use it until it finally gives up the ghost, then I will buy an AMD card and I will be happy because they make amazing graphics chips. This move gives AMD MORE MONEY to spend on even more on graphics in the future.
For me though the single most important thing about the PS4 is this… The CPU is an x86 chip… That means that most games for the PS4 will run with very little tinkering for the PC, plus they will be written FOR MULTICORE from the start. You hear that Cities XL? You CAN use more than one friggin’ core! Now the new Xbox looks to ALSO run on an x86 chip and it’ll also be running DirectX which means it’ll be even Easier to take an Xbox game and have it just Run on a PC without those awful shoddy ports!
So much so that many developers are actually looking to be creating the Full Fat game on PCs then porting it to the consoles and dropping the quality meaning PC looks very much to be at the top of the pile again before the next gen comes out.
The Next-Gen is here, and it was here a WHOLE Four Years ago!
The King is Dead! Long Live The King!
* Not true… Not true AT ALL