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Sony PS4 sports 8-core AMD 'Jaguar' CPU

Posted: 22 Feb 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PlayStation 4  X86  CELL processor  Jaguar  Radeon GPU 

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. is switching to AMD processor to power its latest gaming console. The company, at the press launch of PlayStation 4, said that the new console will use an AMD X86 CPU.

Sony developed its own CELL processor to power the PlayStation 2 in 2000. But, the Japanese giant has now decided to drop its CELL as well an Nvidia graphics chip that it used in PlayStation 3.

Sony PS4, unlike its predecessors, will use a new AMD accelerated processing unit (APU) that integrates an X86 CPU and GPU on the same die, according to Mark Cerny, lead system architect of PS4 at Sony.

Yes, this time Sony PlayStation comes up with a PC-like configuration, including an 8-core 64bit x86 "Jaguar" CPU built by AMD, with a Radeon GPU comprised of 18 "compute units" capable of 1.84 TFLOPS operation to process graphics.

By choosing the X86 CPU for its next generation gaming platform, Sony will gain two things, said Rick Doherty, research director at Envisioneering Group. "One is time to market, which is critical, and another is supercharged PC game developers excited to use their code and graphics rendering experience on PS4," Doherty said.

Although Sony's move is not an endorsement of the PC as a gaming platform, the switch to the X86 CPU should also attract a large installed-base of "extreme PC gamers" to PS4, he added.

In a way, Sony might have been announcing "an ultimate PC gaming machine called PS4," quipped Doherty. Referring to Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console based on the PowerPC architecture, Doherty said, "Bill Gates must be banging his head on the wall now, saying 'why didn't we do this?'" Microsoft's original Xbox was based on Intel's X86 CPU.

According to Cerny, Sony's PS4 development started five years ago, during the early days of the PS3 rollout.

Cery said three principles that drove the development of the PS4 system architecture were: superior core performance whereby "nothing should come between the platform and the game play"; enhanced connectivity by building "a much more fluid, easy access among console, mobile devices and PlayStation Network"; and "what do developers want?"

Calling PS4 a gaming platform "by developers and for developers," Cerny described its hardware system as consisting of "X86 CPU, enhanced PC GPU, 8 Gigabytes of unified memory using GDDR5 and hard disc drive."

Brian Dipert, the founder and principal of Sierra Media, noted that the use of GDDR5 is "probably the most proprietary aspect of this otherwise very PC-reminiscent hardware design." Although GDDR5 is already used on stand-alone graphics cards, he added that it probably won't be in PCs as main memory for a while yet.

Differentiating PS4 from others
Cerny laid out five characteristics that the company hopes will differentiate PS4 from its own previous PlayStation platforms as well as those by its competitors. Namely, by making it simple, immediate, social, integrated and "personalized."

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