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Sony has unveiled the first specifications for what systems architect Mark Cerny calls its "next generation console" in a fascinating interview for Wired. It confirms the key technologies implemented for the new hardware, the great news that solid state storage will occupy a central place in the new machine and, perhaps best of all, the fact that the next Sony platform will have compatibility with the current market. Leader, PS4. Will it be called PlayStation 5? Sony is not saying, but it seems to be the obvious choice.

Much of the information revealed today serves as confirmation of long-standing rumors and speculation, specifically that Sony has adopted the latest technologies available from AMD, a hardware partner. That starts with the processor architecture, cited as third-generation Ryzen cores designed for the 7 nm manufacturing process, based on the next Zen 2 design set to be released for the desktop market by the end of the year. . What is exciting here is that, according to what we thought last year, the small area occupied by the Zen core means that Sony can offer eight complete cores, presumably supplemented with hyperlinks, for a total of 16 threads. This guarantees a massive generational leap over Jaguar's mediocre technology found in the console's current generation of hardware, which allows higher frame rates, a more complex global simulation and more details.

On the GPU side of the equation, a customized variant of the upcoming AMD Navi architecture is also confirmed, but this is where details are very rare in the field. We understand that, on the one hand, Navi is a new iteration of the existing AMD Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture, which suggests a structural limit of 64 computing units or 4096 shaders. But, on the other hand, certain leaks have suggested that Navi is more oriented towards the push of pixels instead of its immediate predecessor, the Vega more oriented to computing. Nor would I underestimate the & # 39; customized side & # 39; from the equation: Sony has spent years on this project and with PS4 Pro, the firm has shown how it is prepared to innovate in areas where PC games are only beginning to cope with. Secret sauce? Very possibly

In relation to that, there is also a discussion in Wired's piece about real-time ray tracing as a component in the next generation of PlayStation games. This is where the lack of details is somewhat disappointing, while silicon will do it. support for the extent to which it is accelerated through custom hardware is not confirmed, instead of running in "software" through computational shaders, as we have seen recently with Windows DXR titles executed on Nvidia 10 graphics cards of the previous series. For our part, we hope that the fact that it is mentioned confirms that there is some hardware-assisted RT included in the design.

The Digital Foundry team meets to discuss the & # 39; revelation & # 39; of PlayStation 5 and the specifications shared by Mark Cerny.

We have already seen implementations of software ray traced, for example, in the recent demonstration of Neon Noir of CryEngine, so it will be interesting to hear more details of Sony in this case. Mark Cerny talks about applications for ray tracing that go beyond the usual, pointing out implementations in the audio space, but the details are clear here and this example does not give us any real indication of how capable the new PlayStation will be in the RT management. The RT audio along these lines would require only a small fraction of the type of power used in today's DXR-enabled PC games.

Cerny also talks in depth about a new 3D audio processor, capable of offering what Wired describes as "the sounds (that) come to you from above, from behind and from the side". The configuration here sounds similar to the advanced audio that Sony introduced in the selection of titles when it was combined with the Platinum headphones; the difference here is the use of hardware acceleration that should probably allow a much richer and nuanced audio.

But there is always a genuine surprise when it comes to a revelation of the specifications of the next generation console and, in the case of the revelation of the next generation Sony console, that is the nature of the storage solution that employs the owner of the platform. We had heard a while ago that PlayStation 5 was developed around a state-of-the-art solid state storage solution (the rumor was 1TB of capacity) but the gossip was easy to discount, because although the solid state memory modules have Reduced substantially in price recently, SSDs are still much more expensive than mechanical units. In a world where consoles are built at rigid construction costs, upgrading storage to a solid state seemed impossible.

Real-time ray tracking is coming to the next generation of PlayStation, but will it have hardware acceleration or not? A new Nvidia driver opens the door to RT on non-accelerated cards and we tried some of them …

This is the key barrier that Sony has broken for its new hardware. The demonstrations sound amazing, using a combination of hardware and software to accelerate Marvel's Spider-Man loading times by a factor of 19x compared to the standard PS4 code. Most likely, the CPU has its own part to play here: the data is usually compressed and then decompressed on the fly when needed. With the Ryzen cores on board, decompression speeds will skyrocket, but I would not achieve these speeds without a true generational leap in storage bandwidth. And that brings us to the second demonstration, highlighting the great increase in transmission performance. The speed at which the player can move around the city in Spider-Man is mainly defined by the storage limitations of the PS4. Using the SSD, we are told that the player can move through New York with the speed of a jet fighter. It is said that the new PlayStation SSD has a bandwidth that exceeds the best that the PC has to offer. To put that in perspective, a top-level NVMe unit like the Samsung 970 Pro achieves sustained sequential reads / writes of 3.5GB / s and 2.5GB / s respectively. For better that in a console would be a revelation.

However, regardless of the way it does it, the inclusion of a suitable next generation storage solution is great news, and its inclusion also solves a fundamental problem when moving to a new console with, presumably, much more memory than its predecessor Even a 2x increase in memory allocation over the current 8GB of PS4 virtually demands a greatly improved storage solution. The load times are already too long in too many titles of the current generation, to the point where, as Cerny points out, a lot of effort is put into creating content to hide them. In the process, there is definitely the feeling that consoles are losing their appeal of "connecting and using", and anything that can be done to reduce the increasing friction in console gaming is welcome.

The last key point of the piece Wired refers to a feature that many believe that Sony simply could not launch without: compatibility with previous versions. The common points of the architecture allow this to happen and there is also talk of a next-generation game for PS4, such as Death Stranding, which also appears on PlayStation 5. This is an area in which I would like to see clarification. same Buy jobs on both machines or are they completely separated? If it's the latter, Microsoft could gain some ground here: Play Anywhere sees the first-generation MS titles running on Xbox and PC, and I hope that cross-gen console titles are also included.

Almost a year ago, we speculated on the kind of technologies that Sony could implement for PlayStation 5. 364 days later, you can see how close we are to some of our predictions.

The fact that backup compatibility is compatible with the next-generation PlayStation is great news, just as the system supports physical media, which means that your existing discs should work. However, it is how Sony will implement this that fascinates me. Compatibility with the PS4 library is an issue that I discussed with Mark Cerny when we met to discuss the hardware configuration of the PS4 Pro. Cerny pointed out that the Pro needed to stay with Jaguar to maintain compatibility with the existing catalog of PS4 games. PS4, and even Boost Mode did not do it for launch.

The reasoning presented was that in a console with low-level access, even replacing an x86-based processor with a more powerful one can cause potential problems. For example, a multi-threaded workload can see the work in a kernel finish and purge the memory before another kernel has finished working on tasks that require the same data. The patents recently discovered by one Mark Evan Cerny seem to suggest that this problem has been overcome, although details about how light they are. We understand that moving from Jaguar to Zen will not present too many "ready-to-use" problems in most games, but there is still a considerable minority of titles that may need additional attention.

Hopefully, we will learn more details about how Sony has chosen to handle compatibility with previous versions, but doing this correctly is key to the success of the console and when looking at the competition, we know that this is not a walk in the park. . Microsoft's back-compat program is a massive engineering effort, with a team of more than 100 evaluators analyzing all the titles and even carrying out a DF-style performance analysis to ensure that the games perform as well, if Not better, than in the original hardware. . The team not only handles Xbox 360 compatibility, but also tested all Xbox One titles on the Xbox One S and Xbox One X consoles to ensure compatibility, even if all the machines run in a similar architecture. The back-compat talk for the next generation of PlayStation also extends to peripherals, including PSVR. It has been circulating rumors that a PSVR2 headset is in development for quite some time, something that seems to be insinuated in the piece of Wired.

AMD documents its technological innovations in regular updates of the roadmap like this, but the information on the composition of the Navi graphic architecture is practically nonexistent.

And the suggestions are all we're getting beyond that. The compatibility with the 8K screen is mentioned, which would suggest an HDMI 2.1 display driver, and by extension, I hope that the PlayStation 5 is compatible with the variable update frequency technology, also incorporated into the new HDMI standard. The system allows to display 8K at 60Hz, while 4K can also reach 120Hz. Microsoft has openly expressed support for 120Hz (to the point that it is even implemented in current generation machines), but according to the specifications released today, there is no reason Sony can not follow suit.

Today's announcement covers a series of crucial hardware details: we are getting Zen 2 in a 7 nm process, custom Navi graphics, cutting-edge SSD storage and compatibility with previous versions, so what do we know? It should be noted that Sony has refrained from offering important details in terms of processing power of CPU and GPU, and the company has not announced the amount of memory that will include the next generation of PlayStation. Some might say that these kinds of details are not necessary for the story that Wired delivered today and it is still early enough in the game for this type of information to have great strategic value for the competition.

What is also quite ironic is that while Sony has confirmed that it is using the best processing components that AMD has to offer, we have no real idea of ​​what kind of performance they can offer, since there are no desktop PC parts available right now. Some details have emerged about the core of Zen 2, but firm information about Navi is scarce on the ground to the point of non-existence. We also do not know any kind of release date, apart from the fact that it will not Send this year – 2020 seems a reasonable bet.

But it is the cost of the next generation of PlayStation that can be worrisome. We now know that the new console uses a state-of-the-art silicon production process and an extremely fast solid-state storage solution. Memory is still an expensive product, to the point where the cheapest 16 GB graphics card with 7 nm technology costs $ 699 at this time. Sony took the right note when assessing the launch of PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro at $ 399, but can you repeat the trick for your next-generation machine or the Xbox One X has shown that early users would be willing to pay a premium of $ 100 for the correct specification?