Sony reveals PlayStation 5 specifications, including support for internal NVMe SSD upgrades

nanoguy

TS Addict
Staff member

Microsoft recently revealed the full specifications and internal design details of its Xbox Series X, and now it's Sony's turn. The latter company has been a bit more secretive with the PlayStation 5, and has only been throwing small teasers like 4K, 120 Hz, and ray tracing support along with backwards compatibility for older games.

Just like the Xbox Series X, the PlayStation 5 is powered by an eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU clocked at up to 3.5 GHz, paired with a custom AMD GPU that has 36 compute units working at 2.23 Ghz that can deliver 10.28 teraflops of FP32 processing power. The Japanese company says comparisons with the PS4 would be unfair, but something worth noting is that Microsoft's new Xbox will have more compute units for a total of 12 teraflops of peak FP32 processing power.

Sony's solution for preventing thermal issues is to use a lower number of compute units that are clocked higher instead of more compute units clocked lower. PlayStation 5 lead architect Mark Cerny explained that this configuration has proven to be more efficient in calculating geometry in most games, and game developers have an easier time filling the lower number of compute units with useful work.

The new RDNA 2 GPU compute units have 62 percent higher transistor counts than those of the PlayStation 4, while also running at a much higher clock speed - save for situations when it must drop to stay within the thermal and power envelope.

Sony calls this technology "boost," although the way it works is different from similarly named technologies. The way the company describes it is that the PlayStation 5 is designed to achieve a constant performance target regardless of ambient and operating temperatures.

This involves some clever power budgeting between the CPU and GPU, which run at variable frequencies to achieve a constant power consumption regardless of workload, as opposed to running at a constant frequency and letting the power vary based on the workload. It also means that developers will have to worry less about power consumption spikes impacting overall performance, an effort that is still going to be required with the Xbox Series X.

Sony is essentially saying that it can extract more performance from the GPU despite it looking worse on paper than the one used in the Xbox Series X. The company promises the same 4K 60/120 Hz performance target, which will sometimes require redirecting unused power budget from the CPU to the GPU to push more pixels, while clock speeds will only be dropped two or three percent at most, which is relatively minor.

The GPU in the PlayStation 5 has similarities with AMD's upcoming PC GPUs, just like the one in the Xbox Series X. That means it has support for ray tracing accelerated directly through the shaders, and Cerny confidently noted that he's "already seen a PS5 title that is successfully using ray-tracing-based reflections in complex animated scenes with only modest performance costs."

Microsoft isn't alone in thinking that next-gen consoles required a rethinking of how memory and storage architecture can be optimized to achieve fast game loading times as well as enabling developers to render complex scenes with large textures more efficiently with no popping or other similar issues.

Sony is using a smaller SSD at just 825 GB (versus 1 TB on the Xbox Series X) that achieves much faster transfer speeds thanks to a proprietary, 12-channel architecture. The quoted speed is 5.5 GB per second, which is enough to fill the PlayStation 5's 16 GB of GDDR6 RAM in just a few seconds.

The controller uses a four-lane PCI Express 4.0 interface, and has a dedicated decompression block for ZLIB and Kraken data formats that supposedly has the power of nine Zen 2 CPU cores dedicated to this specific I/O task. It also uses a dedicated DMA controller that governs data transfers between the SSD and RAM and removes an additional performance bottleneck.

Similar to what Microsoft is doing with the Xbox Series X, Sony also employs a number of tricks that bypass traditional file system limitations, courtesy of two I/O co-processors, a coherency engine, and an on-chip RAM that work together to govern situations that typically bottleneck the GPU, such as when stale data in caches needs to be flushed and the storage subsystem is busy doing other I/O operations.

The good news for developers is that they don't need to worry about the nitty-gritty about how all this works, as it all happens without outside intervention. Cerny explained that "you just indicate what data you'd like to read from your original, uncompressed file, and where you'd like to put it, and the whole process of loading it happens invisibly to you and at very high speed."

There PlayStation 5 also supports user installation of standard NVMe drives, although Cerny says the company will first have to open up a certification program to ensure you know what drives are compatible before splurging on a 4 TB PCIe 4.0 SSD.

That's because Sony's implementation offers six priority levels arbitration to developers, as opposed to just two in the NVMe standard specification. So, if you want more internal storage, it won't be quite as fast as the company's proprietary SSD, and on top of that it'll have to physically fit in the available space.

Finally, Sony spent a considerable amount of time and engineering effort to improve audio processing. The company says it created something called the Tempest Engine with the specific purpose of delivering unprecedented 3D audio fidelity. It did so by taking the PSVR's bespoke audio chipset that supports "fifty pretty decent sound sources" and designing a new engine that supports hundreds of advanced sound sources.

The company's new sound processing unit is also capable of running complex algorithms to achieve accurate sound positioning, and relies upon a custom table tied to every player that's called the Head-Related Transfer Function. The system is based on how human hearing works, and will use a neural network to generate a model that works best for your ear.

To that end, the new SPU has equivalent processing power to eight AMD Jaguar APU cores. That said, Cerny says it'll be years before developers will be able to deliver these significant quality improvements for all the different audio setups that everyone has at home.

Sony hasn't revealed the looks of the PlayStation 5, and the price remains a nebulous even for the company itself. If the new logo is any indication, the overall design of the new console isn't going to be very different.

Based on what industry watchers have said earlier this month, we're going to have to wait at least until the end of this year to find out, mainly because of the many production delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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QuantumPhysics

TS Evangelist
Sony exclusives>MS exclusives.

Full stop.

Back during the Xbox One vs. PS4 early days I would have trolled you and fought you with vicious and violent words.

NOW: I'm forced to agree with you.

My Xbox and Xbox 360 made me extremely loyal to Xbox.

But Xbox One was so underwhelming in terms of exclusives that when the time came to buy XboxOneX, I went out and bought Gaming PC/Laptops instead.

Now that I look back on PS3 and PS4's library, I have to say that SONY does a way better job of pleasing its fanbase than Xbox does.

I may cancel Xbox Live this year and I've been with them for over 10 years.

If I see no must-have exclusives, then they've lost me.
 

QuantumPhysics

TS Evangelist
#1 Both Microsoft and SONY should be allowing us to choose our own after-market HDD and/or SSD drive.

There are so many unwanted HDD on the market in excess of 4TB that they could at the least be used for long-term storage even if they weren't fast enough for gaming...while an SSD of our choosing could be used for the main system storage.
 

QuantumPhysics

TS Evangelist
I'm not sold on Ray Tracing.

We just wanted better 4K performance and Nvidia set a whole new goal post as a talking point which even on a 2080Ti doesn't really make gameplay much better since most action takes place way too fast for shadows to really be noticed.

Now Xbox and Sony are forced to spend time talking about how well they ray trace.
 

pcnthuziast

TS Evangelist
That's subjective.

Full stop.

----------------------------
But on a serious note, who cares? Software is where it's at, and anyone can argue that PC has better "exclusives" than either lol
Yup and on that note, let me expand my original post.

PC exclusives> Ninitendo exclusives>Sony exclusives>MS exclusives
 

Vulcanproject

TS Evangelist
I'm not sold on Ray Tracing.

We just wanted better 4K performance and Nvidia set a whole new goal post as a talking point which even on a 2080Ti doesn't really make gameplay much better since most action takes place way too fast for shadows to really be noticed.

Now Xbox and Sony are forced to spend time talking about how well they ray trace.
Ray tracing can be amazing if you have the performance to push it. A couple GPU generations from now.

However after looking a bit more into the hardware RT performance of Series X which is definitely a bit faster overall than PS5, it still seems pretty limp.

I mean not entirely worthless but it's not going to be fast enough to do anything really amazing if you want to target 4K. The XSX GPU looks like it can move plenty of weight around in your usual rasterization/shading sense like an RTX2080, or even more. But rays? It probably isn't any faster than an RTX2060 at throwing rays about.

Which is for the most part all but useless at anything more than 1080p if you implement RT. You can reflect a few puddles and have the odd nice looking lamp in a small room. I wouldn't be expecting too much beyond that.

I'm not rayving over the ray tracing performance in these consoles.
 
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m4a4

TS Evangelist
TechSpot Elite
MS finally forced their hand it seems. And honestly, Sony doesn't seem very confident with what they've put out thus far, and are far too reluctant to give out details (unlike MS). Which won't give people confidence.

That said, all these details still don't mean much without price. And I have a feeling neither wants to give the other a means to 1-up them lol
 

Vulcanproject

TS Evangelist
That said, all these details still don't mean much without price. And I have a feeling neither wants to give the other a means to 1-up them lol
Totally feels like Sony are trying to get a mike drop moment on price. Waiting. I think they are banking heavily on Microsoft talking about their fastest console and then pricing it at $549.

So they can nip in and say $449 and come out looking pretty good, despite clearly losing out a bit in performance at the start of this generation.
 
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m4a4

TS Evangelist
TechSpot Elite
#1 Both Microsoft and SONY should be allowing us to choose our own after-market HDD and/or SSD drive.

There are so many unwanted HDD on the market in excess of 4TB that they could at the least be used for long-term storage even if they weren't fast enough for gaming...while an SSD of our choosing could be used for the main system storage.
They both do. Can just plug storage into the USB slot and run previous-gen games off of it. Or store PS5/XSX games (since they're too slow to run off of).

As for MS's choice, I have a feeling they want to lock it down at the beginning so dumb customers don't buy a slower SSD and then complain their games aren't as fast as advertised...
Control the experience. And if they can make a few bucks? All the better lol
 

Gypsygib

TS Enthusiast
Sony exclusives>MS exclusives.

Full stop.

True, but playing the new Ori now, damn that game is good. And so is Gears 5. But yeah, overall I'd say you're right.

But majority of game sales are multiplats. Some people never touch the exclusives. They just play online shooters and sports and GamePass is also awesome.

Should be an exciting gen for everyone!
 

DZillaXx

TS Enthusiast
If you feel like the PS5 let you down. Don't! It is a powerful console that is extremely fast. It doesn't need the most powerful hardware to play great games, and trust me visuals will not disappoint.

Now that is out of the way, they did make some bad design choices. But as we all know, these choices were made long ago. At the time they were solid ideas and choices for sure. MS clearly took more of a risk with AMD, as any delay on their part and XSX would not be coming out this holiday season.

Sony's choice of not using fixed clocks, or even hinting that the console will throttle at high loads does not sound great to me. This pretty much means the power delivery or cooling system isn't up to the task of running the APU at 100% Load at full clock speeds. MS was clearly able to do so. I'm personally disappointed, but overall not a big deal. So take that 10.3TF number with a huge grain of salt. 2.23ghz is a pretty high clock speed for RDNA, and I'm sure it is the same for RDNA2. I would even go as far as saying it pushes the GPU out of its efficiency range and way up into the higher part of the chips Power Curve. In that it may actually be pulling close to what the XSX's 52CU @ 1800mhz is using. It clearly is a power hungry clock speed, and will create a lot of heat. So with heavy loads, I think 2000mhz is more likely the goal if the cooling or power delivery system isn't up to the task. IMO weird choice for Sony.

This also means the CPU isn't going to clock as high on the PS5, so with high GPU loads we really dont know how low the clock speeds will drop. Overall it still is going to perform strong and games will be great.

The biggest downside to less CUs is Raytracing. While both consoles will blow people away. RDNA2 uses their TMUs (Texture Mapping Units) in dual purpose fashion. Each CU has 4 TMUs, and they are not always fully utilized. With good use of their pipeline these cores can switch between Raytracing tasks and their normal tasks. This allows AMD to keep their TMUs at 100% while not having to use dedicated RT cores like nvidia. Saving transistor count. These TMUs are heavily memory dependent and raytracing with them will require high memory bandwidth. So there you have it, Raytracing without using pixel shaders.

For Sony having less TMUs on the card, the consoles ability to ray trace is going to take a big hit. Less TMUs even with a higher clock speed is not going to make up the difference. With Less Memory Bandwidth and overall over TMU count, the PS5 is going to have a much lower Raytracing ability. IMO this is the only area the PS5 is going to be noticeably worse compared to the XSX or PC. But don't worry about this too much, as games will still look great and will optimize to the level the hardware can provide. I don't think anyone is going to care if some games have worse lighting/etc on the PS5 as long as it still looks great overall.

Now for Storage. MS did a smart move with the quick removable expandable storage. It is quick and easy, and I can see this working out very well. I used to bring my old 360 HDD to friends homes with my profile on it all the time, and this could very well bring that idea back. Also makes it more friendly upgrade path than having to open some panel on the console and screw in a m.2 SSD that needs to meet sony spec. Regardless either option from both sides are not going to be cheap early on. I do wish both consoles had a empty 2.5" HDD bay for users to equip a HDD. Would be perfect for archiving XSX/PS5 games and for existing PS4/XB1 games. It would be a cost pushed onto the user with no cost to them. Instead we will have to use external usb drives. Meh..

As for Speed... PS5 is clearly faster, by far. But as we all know the real gift with a SSD is random access and latency. Which is pretty much null. Even if it was 250MB/s a SSD would be a massive upgrade to a HDD and could stream game data into RAM wicked fast.

I wouldn't go crazy over the fact the PS5 has a faster SSD. If you consider the task of moving 10GB into RAM from these drives. A PS5 would do it in 2seconds, and the XSX would do it in 4 seconds. Now the system still needs to build the gameworld after data is loaded into RAM, so GPU and CPU are still going to be apart of the loading process. But overall the time it takes the PS5 or XSX to load the game into RAM is going to be nothing but seconds. The different between the two is hardly noticeable in that regard. And the time I used doesn't even take into consideration compression, which is going to be used on top of raw bandwidth. So I'm impressed with both systems, but I'm having a hard time finding something that would allow the PS5's faster SSD to clearly show how much faster it is than the XSX other than being used as a cache buffer. And still what real world example could be done on the PS5 that couldn't be done on XSX because of the SSD. Probably nothing. System RAM is just so much faster.

I can't wait to see the PS5 hardware itself. I'm interested in the cooling setup. Hopefully it isn't loud. I've always been more impressed with sony exclusives. And Will continue to buy Playstations for the games I cant get anywhere else. Just like I do for nintendo. I love my game pass, and am glad to play on all devices. I go after the games, not the brands.

The PS5 is going to be a great gaming console. Don't let specs fool you.
 
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hahahanoobs

TS Evangelist
Totally feels like Sony are trying to get a mike drop moment on price. Waiting. I think they are banking heavily on Microsoft talking about their fastest console and then pricing it at $549.

So they can nip in and say $449 and come out looking pretty good, despite clearly losing out a bit in performance at the start of this generation.
$100 cheaper and not $50? When was the last time that happened? If it didn't, why would it now?
 

m3tavision

TS Evangelist
Ray tracing can be amazing if you have the performance to push it. A couple GPU generations from now.

However after looking a bit more into the hardware RT performance of Series X which is definitely a bit faster overall than PS5, it still seems pretty limp.

I mean not entirely worthless but it's not going to be fast enough to do anything really amazing if you want to target 4K. The XSX GPU looks like it can move plenty of weight around in your usual rasterization/shading sense like an RTX2080, or even more. But rays? It probably isn't any faster than an RTX2060 at throwing rays about.

Which is for the most part all but useless at anything more than 1080p if you implement RT. You can reflect a few puddles and have the odd nice looking lamp in a small room. I wouldn't be expecting too much beyond that.

I'm not rayving over the ray tracing performance in these consoles.
If you think that^, then you didn't read this article, or watch the PS5 livestream.

Ray tracing is a thing and it's everything you want. RDNA2 allows the developer's all the tools to over-trace a scene, or not. Different use for different games, scenes environments, etc.

We are years away from photorealistic ray tracing, but what you aren't expecting in these new Consoles, is exactly what is in there. We are talking 300% better ray tracing than the 2080ti...