Sony confirms PlayStation 4's PC guts

Confirming the rumors that have been swirling for quite some time, Sony finally revealed today that its next-generation console is basically a PC. At a press event this afternoon, the PlayStation maker said the fourth incarnation of its iconic console will use a "supercharged PC architecture" built around an AMD processor with eight x86-compatible CPU cores and an "enhanced PC GPU." According to Ars Technica, the CPU and GPU components will share the same die and will be linked with 8GB of unified GDDR5 memory. Storage will be handled by a mechanical hard drive.

Sony hasn't revealed the pedigree of the processor's CPU or GPU components, although it claims the latter is capable of pushing two teraflops—a little more oomph than the Radeon HD 7850. The memory interface purportedly delivers 176GB/s of bandwidth, which is slightly better than the reference-clocked 7850's 154GB/s. Keep in mind that the GPU and CPU will be sharing that pipe, though. The 8GB of total memory capacity should be more than sufficient to run games at the 1080p resolution typical of modern TVs.

Appropriately, an Unreal Engine 4 demo was shown running on development hardware. Epic's engines power an awful lot of cross-platform games, and it's comforting to know that developers won't have to deal with vastly different hardware architectures when porting code between the PC and PS4. Hopefully, we'll see fewer poor-performing PC ports as a result.

The move to PC hardware has apparently complicated backward compatibility, because the new console will lean on Gaikai-based cloud streaming to play PS3 games. Users will be able to demo PS4 games using the streaming service, as well. Gaikai technology is also credited with improving the console's Remote Play feature for Sony's PlayStation Vita handheld, giving the PlayStation 4 an answer to Nvidia's Project Shield.

Accompanying the PlayStation 4 is a new DualShock controller that combines a pair of analog sticks with a touch panel and Move-style motion control. The controller's motion component appears to work in conjunction with a Kinect-style 3D camera that can also track waving appendages and awkward dance moves. I'd bet on that unit being an optional accessory rather than something that comes in the box.

We don't yet know how much the PlayStation 4 will cost, but you can expect it to hit store shelves this holiday season. The PlayStation 3 was released way back in 2006, putting seven years between that console and the next generation.

Update: AnandTech has confirmed that the processor's CPU cores are based on Jaguar, the low-power Bobcat replacement due out in PC guise later this year. Sorry, no Piledriver or Steamroller here. As we learned last February, up to four Jaguar cores will anchor Kabini, which AMD calls its "first real SoC." Kabini will be a 28-nm chip aimed at budget desktops and notebooks. It will be interesting to see if the PS4's shared GDDR5 interface persists in Jaguar's PC implementations.

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