PlayStation 5 hardware specifications revealed

Nearly a year after Sony first began discussing its next-generation console, the company provided detailed information on the PlayStation 5’s system architecture in a dry technical presentation on Wednesday by Mark Cerny, lead system architect for both the PlayStation 4 and PS5. The livestreamed talk was accompanied by an in-depth Digital Foundry piece based on an interview with Cerny.

During the presentation, Cerny said the CPU will feature eight Zen 2 cores with a variable frequency up to 3.5 GHz, and the GPU will be “a custom AMD GPU based on their RDNA 2 technology.” The peak GPU performance will be 10.28 teraflops, based on 36 compute units running at up to 2.23 GHz.

While the technical capability of the PS5’s hardware falls short of the 12 teraflops of GPU performance that Microsoft is packing into the Xbox Series X, the next-gen consoles will not be defined solely by raw power output. For one thing, the PS5’s processing hardware is much more efficient than the PS4’s, so a single compute unit delivers more performance. Cerny said that the PS5’s 36 compute units are roughly equivalent to 56 PS4 compute units, since the PS5 compute units have 62% more transistors.

“The change to a variable-frequency approach will show significant gains for gamers,” said Cerny during the presentation.

Perhaps the most significant component of the PS5 is that the console’s internal storage will be a solid-state drive. In interviews last year, Cerny said that Sony has built custom software and connectivity for the console’s SSD to enable vast improvements in loading times and in generating game environments. Cerny confirmed that the drive, which will offer 825 GB of storage, will connect via the PCIe 4.0 interface.

PS5 owners will be able to expand the system’s internal storage by buying some off-the-shelf PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSDs and installing them in an expansion bay in the console. However, there are caveats — Sony is undertaking a certification program, since the drives must meet or exceed the speed of the console’s internal SSD and must fit within the bay. The certification is “likely to be a bit past [the PS5 launch],” said Cerny, so don’t go buying any SSDs just yet.

PlayStation 5 hardware specifications

CPUeight AMD Zen 2 cores at up to 3.5 GHz
GPU10.28 teraflops / 36 compute units at 2.23 GHz
GPU architecturecustom AMD RDNA 2
Memory / interface16 GB GDDR6 / 256-bit
Memory bandwidth448 GB/s
Internal storagecustom 825 GB SSD
I/O throughput5.5 GB/s (raw), typical 8-9 GB/s (compressed)
Expandable storageNVMe SSD slot
External storageUSB hard drive support
Optical drive4K Blu-ray

Cerny also focused on the PS5’s audio capabilities. Sony built a custom hardware unit for 3D audio that it calls Tempest 3D AudioTech. This was partly because of the company’s specific goals with audio, which precluded the use of existing object-based audio solutions such as Dolby Atmos. (Cerny also noted that Sony wanted the PS5’s 3D audio to be available to all users, not just those with headphones or sound systems with support for a licensed standard such as Dolby Atmos.)

“Headphone audio is the current gold standard for 3D audio on PlayStation 5,” said Cerny, adding that Sony is working on 3D audio via sound systems and virtual surround delivered through TV speakers. He added that because Tempest 3D AudioTech’s positional sound is based on a mechanism known as the head-related transfer function (HRTF) that is different for every human being — it’s like a fingerprint — the PS5 will allow users to choose between five different HRTF settings to get the best 3D audio experience.

The PS5 will offer hardware acceleration for real-time ray tracing via the same technology powering AMD’s upcoming PC graphics cards, Cerny said. Sony previously said the PS5 will support gaming in 4K resolution at up to 120 frames per second. And the console will be fully backward-compatible with PS4 games, although Sony has not yet provided details on how that will work. Cerny did say that Sony expects the PS5 will be able to run “almost all” of the 100 most popular PS4 games when the console launches this fall. And users can hook up a USB external hard drive to the PS5 and run PS4 games off of it.

Sony is planning to launch the PS5 in the 2020 holiday season, which is the same release window that Microsoft has given for the Xbox Series X.

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