PlayStation 5 gets a GPU with 36 cu’s at 2.3GHz and 825GB SSD that reaches 5.5GB/s

Sony equips its PlayStation 5 with a GPU with 36 compute units. That is less than the 52 cu’s of the Xbox Series X, but in the PS5 the GPU is clocked higher. The computing power comes down to 10.3tflops. Sony uses Zen 2 cores that reach a maximum of 3.5GHz.

Just like the Xbox Series X, Sony uses a chip made by AMD for the PlayStation 5 with the cpu and gpu on it. The Sony console will not have the same chip, according to the specifications announced by system architect Mark Cerny in a presentation on YouTube. Sony opts for a GPU based on AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture with 36 compute units, which achieve a speed of up to 2.23GHz. This gives the console 10.3 tflops of processing power, a small 2 tflops less than what Microsoft specifies for the Xbox Series X.

The eight CPU cores of the chip in the PlayStation 5 are, just like the Xbox Series X, based on AMD’s Zen 2 architecture. Sony opts for a variable clock speed and a maximum of 3.5GHz. That speed would also be achieved in most circumstances, but under certain circumstances the speed can be reduced.

Microsoft states that the CPU and GPU of the Xbox Series X has fixed clock speeds, which are always achieved, so Sony opts for a different approach. According to Cerny, the console works with a power budget. The consumption is constant, but depending on the load, the clock speeds are higher or lower. This approach allows the higher clock speed of the GPU and, according to Cerny, provides several advantages.

Sony’s hardware expert mentions as an example a theoretical gpu with 36 cu’s at 1GHz and an alternative with 48 cu’s at 750MHz. Both GPUs have the same computing power of 4.6tflops, but that calculation is only made on the basis of the vector-alu’s. The higher clocked GPU benefits from the higher clock speed in other areas, such as rasterisation and command buffer processing. Also, the L1 and L2 caches achieve higher speeds due to the clock speed.

The GPU in the PlayStation 5 is based on AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture and includes hardware acceleration for ray tracing. Sony calls it the Intersection Engine, and according to Cerny, the same strategy is being used as the upcoming RDNA 2 video cards for PCs. Details are not yet known, but the wording makes it clear that this is a full hardware implementation of ray tracing, on the chip itself and not on an external part, which was rumored to be.

Sony places a lot of emphasis on the SSD in the presentation. According to Cerny, that’s something the developers have been asking for the most. Sony uses a custom PCI-E 4.0 SSD with a capacity of 825GB that achieves a speed of 5.5GB/s without compression. With compression, that goes up to 8 to 9GB/s. This makes the SSD more than twice as fast as the copy that Microsoft uses in its Xbox Series X.

The SSD should eliminate loading times and make things like fast travel in games almost instant. Sony combines the soc with 16GB gddr6 with a 256-bit memory bus. This brings the memory bandwidth to 448GB/s. Cerny notes that it is not a very big improvement compared to the previous generation, but states that this is not necessary due to the extremely fast SSD. The fast ssd makes it possible to quickly retrieve a lot of data from the ssd and put it in the memory; in practice this should yield huge benefits for game developers.

Gamers can expand the storage capacity of the PS5 with regular m2 NVME SSDs. However, there are currently no PCI-e 4.0 SSDs available that achieve the same speed. However, slower SSDs are not a problem when playing PlayStation 4 games, for example. Games made specifically for the PlayStation 5 must be run from the internal SSD. There will be a list of SSDs that are compatible; that will depend in particular on the format.

The chip in the PS5 has support for 3D audio, Sony calls it the Tempest Engine. According to Cerny, this makes it possible to display audio in a much more focused way and players will therefore be ‘in the middle of the game’. Sony actually uses a modified compute unit of the GPU for these tasks, the operation is similar to the Synergistic Processor Unit that Sony used in the PlayStation 3 for audio. The 3D audio should be noticeable with all kinds of speakers, including stereo setups and headphones.

Sony did not show the console in its presentation. However, Eurogamer already writes that it has received more information about the PlayStation 5 and will publish more about it soon. Sony’s presentation follows a few days after Microsoft unveiled the technical details of the Xbox Series X. Both consoles will be released in the fourth quarter of this year and no price has yet been announced for either model.

console Xbox Series X Playstation 5 PlayStation 4 Pro Xbox One X
Processor 8 custom Zen 2 cores with smt 8 custom Zen 2 cores with smt 8 custom Jaguar cores 8 custom Jaguar cores
CPU speed 3.8GHz (3.66GHz with SMT) 3.5GHz (variable) 2.13GHz 2.3GHz
GPU 52 Cus @ 1825MHz 36 cu’s @ 2.23GHz (variable) 36 cu’s @ 911MHz 40 cu’s @ 1172MHz
GPU architecture Custom RDNA 2 Custom RDNA 2 Custom GCN + Polaris Custom GCN + Polaris
GPU computing power 12.15Tflops 10.28Tflops 4.2Tflops 6Tflops
Die format 360.45mm² Unknown 325mm2 366.94mm²
Process TSMC 7nm enhanced TSMC 7nm (unconfirmed) TSMC 16nm TSMC 16nm
Memory 16GB gddr6, 320bit 16GB gddr6, 256bit 8GB gddr5 12GB gddr5
Memory bandwidth 10GB @ 560GB/s
6GB @ 336GB/s
448GB/s 218GB/s 326GB/s
Storage 1TB, ‘custom nvme-pci-e 4.0 SSD’ 825GB, ‘custom PCI-E 4.0 SSD’ 1TB HDD 1TB HDD
I/o throughput 2.4GB/s (raw), 4.8GB/s (compressed) 5.5GB/s (raw), 9GB/s (compressed) 50-100MB/s 120MB/s
Expandable Storage 1TB Expansion Card M2 NVME SSDs USB HDD or SSD USB HDD or SSD
Optical drive Blu-ray (4K UHD) Blu-ray (4K UHD) Blu-ray Blu-ray (4K UHD)
Performance target 4k @ 60fps, up to 120fps 4k @ 60fps, up to 120fps 4k @ 30fps 4k @ 30fps, up to 60fps