Earlier today, Sony live-streamed a conference aimed at highlighting the hardware specs of the PlayStation 5. This conference was headed by PS5 lead system architect, Mark Cerny. A lot was presented to us in 52 minutes, so here is what you need to know from “The Road to the PS5”.
Listening to Developers: A Stronger SSD
When developing the PS5, Sony designers ventured out and talked to game developers, Specifically, to ask them what they want to see in the next-generation PlayStation console. The answer seemed to be unanimous: a powerful SSD (Solid-state Drive). A capable hard drive inside of the console was crucial in the next generation’s design. Likewise, Cerny finally confirmed what Sony had been teasing for a while: the PS5 will have instant loading times thanks to its SSD’s 5.5GB/s loading capability. This will result in no more loading screens, design freedom for developers, more game space on disks and the SSD, and lengthy patch installations will be a thing of the past.
Additionally, Cerny noted that the SSD was just one piece of the puzzle. He later elaborated on how the team behind the PS5 has been addressing every bottleneck to ensure that game loading and streaming is 100x faster with their SSD. Furthermore, there will be options for users down the line to purchase and install backup hard drives if they want extra storage space.
Balancing Evolution and Revolution
Another big aspect of the PS5’s development is balancing evolution and revolution. One evolution is power consumption. Cerny admitted that previous PlayStation systems haven’t always been the best with power consumption in regards to heat and fans. Previously, development teams have had to estimate the highest power level that different games could potentially use. If they get it right, fan noise is minimal. Get it wrong, and the fan can be loud in addition to the possibility of the system overheating. So with the PS5, Cerny and his team decided to go in a new direction: continuously run the CPU and GPU at constant power and let the frequency fluctuate depending on the workload. This way, console designers no longer need to guess what power level games may run at. Likewise, a cooling solution has been developed for this constant power level to ensure that no over-heating or fan-pushing occurs.
An additional feature that was treated as a key need throughout the PS5’s design process is backwards compatibility. This remains one of the most highly demanded features by gamers and developers alike. The PS5’s CPU is backward compatible with the CPU of the PlayStation 4; however, not every PS4 title will be backward compatible with the PS5 at launch. Cerny stated that testing PS4 titles at boosted capacities for backwards compatibility has been a title by title basis. It was announced that almost all of the 100 most popular PS4 titles should be playable at the PS5’s launch. So if you’re itching to replay God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, or even Grand Theft Auto V on the PS5, you’re in luck.
Finding New Dreams: 3D Sound
One of the biggest dreams for the PS5 is 3D sound. On the PS4, audio received only a fraction of the CPU core. The team behind the PS5 wanted to vastly expand that. Their goals: create audio for everyone (VR, soundbar, headphones, etc.), support hundreds of sound sources, and take on the challenge of presence and locality. To achieve these three sound goals, a custom hardware unit had to be built: the Tempest Engine. This engine will help create dimensionally immersive 3D audio that will make you feel like you physically in the game. This immersion is achieved by HRTF (head-related transfer function), which is how an ear receives and hears sound from a specific point in space. However, similar to a fingerprint, everyone’s HRTF is slightly different. And it’s Sony’s goal to create the best 3D sound experience for every gamer. HRTF selection and synthesis are going to be features that the PS5 team will continue to develop. At launch, 5 different HRTF options will be available. This will allow you to chose the most immersive 3D sound experience that best fits your ears.
Cerny closed the presentation with his excitement of seeing how developers use these key PS5 features in their future games. Ultimately, this conference was just the hardware and design aspects of the PS5. While it was incredibly informative, we didn’t get further information about price points or a defined release date. Cerny stated during his presentation that the PS5 is still projected to be released at the end of this year (during the 2020 Holiday season). However, with the current state of COVID-19 and the effects it has had on manufacturing and development around the world, this may be up in the air. Which of these new features are you excited about in the PS5? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!