Tech Analysis: Can The PS4 Pro Deliver ‘Native’ 4K In Modern Games?

Native 4K on the PS4 Pro may be possible with games build on outdated frameworks, but what about software that uses modern technology?

Posted By | On 13th, Sep. 2016 Under Article, Graphics Analysis

Sony’s console hardware plans have been, well, leaky, to say the least. We’ve known about the existence of a mid-cycle console refresh from Sony for the past several months, at least as far back as the massive Eurogamer leak on what was called the PlayStation Neo. Sony scheduled a conference on September 7th to talk about new hardware. The PlayStation 4 Pro wasn’t a surprise to anyone (although the name was: Pro, really? That’s swiping about the only original thing Apple’s done in recent times, which is to rename their high-end iPad SKUs.) Quite honestly, we like the sound of “PS4 Neo” a lot more than PlayStation 4 Pro–isn’t “professional” uh the very antithesis of leisure? But semantic quibbles aside, the PlayStation 4 Pro is here to stay. More significant is Sony’s 4K push with the PlayStation 4 Pro.

Earlier reports about the “Neo,” seemed to indicate that Sony had largely conceded the 4K console space to Microsoft, focusing instead on delivering a platform for richer 1080p experiences at higher framerates. However, with the PS4 Pro announcement, it seems that Sony’s angling towards Microsoft’s Scorpio pitch: largely identical visuals and framerate, just at higher resolutions. The question here, though, is whether the PlayStation 4 Pro, with its relatively modest 4.2 Teraflop GPU can hand in native 4K experiences.

The short answer? It can’t, at least apart from graphically unintensive titles or last gen/remastered titles like The Last of UsWe run a 980 Ti here that’s quite a bit more powerful than either Pro’s GPU or the upcoming Scorpio’s, and playable 4K gaming remains a challenge. Considering that the Polaris architecture uses more or less the same GCN cores we’ve seen in AMD parts since 2012, it becomes fairly straightforward to directly  compare the PlayStation 4 Pro’s specs with an equivalent PC build–teraflops do equal teraflops here as long as everyone’s on the same GCN boat. Before we proceed further, let’s quickly list out the Playstation 4 Pro’s key tech specs:

  • Processor: Eight-core processor at 2.1 GHz, on the Jaguar Architecture
  • GPU: Polaris 10-based GPU with 2304 shader cores, running at 911 MHz, offering 4.2 TFlops of compute power
  • RAM: 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM, with 216 GB/S of memory bandwidth

While the custom, eight-core Jaguar processor doesn’t quite have a clear parallel on the PC side of things, we’d expect performance–with perfect CPU scaling–to roughly double the Athlon 5370, which is a quad-core Jaguar part that operates at 2.2 GHz. In absolute terms, that’s a bit more CPU power than a Haswell i3. But, considering that current game engines continue to favour high IPC over multiple cores, the PS4 Pro’s CPU performance would more likely be in the vicinity of the FX-6300, which substantially bottlenecks PC games at framerates higher than 30 FPS.

While it’s debatable as to just how much low-level console optimizations can tilt the scales, CPU bottlenecking in PS4 titles offers ample evidence that the Jaguar-based processor seen here can and will hold back a relatively powerful GPU. With even Core i5’s suffering from stark CPU-bound framerate scaling in games like Fallout 4, we’d need something in the vicinity of a 100-150 percent increase in CPU power for bottlenecking to not be an issue. Considering power and thermal budgets, the only way this can be achieved is by deploying a newer, higher IPC architecture like Zen. As such, Sony’s decision to stick with Jaguar has a significant impact on the PlayStation 4 Pro’s 4K-readiness.

Current 60-FPS titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops III were clearly designed with the consoles’ CPU-side limitations in mind. As a result, the 4K treatment in these cases is more a factor of GPU power. In line with Activision’s presentation, we expect upscaled (not native) 4K Call of Duty titles to hit 60 FPS on the PlayStation 4 Pro. We’ll talk more about upscaling in the GPU section up next.  As for lighter titles like Overwatch, a native 4K/60 experience isn’t outside the realm of possibility. When it comes to more intensive titles–the kind that hit 1080p and 900p at 30 FPS on the PS4, the impact of CPU bottlenecking is less straightforward. The PS4 Pro’s GPU is fairly powerful, but, with even the Pascal Titan X struggling to deliver a 4K/60 FPS experience with all the bells and whistles, most PS4 Pro titles will likely continue to run at 30 FPS. Even in CPU-bound scenarios, this isn’t a particularly target to reach.

Ironically, where CPU  bottlenecking may have prevented a game from exceeding its 30 FPS cap at 1080p, GPU bottlenecking could very well enforce that cap when the Pro runs at higher resolutions. Because the PS4 Pro’s GPU isn’t quite powerful enough to hand in 4K/60 FPS experiences, a locked 30 FPS update would ameliorate the CPU bottlenecking issue. CPU bottlenecking generally causes minimum framerates to plummet in CPU-bound scenarios, such as the Corvega Assemply Plant in Fallout 4, where the PS4 hands in a sub-30 FPS update. As the Xbox One S–which featured a modestly upgraded GPU with no CPU increment–went to show, a faster GPU isn’t going to do much for  you in CPU-bound scenarios. As far as CPU bottlenecking is concerned, we believe the PS4 Pro will hand in broadly the same kind of experience as the PS4 with 30 FPS titles.

The PS4 Pro’s GPU upgrade is the singe most significant aspect. Based on the Polaris 10 GPU–the very same as the one powering the RX 480–the PS4 Pro’s GPU is more than twice as fast as its PS4 counterpart. The question of whether or not the PS4 Pro can do 4K gaming rests squarely on its GPU power. Because AMD carries forward its years-old GCN architecture with Polaris, it becomes possible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the PS4’s GPU to equivalent PC hardware. Unfortunately, conservative power budgeting means that the RX 480 isn’t the reference point here: The PS4 Pro runs its GPU at a much more conservative 911 MHz as compared to the 1266 MHz boost clock for the reference RX 480.

As a result, we’re looking at 30 percent lower performance, and at 4.2 Teraflops, that makes it just a hair faster than the 3.97 Teraflop R9 380X. Now, the 380X remains a fair option for 1080p gaming: drop down to console-equivalent settings, and you’ll be chasing 1080p/60 FPS in many cases. AMD also promotes the card as an entry-level option for 1440p gaming–in reality, this means toning down settings and making do with a 30 FPS lock. But in no way is the 380X a suitable card for 4K gaming in anything apart from the least intensive titles. So the 380X is a great performer at 1080p, and hands in a solid experience at 1440p. This puts it right in line with what we can expect of the PS4 Pro’s performance profile. But then why would Sony be targeting 4K gaming at all?

This is where Sony’s innovative “checkerboard” upscaling technique comes into play. We’ve seen the use of temporal reconstruction techniques in multiplats in the past, notably in Rainbow Six: Siege, and Quantum Break.  Essentially what’s being done here is that a lower resolution framebuffer is used (at 1280×720 in the case of Quantum Break on Xbox One). Frame data from multiple frames is extrapolated to increased perceived detail, and hardware AA is deployed to take care of aliasing. While the end result is noticeably softer than a native 1080p presentation, it offers objectively better image quality than a straight-up upscale. With the PlayStation 4 Pro, developers will make use of the 2×2 checkerboard technique, which obtains a 4×4 grid of pixels from a 2×2 grid of rendered pixels.

In order to output 4K, 2×2 checkerboard will utilise a 2688×1512 framebuffer, just a hair more than 1440p, which is the 30 FPS sweet spot for the PS4 Pro’s graphics component. The folks over at Digital Foundry spent some quality time with the PlayStation Pro 4, specifically with a build of Horizon Zero Dawn, operating at upscaled 4K.  One thing that piqued our interested was how Richard Leadbetter described the subjective image quality–while it was a definite step up from 1080p, it was “softer” than the native 4K presentation that a high end PC can output. This brings us to an interesting point, something we’ve noticed personally having fiddled with upscaling quite a bit to get a suitably playable experience on our 4K TV. The first point here is that upscaling quality has a lot to do with the quality of the upscaler. We have a budget 4K set, a 55-incher from Vu. The TV’s built-in upscaler producers horrifying results when upscaling 1080p content–1080p games upscaled to 4K look worse than SD quality video footage.

On the other hand, Nvidia’s GPU scaling option is near-transformative–1080p output in games like Dark Souls 3 looks a little softer than native 4K, with a bit more aliasing to deal with, but that’s about it. And 1440p upscaled to 4K looks even better, to the point that we’d have likely used that option for every game if it weren’t for the annoying fact that our TV only supports 60 Hz output at 1080p and 4K, but not in between. Our experience with seems to indicate that even plain old upscaling–none of that fancy checkerboard stuff–offers noticeably better image quality on a 4K panel, when upscaling from 1440p.

At the end of the day, irrespective of the post-process tricks you may or may not use, less pixel data means less pixel data. While we’ve yet to see the PS4 Pro’s reconstruction technique in action, we’ll not be setting our expectations too high at this point, considering the results we’ve already gotten used to seeing with standard upscaling from a 1440p source to 4K. What’s important to note here, though is that developers have been given quite a bit of leeway in terms of what they wish to accomplish in terms of resolution/framerate on the PS4 Pro. The only hard requirement is that games need to be running at at least 1080p. While a lot of 4K and upscaled titles were showcased at the September 7th event and later, the fact remains that the vast majority of people still have 1080p monitors/TVs, meaning that that is also where much of Sony’s market is.

What does this extra GPU power mean for people gaming at 1080p? Higher quality geometry, longer view distances, and more advanced visual techniques (like contact-hardening shadows) could make the Pro a viable proposition for people without 4K TVs, but, again, it’s up to developers to decide whether or not to deploy additional features.

The most likely scenario we see here is that PS4 Pro owners at 1080p will benefit from downsampling, which is running at higher than native resolutions and then scaling back down to comprehensively tackle aliasing. Just how much of a discernable impact this will make remains to be seen. Unlike MSAA, downsampling handles aliasing on everything, and that includes transparencies like fences and hair (don’t you just hate jaggies in characters’ hair?) The trouble, though, is that downsampling is substantially more expensive to implement than MSAA–after all, it literally involves running your game at a significantly higher resolution. As a result, while antialiasing coverage might be greater with downsampling, the actual anti-aliasing effect will be less pronounced since PS4 Pro titles will most likely downsample from 2x the resolution–a little higher than 1440p–compared to 4x MSAA, combined with post-process antialiasing.

Deferred renderers tend not to play nice with MSAA, but that’s another thing entirely. In any case, PS4 owners at 1080p might end up with the framerate and visuals, but just marginally better image quality. Nvidia DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution) and AMD VSR (Virtual Super Resolution) can give us a good idea of the potential image quality gains when downsampling on the PS4 Pro. While a 4x downsample (from 3840×2160 down to 1080p) undoubtedly offers fantastic AA coverage, a 2x downsample–more in line with what the PS4 Pro can offer–really can really feel like a waste of GPU power at times–much of your aliasing is still there and the only really noticeable side-effect is a reduced framerate.


The big question, though, is where will all this position the PS4 Pro in terms of the Xbox One S and the Xbox Scorpio? The PS4 Pro has a substantial headstart over the Scorpio–it’ll be in the market for several months before the Scorpio launches, giving Sony a tremendous early mover advantage. Pricing is also on its side, considering that the Pro debuts at the same competitive $399 pricepoint that we saw the original PS4 launch at. Considering the kind of hardware the Scorpio is set to pack, we find it hard to see Microsoft pricing its console any lower than this, with $450 or $499 being more likely pricepoints. The Pro is also dangerously close to the Xbox One S’s $350 retail price making that particular console even more irrelevant. The PS4 continues to sell like hotcakes, and if the market accepts the Pro as just another PS4 SKU, and not a separate console, we expect much of that momentum to rub off on the Pro–this should make itself evident in pre-order figures for the Pro.

We’ll update you here about that once we hear more. But again, the PS4 Pro’s 4K focus might just be its downfall–most people still game at 1080p, and, considering Sony’s commitment to ensuring that the PS4 and the Pro both retain gameplay parity, a lot of people might not see the need to shell out an extra $100 for what would be a largely identical experience. This policy might change later in the PS4’s life cycle, but as of now, the PS4 Pro simply doesn’t offer that much value for 1080p gamers, especially considering that a software update will enable standard PS4’s to support HDR as well. What remains to be seen is the kind of impact the Pro can make before the Xbox Scorpio hits the market.

What’s your take on the PS4 Pro? Let us know!

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  • kee1haul

    Indies and remasters.

  • Chuck

    “While we’ve yet to see the PS4 Pro’s reconstruction technique in action”….Do an update AFTER you have seen it in action and prepare to eat crow. Why even bother writing this article first?

    • Nintengods

      We’ve seen it.

      lol 26FPS, low draw distance, same low quality textures. Embarassing for the PS4 Prolapse

    • Chuck

      Way to show your intelligence genius. That link is not 4k, and you didn’t watch it on a 4k display. Also, the 26fps is for a game still in alpha development. Owned!

    • Nintengods

      The game is not 4K. It’s 1440P upscaled.

      Owned 🙂

    • Chuck

      Its 1440p upscaled to 4K. Okay I will try this again again for the slower people. I know the game isn’t 4k but in order to see the real enhancement, you need to be viewing the video on a 4k screen. Dont complain about the textures when u can’t see them. U with the rest of us now? Mmmkay. Good boy.

    • Nintengods

      I can view those low quality assets just fine with the official screenshots

      Owned again, Sonygimp. No one wants the PS4 Prolapse or it’s 24FPS fake 4K Patches

    • Chuck

      I’m now done talking to you so run along little mutt. I can tell when I’m amidst trailer trash.

    • Nintengods

      Run out of arguments all over again.

      Sonygimps are so easy to destroy. Upscaled 4K and smooth 24FPS. Can’t hide the stench of failure coming from the PS4 Prolapse 🙂

    • Arjun Krishna Lal

      Because I’ve seen temporal reconstruction in action in plenty of other titles, notable Quantum Break. At 1080p, while the temporal upscale is noticeably better than regular 720p, it’s very, very easy to notice that it’s not running at native resolution. This is more or less what the Pro does–the fundamental limit is that if you’re starting with a lower framebuffer (1440p), there’s just no way you can make pixel data appear out of thin air.

  • d0x360

    Sigh…no the GCN architecture doesn’t carry over it changes with every release and becomes more efficient with more features so more can be done with less.

    No the pros GPU does NOT equal anything in the 3xx series and that’s all because of GCN. The pro sits between the 470 and 480.

    To answer the question of the article accurately and simply. No it can’t run modern AAA games in native 4k. Can the amd 480? No it can’t so why would the pro?

    The current ps4 and xb1 can render simple games at native 4k but they would look like ps2 games so what’s the point…

    The pro will be great at enhancing 1080p games and that’s about it..well that and allowing for some really basic low level (compared to pc) vr. In fact the pro only exists because of psvr. The old ps4 is far too weak for vr so unless you buy a pro DO NOT buy psvr.

    You would be better off waiting for the Scorpio which will be able to run native 4k at 30fps without issue. It will also be great for pc quality VR.

    Sony made a big mistake with the pro especially releasing it, the slim and vr all at the same time.

    Lots of mother’s are gonna buy Slim’s when little Johnny asked for pro. Great job confusing the market Sony…with a pointless under powered product no less

    • Mark

      U make me wanna cryo-sleep for a….year. U think the Scorpio will use Zen? And does it need to?

    • d0x360

      But then you will miss out on the good games coming out starting pretty much now through March =P

    • Mark

      Mass Effect! Eh, do u think Scorpio will use Zen? Does it NEED it?

    • Chuck
    • Mark

      I did see that. I also read some from that article calling into question the author’s interpretation of the slides. And the other site was an Asian one so I couldn’t read it lol. Anyway I just wanna know like everyone else does!

    • d0x360

      I dunno if it will tbh and I haven’t seen anything saying it will but it makes sense especially since those Jaguar cores aren’t fast enough for 4k

    • Clint Hoffman

      This guy..right here nails the majority of the topics discussed.
      The only thing I would disagree with is the why the 4K is needed at all. Its a red herring. Push for super lush (and I mean a ton of detail) 1080p content that runs at a rock solid 60fps. That should be the ultimate focus.

      We should be demanding a 1080p image to look like a 1080p TV image…like you see in real life. Not striving for a 4k PS2 image. Barren but high pixel count…ugh.

      The whole 4k issue is just silly. Make the 1080p the best you’ve ever seen then buy a darn good quality up scaling TV and you are good for any single player game they make. Multiplayer FPS types will need to stick with a low input latency monitor.

    • d0x360

      Ty I appreciate that. I understand what you mean by having games be high quality at 1080p with a great frame rate but I’m still fully on the 4k bandwagon.

      That’s probably because I primarily play games on PC so I can already get the best 1080p offers. Going up to even 1440p can make room for alot more detail in a game. Think of it like this, the more pixels you have the more potential detail in an image.

      The problem is 4k adoption like 1080p adoption will be slow and its still expensive especially for a really good tv that doesn’t have lag.

      I probably wouldn’t care as much if I wasn’t already most of the way there. I have a Denon 4k Atmos receiver and I have a PC that’s already enthusiast grade and can hit 4k 30fps in certain games so really I just need the TV. There is however a but and that but is I don’t want 4k 30fps so I have to buy a new GPU as well and I’m thinking the Vega flagship card from amd will be where it’s at. If I’m wrong then I’ll buy whichever company meets my needs at a price I’m willing to pay and price is why I’m leaning AMD. Their cards performance to dollar value is unbeatable.

      For most people a solid 1080p experience is the sweet spot and you won’t hear me make fun of you for that. I’m fortunate in the fact that I can spend the money to be an early adopter.

      All that said I’m with you. I’d prefer a game running at 1080p with great visuals and a solid 60fps which the pro will sort of offer. It will be powerful enough to hit the resolution and frame rate target but if you were to compare it to the same game on PC the ps4 pro version would still be running on lower but still great looking settings. The problem is that’s not gonna be much of a difference from the current ps4. Really we are talking about buying a new console to hit 60fps and that’s crazy.

      That’s why I think the pro is silly and the Scorpio makes more sense. The Scorpio is pushing the level of power beyond the pc minimum for vr but the ps4 isn’t. The Scorpio is offering native 4k at 30fps while the pro is offer something like 1440 or even 1080p upscaled to 4k which isn’t going to produce a great looking image.

      So if you are a ps4 owner today I’d strongly advise either buying a Scorpio and getting the best console bang for your money or building a PC designed for 1080p 60fps using an AMD 480 and an AMD Zen CPU. Those are the 2 most expensive components and you’re probably looking at $400 for them combined. Not too bad for a pc that’s gonna be more powerful than the ps4 pro and due to dx12 and vulkan it will probably run games maxed out at 1080p for quite some time.

      Personally again I’d go Xbox because of the buy once play anywhere program. It’s a cool feature and if you own a console and pc or 2 consoles you can use them and a single copy of a game for coop or multiplayer with a friend in your house. My son and I play coop all the time in our 2 Xbox one’s. We couldn’t do that before because it meant buying 2 copies of every game but the Xbox family share feature does away with that nonsense.

    • maxinthefax

      remember the “smooth off/on” option when we used to play ps1 games on ps2?

      I hear you.

    • Guest

      Actually he’s wrong when he says that Scorpio will do native 4K, I mean don’t get me wrong, some games will be native (simpler games, heck even the Pro can do that), but the majority will be upscaled too.

    • TPoppaPuff

      I agree that focus should be on richer graphics rather than higher resolution. With that said, Scorpio is not going to be any more capavble of higher framerates than PS4 Pro because they aren’t going to run an “8 core” (2×4-core) AMD CPU at the 3.4GHz minimum necessary to achieve 60 fps on all titles. Yes, each game is different and have different hardware needs, but the only realistic way to turn X1 games from 30-60 is to double the GPU (Scorpio) and double the CPU. And I promise you MS isn’t going to have a CPU over 3GHz again. Not only is it expensive but they realize the cost of overheating consoles and it was about $1 Billion. You’d basically have to build a gaming PC with a giant chassis and still treat it as a PC and unlike a console and nobody wants a console the size of a gaming rig. We’ve seen the response to the X1’s size already and that’s about half as big as we’re talking. With proper ventillation it’s not a problem, but proper ventillation does not equate to sitting in a TV stand with 4 inch tall shelves and glass doors on the front like most places you’d find a console.

      It won’t happen soon, but I like your ideals.

    • Guest

      You was doing alright, until you drop this little nugget of stupidity, “You would be better off waiting for the Scorpio which will be able to run native 4k at 30fps without issue.” I’m sorry b ut you’re an idiot if you actually believe that bullsh’t. The Scorpio will also be doing upscaling on I’d say more than half its games, probably more than 75% of its games. And it’ll cost you more and make you wait longer for it. Plus, whats the point of a Scorpio when all the Xbox exclusives are coming to the PC anyways? Where they’ll look and play better.

    • d0x360

      Oh Jesus guest get a life. I’m not reading your nonsense so don’t bother writing it

    • Guest

      Then why did you respond? You’re so fake. Now pretend some more. And whats the matter? Cant except the truth? You know damn well that Scorpio is not t rue 4k machine either, so don’t act all hurt.

    • d0x360

      All I need to see is guest and the first sentence. That’s why you got a response. You wont get another.

      If you knew even the slightest crumb of what you were talking about and you didn’t act like an 8 year old and immediately jump to calling people names then maybe we could have a conversation.

      Regardless I’m quite sure when people read my posts then yours it will be pretty obvious who the idiot is.


    • TPoppaPuff

      Actually you’re better off buying both Pro and Scorpio then you can save time from trying to defend your single console purchase on forums. 😉

      Scorpio would be highly wise to figure out how to implement Pro’s scaler so that they can use that 6 teraflops on something useful instead of wasting all those teraflops on a resolution boost. I’d rather have richer graphics at fake 4K than Xbox One graphics at 4K. That’s a no brainer.

    • Arjun Krishna Lal

      Uh…AMD claims a roughly 15 percent architectural gain with GCN 4, but if you do the math you find that this is a, well, hypothetical best-case. Most benchmarks show the 480 as being a good deal slower than the 390X, more in line with the 390. Now even supposing that they performed identically, let’s look at the math: in shader-bound scenarios, 2816 GCN cores running at 1050 MHz (in the 390X) perform roughly equal to 2304 GCN cores at 1266 MHz (in the 480). the clockspeed uplift alone (from 1050 to 1266 MHz), is 20 percent. To normalise GCN core performance clock for clock, multiply 2304 x 1.2. At the same clockspeed, 2764 GCN 4 cores would deliver the same shading performance as 2816 GCN cores. Even in a scenario where the RX 480 equals the 390X (which it doesn’t, in most cases) that would translate into a roughly 2 percent increment in GCN performance due to architectural gains. Although the 480 has lower memory bandwidth (and one could claim that greater shading performance from supposedly more efficient GCN cores could offset this), AMD themselves claim that effective bandwidth gain thanks to color compression is around 30 percent. This would largely negate the 390X memory bandwidth advantage, at least at 1080p. As such, the comparison to a GCN 1.2 part stands. You’d mentioned that GCN architectural improvements are noticeable from generation to generation, but here also, I think the benches say otherwise: The R9 380X is a Tonga (GCN 1.2) part with the same of shaders as the 7970/280X, at more or less the same clockspeed, and slightly lower memory bandwidth. It performs slightly worse than the older 7970 based on GCN 1.0. Also, it’d also be inaccurate to see the Pro as performing in between the 470 and the 480. The 470 is a very slightly cut-down 480, running at slightly lower clocks (the AIB versions are actually above stock 480 clocks) but with 12 percent fewer shader cores–every else is untouched. It hands in near-equal figures to the 4 GB RX 480.Clockspeed makes a huge difference here: at 911 MHz, the PS4 Pro is clocked 26 percent above the reference 470. Even factoring in the 470’s shader core deficit, we’re still talking about the 470–not the 480–offering substantially more performance than the PS4 pro’s GPU. About VR, I’m kinda wondering the same thing: the PS4 Pro is so much better suited to offering high quality 1080/60 VR experiences than the original PS4. But Sony claims that ALL PS4 Pro content has to also work on the PS4. That means, at least for the foreseeable future, whatever VR content we’ll see on the Pro will be constrained due to having to support the original PS4.

    • d0x360

      While I appreciate the effort you aren’t talking to the right person. The 480 is a budget card the 390 is not.

      A 290x can match the 480 in alot of games. The 290x still isn’t $200 today.
      GCN is essentially a way to name their fab process and instruction set. That’s it. It’s a marketing buzzword that actually means something

    • Arjun Krishna Lal

      Well yes. It’s what AMD calls the various revisions of the core architecture it’s deployed since 2012 with the 7970, succeeding VLIW4 used in the 6xxx series. There are multiple revisions of GCN, and these revisions have to do with both incremental improvements to the architecture, including in the underlying logic. What I was bringing into focus here is, whether or not there is a tangible performance difference between GCN revisions. I’ve had a 390X and a 480 (and a 380X) to test at various points of time. There is a direct correlation between clockspeed, the number of shader cores, and your framerate at the end of the day. (duh). If all other factors are the same and if you run two GPUs at the same clockspeed with the same number of shaders (or normalise for the number of shaders with a bit of division), then if there is any difference in performance, you can ascribe that to gains in architectural efficiency. If I run my both my 980 Ti and my old 780 Ti at 1058 MHz, I will get ~50 percent higher framerates with the 980 Ti, despite the fact that both have a near-identical number of shaders and nearly the same memory bandwidth. Why? Because of a substantial change in the underlying core architecture. Applying that same logic here: In shader-bound scenarios, the 480 equals the 390X when you normalise for the number of shader cores and clockspeed. If a Polaris part had 2816 cores and ran at the same clockspeed as the 390X/290X, it would perform almost exactly the same. If a Polaris part had 2048 cores and ran at the same clockspeeds, it would perform almost exactly the same as a 380X. The 380X performs identically to the 280X/7970 in shader-bound scenarios. What does that say? It means yes, you can make an apples-to-apples comparison between a 380X, a 390X, a 480, and whatever else has been in AMD’s entire product portfolio for the past four and a half years. As for the 290x not being a $200 part. Die size correlates to manufacturing cost. Because transistors are obviously smaller at the 14nm process than at 28nm, a die with the same number of cores will cost less, because it’s smaller and therefore cheaper. Hawaii is twice the size of Polaris 10. In terms of economics, higher yields, experience (not having to spend hundreds of millions on designing a new architecture) and economies of scale could bring the marginal cost of one Hawaii GPU down a bit, but it will never be as cheap to produce as Polaris 10. That’s why a 290X will never cost $200 unless it’s old stock no one wants. Which is why they no longer manufacture Hawaii since it is obsolete from a price/performance perspective. Whether or not a card is a “budget” or a flagship card has nothing at all to with how it performs in absolute terms. Newer budget parts obviously perform higher than older parts in higher price brackets. It’s also entirely up to the company to decide what’s a budget product and what isn’t. A Oneplus 3 costs roughly the same as many midrange or “budget” phones. But it features a premium build and top-of-the-line specs. Oneplus makes that work for them by using a just-in-time production model and focusing on online, as opposed to convention promotions. AMD is making the 480 work for them at $200 by swallowing slightly smaller margins per unit to reach out to a bigger market so it’s certainly fair to compare it to flagships from one or two years ago.

    • d0x360

      I understand what you are saying but directly comparing performance between their GCN generations is extremely difficult.

      Reason being is amd doesn’t do what nvidia does which is release a card on all parts of the spectrum. How many flagship cards has amd released in the last 4 years?

      I’d argue that answer is 2. The 290x and the Fury. Everything else has been more budget friendly and more of a refined version of previous cards. They have used the newer revisions of GCN to get better performance out of older hardware. The 390 is essentially the 290 with a GCN revision and that’s all. It got its performance boost there.

      Back to comparing generation’s and why it’s difficult…it’s because like I said amd doesn’t do what I would consider a flagship card every generation. So there isn’t a new 290x or Furyx on a consistent basis that also corresponds to a new generation of GCN. It’s hard to put my thoughts into words here because it’s a complex question.

      I think if you changed their sales model and they only (for example) made 1 card every year and that card had a new version of GCN you would be able to see the difference a little easier but since there is no like for like card it’s difficult.

      Also remember GCN is also about their focus on improving their api support. You notice through each revision dx11 performance grows where before amd was waaaay behind. They also have great support for dx12 and vulkan and have had that support for a very long time, much longer than nvidia which means older cards like the 2xx series will suddenly become relevant again with new api. My 290x went from being able to run doom at 1080p with almost everything on ultra at 60fps with some slight dips…then vulkan hit and I was able to raise AA, tessellation and also bring everything in game to its highest setting as well as jump to 1440p and I was seeing over 130fps.

      Same goes for Mankind Divided. I was getting a nearly solid 60 at 1080p with everything maxed except textures because it says above high you need more than 4 gigs of vram and setting it to even very high would drop me to 30..that’s a 50% loss in performance under dx11.

      Once the dx12 update went live I was able to again bump resolution to 1440p but even better I was able to set textures to ultra and still get a locked 60 with zero dips (vsync enabled). So GCN does mean something it’s just hard to quantify especially across revisions.

    • Arjun Krishna Lal

      I’d still think though that, at least with AMD, what constitutes a flagship isn’t as hard and fast as with NV. They could well be selling the 480 on a minimal margin or even as a loss-leader because they badly want to generate sales volume. The 480’s in an awkward position because of this. If it was at 28nm, it’d have been a much larger GPU than normal for a midranger, and similar in size with Hawaii/Grenada. Also, just my two cents, but wasn’t the 390X/290X performance difference mostly due to better thermal management and that 50 MHz clockspeed bump? Haven’t had a 290X but I hear they throttled horribly. In contrast the Strix 390X I had stuck very closely to its rated clockspeed. A 10-15 percent performance difference here could simply be because the 290X spends most of its time throttled down to 900ish MHz. What’s your experience? HardOCP apparently did a test along the lines I’d mentioned–they underclocked the 390X’s core and memory clocks to match a 290X, then compared it to a 290X

      There’s a 1 FPS difference, which is close to the 2 percent figure I’d mentioned earlier 😛

      As for the performance differences across revisions, would be very interesting to see how that plays out with more DX12 titles coming out. Also, how are you getting Mankind Divided to run at a solid 60? I get horrible stutter every time I head outdoors, at 1080p.

  • Luke Skywalker

    I believe they’ll do a good job with their up scaling technique.

  • Mark

    Arjun! Arjun! Arjun! Ahaha. All that dam tech talk on top of amazing music was hypnotizing!

  • TheOC

    I’m sure Pac Man classics will look great on the Pro in 4K.

  • Riggybro

    Xbox Scorpio does not exist yet.

    eg. – Scorpio is weaker than PS5… so…?

    • Guest

      The Scorpio wont do native 4K either, as a Titan struggles to do much better than 4K/30fps and that’s a 9TF card.

    • d0x360

      My 290x does 4k 30fps in Witcher 3 and about 78 fps in Doom..wrong again chum

      Damnit I replied…sorry I won’t again my mistake I just saw some more bs info I had to correct.

    • Riggybro


      Phil Spencer himself has said Scorpio will be in the GTX 980 ballpark so that’s barely scrapping 4K at mid-settings 30fps (of course it will also depend if they cheap out on the CPU again too).

  • maxinthefax

    A very good read.

  • Guest

    You comment is a epic failure, as the 1S is still just doing regular plain old upscaling of a mainly 720/900p image to 4K where as the Pro is doing a newer better version of upscaling (called checkerboarding, through hardware not software) from a much higher resolution. So reality is going to b’tch slap the stupidity out of you when you realize that the Pro smokes the sh’tty and lowly 1S. Heck the PS4 smokes it. Typical uneducated thug.

  • TPoppaPuff

    Can’t you find anything to do other than post hate posts against a console? Looked at your profile; literally all of your posts have to do with how much you hate Sony. Don’t you have anything better to do, DaChickenHead?

  • TPoppaPuff

    This article asks a silly question. Does that make it clickbait?

  • Mr Xrat

    Kirk waiting a year. Kirk has no exclusives. Kirk’s next dust collector will also struggle with 4K and be over $600. Poor Kirk.

    • Nintengods

      No exclusives. Arguing with xcucks over who has the worst box. About to be destroyed by Nintendo

      Poor P$4 cucks

    • Ucouldntbemorewrong

      Back to the basement, and latch your self to that old cast iron radiator!

    • Nintengods

      Hiding behind alts because Sonygimps have no games.


  • Mr Xrat

    It’ll do it the same way MS manages to do 1080p on the Shitbox Done with its few, mediocre exclusives: compromises on fidelity and effects. More advanced games will end up rendering above 1440p.

    • Nintengods

      Same low textures. Same low settings. Same low framerates as the regular P$4. Same crying and blaming the cuckbox for $ony’s failures as usual.

      The P$4 Prolapse is just embarrassing like $ony’s TGS show of games coming to PC.

      Tick Tock. NX reveal in October. The end of $ony is on the way 🙂

    • James Fitzgerald

      If you think the NX is going to do gang buster sells I think you’re going to be disappointed.

    • orion

      ahaha damn right

  • James Fitzgerald

    My take is if you already own a Ps4 there is no need to buy a Pro. As the article suggests the Pro is really a waste of money for both groups whether that is 1080p or 4k. Id just start saving for ps5 or Scorpio as Scorpio drops 2017 and PS5 will likely be annouced E3 2018 or ar Playstation experience 2018.

  • Terminator

    Of course it can’t and Sony still thinks it can compete against PC lol

  • DarthDiggler

    @kirkdaroostergordon:disqus Its cute that you think people care about your opinion.

  • Manoj Varughese

    PS4 Pro is simply going to continue the dominating.

  • Manoj Varughese

    Pro will do both native and upscaling depending on the intensity of graphics, Xbox One S can only do the upscaling, but we don’t how much it will screw graphically at half the GPU power when it isn’t supposed to be attempting so from the lower res. There was a feedback on Youtube where someone who experienced that upscaling via the xbox slim console felt like vaseline spread all over his effin 4k screen. That cracked me up so hard. And the most screwed up thing is an effin 4K blu-ray player that can’t bitstream audio to the capacity of previous gen PS3 console. Good luck with that piece of crap. A gimped 4K gaming device as well as a 4K Blu-Ray player released to compete with the Pro. Wow Microsoft!

  • Alex Proctor

    Why is no one reporting that the Scorpio won’t be native 4K either? I have a GTX 1070 which is a 6 teraflop chip similar to Scorpio and it cannot run 4K at 60fps. In fact even the GTX 1080 which is a 9 teraflop chip cannot run 4K 60fps. So the reality is Microsoft and Scorpio will use similar techniques to the PS4 Pro to fill the 4K screen. The question is since most Gamers can truly tell the difference between a GTX 1070 and an AMD RX 480 which corresponds to the PS4 Pro why does Microsoft think the difference between Scorpio and PS4 Pro will be easily visible? The fact is with PS4 is overwhelming exclusives and quicker time-to-market Scorpio is Dead on Arrival.

    • Arjun Krishna Lal

      Because the target’s 4K/30 in most cases. If you’re reasonable with your settings, (medium-low) that’s something that a 390X/RX 480 can manage.

  • Hvd

    no it cant i have a r9 380x it takes a r9 390x or 290x to do 4k/30fps on pc.the ps4 pro mite have the same tflops but its clocked slower then the video card.there is also the 5 year old jaguar cpu thats in to compared to a newish cpu.which means bottleneck

    my pc is a r9 380x,fx 6350 and 8 gb of ddr3 and the ps4 pro is still weaker then this and i have a mid range pc.i just can wait untill after the xbox scorpio launches then get a gpu after and it will be stronger then both consoles.

    the gpus coming out after vega will destroy these consoles when they launch.i can buy a mid range gpu in 2 more years and it would destroy both consoles for only $250.

    consoles will always be behind a pc mid range gpu.


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