With rumours suggesting that the PS5 might cost $399, what sort of specs can we expect Sony’s next-gen console to offer?
It seems like only yesterday that Sony formally unveiled the PS4 at its PlayStation Event in 2013. Now, nearly seven years later, we’re mere months away from the arrival of the PlayStation 5, Sony’s entry in the ninth-gen console war. One title, Godfall, has already been confirmed for the platform and was showcased at The Game Awards. Undoubtedly, we’ll see more PlayStation 5 footage in the days to come.
But what about the hardware inside? Both Sony and Microsoft have been strangely forthcoming this generation about the internals in their respective consoles. This, combined with recent leaks gives us a reasonable idea of how much processing and graphics power the PS5 will feature. With reports indicating that Sony will likely target the $399 price-point, similar to the PS4, it’s important to temper expectations with the reality of hardware pricing. What’s the most likely configuration for a $399 PlayStation 5? Let’s take a look:
CPU: 8-core Zen 2 CPU, clocked in the 3 GHz range
Both Sony and Microsoft have made it amply clear exactly what kind of processor they’ll be using. The PS5 is set to feature an eight-core processor built on AMD’s Zen 2 CPU architecture. We haven’t yet gotten official confirmation about clockspeeds. However, we can make a reasonably informed guess based on power draw figures and clocks for existing Zen 2 parts. Considering the relative conservative power limits on consoles, it makes the most sense to look towards AMD’s Zen 2 mobile APUs, recently unveiled by the company at their CES 2020 keynote. AMD’s upcoming Ryzen 7 4800HS offers a good frame of reference.
This mobile APU features 8 Zen 2 cores and 16 threads, with a base clock of 2.9 GHz and a max boost of 4.2 GHz, all within a 35W power envelope. The lower power figures mean that the 4800HS is likely to spend most of its time around the 3 GHz mark. For consistency, we expect the console processors to ship with locked clock frequencies. It’s reasonable to expect the PS5’s eight-core Zen 2 CPU to come clocked at between 3-3.5 GHz. Factoring in the IPC gains and 2x clockspeed uplift relative to the base PS4, this represents a staggering increase in processing power.
GPU: 36 CU Navi GPU, clocked in the 1.8-2.0 GHz range
A leak on Github showcased seemingly reliable performance testing figures for the PS5 and references the console as having a 36 CU GPU, based on the Navi architecture. This (obviously) hasn’t been officially confirmed. However, publications have independently verified the veracity of the leak. A 36 CU GPU with 448 GB/s of bandwidth puts in very familiar territory vis-a-vis graphics performance. This is the same hardware configuration found in the vanilla RX 5700.
What’s interesting, though, is the leak’s claim that the PS5 GPU will hit 2.0 GHz. While aftermarket Navi 10 cards can be overclocked to the 2 GHz range, no shipping Navi product is clocked that high at stock. Improved yields and efficiencies could mean that AMD can clock the PS5 GPU that high. If this is the case, the PS5 might potentially deliver graphics performance that’s closer to the 5700 XT than the vanilla 5700. This would put it within spitting distance of the GTX 1080 Ti and would mean that 4K gaming–without excessive compromise could become a reality. An ample 448 GB/s of memory bandwidth would also help the console scale to higher resolutions.
Memory: 16 GB of GDDR6 at 448 GB/s
Sony surprised gamers and critics alike in 2013 when it outed the PS4 with fast-for-the-time GDDR5 memory and 176 GB/s of bandwidth. High memory bandwidth is particularly important at higher resolutions: the PS4 Pro boasts a 24 percent uptick to bandwidth. Leaked specs for the PS5 indicate that it will feature 448 GB/s GDDR6, similar to existing Navi 10 parts. Because the consoles feature shared memory pools, we expect to see 16 GB of GDDR6 in total. This would free up 8-10 GB of memory for the GPU. While 24 GB is ideal, it would be stretch to feature that much GDDR6 at the $399 price point. We suspect that, similar to the situation with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, the PS5 will likely utilize lower-res textures at high resolutions to compensate for a relatively limited memory configuration.
Storage: 1TB and 2TB variants at 6000 MB/s+ read/write
Sony has spoken at length about the PS5’s SSD. Sadly, they haven’t too much away in terms of technical details. What we do know is that the PS5’s storage solution is allegedly faster than any existing PC SSD storage solution. These are tall words and if they’re true, it means that the PS5 will feature read-write speeds in excess of 6000 MB/s, which is where current-gen PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs are at. This will have major implications for games: load times will be drastically reduced or even completely eliminated. Meanwhile, the fast SSD could help offset memory limitations and pave the way to new approaches to asset streaming. We expect a baseline PS5 model to ship with 1 TB of storage, with Sony offering a 2 TB variant, either at launch or sometime down the line.
Conclusion: Plenty of value at $399
We’re working with a mix of officially confirmed specs and leaks with a high degree of confidence in this spec wish list. What struck us as particularly interesting is that, with the current rates of hardware pricing, it isn’t impossible for the PS5 to deliver an 8-core processor, 16 gigs of memory, fast storage, and a GPU equivalent to the RX 5700 XT at a palatable $399 price-point. We expect the Xbox Series X to do even more, but to also cost more.