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Sony Computer Entertainment this week revealed additional architectural details about the PlayStation 4 video game console. The company claims that while the semi-custom accelerated processing unit from Advanced Micro Devices inside the PS4 resembles the modern personal computers, it features a number of enhancements made to speed up peak performance as well as make it easier for game developers to simultaneously use x86 and graphics stream processors.

Sony PlayStation 4 is based on a semi-custom AMD Fusion system-on-chip that integrates eight AMD x86 Jaguar cores, custom AMD Radeon HD core with unified array of 18 AMD GCN-like compute units (1152 stream processors which collectively generate 1.84TFLOPS of computer power that can freely be applied to graphics, simulation tasks, or some mixture of the two), various special-purpose hardware blocks as well as multi-channel 256-bit GDDR5 memory controller. As it appears, there are a number of enhancements designed to speed up graphics performance as well as make it easier for game developers to use the heterogeneous system architecture of the chip.

“Our overall approach was to put in a very large number of controls about how to mix compute and graphics, and let the development community figure out which ones they want to use when they get around to the point where they're doing a lot of asynchronous compute,” said Mark Cerny, the lead architect of PlayStation 4 system, in an interview with Gamasutra web-site.

The PS4 SoC has three major enhancements not found on today’s PCs (it is unclear whether at least certain of those technologies will eventually make it to the PC, but it is highly likely):

  • The graphics processor can write directly to system memory, bypassing its own L1 and L2 caches, which greatly simplifies data sync between graphics processor and central processor. Mr. Cerny claims that a special bus with around 20GB/s bandwidth is used for such direct reads and writes.
  • To support the case where developer wants to use the GPU L2 cache simultaneously for both graphics processing and asynchronous compute, Sony has added a “volatile” bit in the tags of the cache lines. Developers can then selectively mark all accesses by compute as “volatile”, and when it is time for compute to read from system memory, it can invalidate, selectively, the lines it uses in the L2. When it comes time to write back the results, it can write back selectively the lines that it uses. This innovation allows compute to use the GPU L2 cache and perform the required operations without significantly impacting the graphics operations going on at the same time.  In general, the technique radically reduces the overhead of running compute and graphics together on the GPU.
  • The original AMD GCN architecture allows one source of graphics commands, and two sources of compute commands. For PS4, Sony worked with AMD to increase the limit to 64 sources of compute commands. If a game developer has some asynchronous compute you want to perform, he should put commands in one of these 64 queues, and then there are multiple levels of arbitration in the hardware to determine what runs, how it runs, and when it runs, alongside the graphics that's in the system. Sony believes that not only games, but also various middleware will use GPU computing, which is why requests from different software clients need to be properly blended and then properly prioritized.


Screenshot from Killzone Shadow Fall, a PS4-exclusive title.

“If you look at the portion of the GPU available to compute throughout the frame, it varies dramatically from instant to instant. For example, something like opaque shadow map rendering doesn't even use a pixel shader, it is entirely done by vertex shaders and the rasterization hardware – so graphics are not using most of the 1.8TFLOPS of ALU available in the CUs. Times like that during the game frame are an opportunity to say, 'Okay, all that compute you wanted to do, turn it up to 11 now',” said Mr. Cerny.

While the PlayStation 4 is very powerful already, there were ways to further boost its performance, but at the cost of increasing complexities for game developers. The company decided that minimal hassles for game designers is more important than additional performance and decided to steak to the current architectural solutions. The benefits of Sony’s architectural decisions will be seen in the PlayStation 4's launch games.

"The launch lineup for PlayStation 4 – though I unfortunately cannot give the title count – is going to be stronger than any prior PlayStation hardware,” said Mr. Cerny.

Sony PlayStation 4 will be launched later this year worldwide.

Tags: Sony, Playstation, Orbis, AMD, ATI, Jaguar, GCN, Fusion, Radeon

Discussion

Comments currently: 32
Discussion started: 04/26/13 05:02:23 AM
Latest comment: 05/28/13 10:57:13 AM
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1. 
I believe Sony is going to completely decimate the entire competition, regardless of what Microsoft says.
15 1 [Posted by: mmstick  | Date: 04/26/13 05:02:23 AM]
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0 6 [Posted by: rops  | Date: 04/28/13 09:03:53 AM]
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2. 
AMD built another winning APU and is taking control of the gaming console industry based on their superior APU products and IP.
16 3 [Posted by: beenthere  | Date: 04/26/13 05:43:10 AM]
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lets hope so. And lets hope this turns out to be good as well as for MS as also for Sony.
With the Close-to-PC-hardware, faster developement cycles (of consoles) would be possible (and cheaper) and if AMD delivers also the following generation of consoles, this would be awesome (think about the follow up consoles being 100% compatible, which would make it easier to switch for the buyers, easier to develop for developers and faster adaptions to the hardware, which would also bring benefits to games that are released for pc as well
4 0 [Posted by: Rollora  | Date: 04/27/13 01:08:47 PM]
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3. 
I have one doubt, how can a GCN like 1.8TFLOPS APU can be equivalent to a Radeon HD 7870 which has a 2.8 TFLOPS of compute power? Anyone knows that??
7 2 [Posted by: tks  | Date: 04/26/13 05:43:11 AM]
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By having a better utilization ratio. GCN is quite an improvement ofver 4-way VLIW, which was better than 5-VLIW. Maybe this new architecture can put to better use the flops. The rest is marketing, you'll never be able to compare the two since the CPU and memory architectures are different, so talk is cheap
5 1 [Posted by: dragosmp  | Date: 04/26/13 07:16:13 AM]
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7870 is 2.56TF. This is 1.84.

While obviously this article details other optimizations that will have an impact (some of which we'll see in upcoming gpu and apu architectures...like AMD's version of Hyper Q and the options when coding to unified memory) the performance similarity (say a target of 1080p/60 in contemporary PC titles) should come from the fact the sheer bandwidth and memory amount difference should be able to make up that performance (or will hamper the 7870 depending on which direction look at it).

Granted, I'm not a coder, but I do understand generally how performance and bandwidth are correlated (even when it seems excessive comparably) and this seems like it should make that ground up in a comparative case while also being more flexible (ie it can do things a 7800 could not because of memory restraints).
3 0 [Posted by: turtle  | Date: 04/26/13 11:52:02 AM]
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–reason is ps3 with 256mb ram 256 mb video memory runs crysis 3 smoothly on HD while running same on pc we require 10X more powerful machine(magic of closed system) and PS4 have 15 times more memory and around 10X powerful gpu than PS3 now do simple math and calculate how much powerful pc u should have to beat PS4.
0 0 [Posted by: mudi1  | Date: 05/28/13 10:57:13 AM]
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4. 
I am glad that for once developers will be optimizing their software (games) for an AMD platform (PS4).

Since an APU can be quite powerful when running optimized software, there may be more non-game software/apps for PS4, for example, to auto edit your family videos from your HD camcorder, and other programs where traditionally require a desktop to run.
4 1 [Posted by: gjcjan  | Date: 04/26/13 06:11:50 AM]
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0 3 [Posted by: evernessince  | Date: 04/26/13 08:06:25 AM]
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PS4 has extra hardware for decode/encode, so that never touchs the CPU leaving it free to do other things.
2 1 [Posted by: Martin Clarke  | Date: 04/26/13 09:04:20 AM]
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show the post
0 4 [Posted by: PFX  | Date: 04/27/13 03:31:29 AM]
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5. 
Those 8GB of memory will be GDDR5 or something else?
1 0 [Posted by: Nehemoth  | Date: 04/26/13 08:03:27 AM]
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show the post
0 3 [Posted by: evernessince  | Date: 04/26/13 08:11:34 AM]
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6. 
With AMD powering up both PS4 and Xbox Next, shouldn't we expect future PC games to work better with AMD's GPU? They'll probably be developed to work well with the consoles first. This should benefit Radeon cards owners no?

It might sound stupid but, in the end, this is what made me buy a Radeon 7970 rather than a GTX 680.
7 1 [Posted by: MHudon  | Date: 04/26/13 09:59:53 AM]
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7. 
With AMD powering up both PS4 and Xbox Next, shouldn't we expect future PC games to work better with AMD's GPU? They'll probably be developed to work well with the consoles first. This should benefit Radeon cards owners no?

It might sound stupid but, in the end, this is what made me buy a Radeon 7970 rather than a GTX 680.
4 2 [Posted by: MHudon  | Date: 04/26/13 10:18:09 AM]
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Me too bought HD7870XT instead of GTX660Ti solely due to being both consoles powered by AMD GPUs.
9 1 [Posted by: tks  | Date: 04/26/13 06:53:11 PM]
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8. 
With AMD powering up both PS4 and Xbox Next, shouldn't we expect future PC games to work better with AMD's GPU? They'll probably be developed to work well with the consoles first. This should benefit Radeon cards owners no?

It might sound stupid but, in the end, this is what made me buy a Radeon 7970 rather than a GTX 680.
3 3 [Posted by: MHudon  | Date: 04/26/13 10:40:46 AM]
Reply

9. 
With AMD powering up both PS4 and Xbox Next, shouldn't we expect future PC games to work better with AMD's GPU? They'll probably be developed to work well with the consoles first. This should benefit Radeon cards owners no?

It might sound stupid but, in the end, this is what made me buy a Radeon 7970 rather than a GTX 680.
5 4 [Posted by: MHudon  | Date: 04/26/13 10:59:02 AM]
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10. 
looks like playstation is back. I think micrsoft is making a huge mistake by focusing more on the multimedia side of the 720 then the gaming side of it. I mean many people already have DVR's and a smart tv or a blu ray player with smart capabilities, the market in that area is already heavily saturated as it is.
3 1 [Posted by: SteelCity1981  | Date: 04/26/13 03:38:42 PM]
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11. 
I thought this was obvious with the inclusion of an APU and the DDR5 main memory to speed the two components sharing of data.
1 0 [Posted by: KeyBoardG  | Date: 04/27/13 08:28:03 AM]
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12. 
But will we be able to crack it and instal Linux !!!!
.
.
.or even windoz
2 0 [Posted by: alpha0ne  | Date: 04/28/13 01:34:58 AM]
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Why would one bother when one needs unavailable proprietary drivers to get all the features working properly? It'll be a waste of good hardware and a waste of one's life - time never returned, ever. It's better to just spend it arguing about nothing on Xbit ;-)
2 1 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 04/28/13 02:58:49 AM]
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13. 
This console will decimate all, after you put about 15 grand in it, or more if we have to, with over night parts from Japan!
1 1 [Posted by: inoculation  | Date: 04/29/13 02:12:02 AM]
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