Spec Analysis: PlayStation 5 Pro – the most powerful console yet

Spec Analysis: PlayStation 5 Pro - the most powerful console yet

Last week, more detailed leaks emerged concerning the technical specification of the PlayStation 5 Pro. The machine is real, it is coming relatively soon – and by and large, the leaks are accurate. The question is, what are the design objectives of the new console? What is less than ideal about the current PS5 and how will the Pro model address that? We’re on the record as saying that this generation doesn’t really need a mid-gen upgrade, but does the state of recent games and the extra power and capabilities of the mooted Pro change our opinion?

First of all, let’s address the authenticity of the leaks we’ve seen thus far, which essentially operate on two levels. First of all, Insider Gaming’s Tom Henderson has a spotless record in revealing new PlayStation hardware – from the existence of the PlayStation Portal through to the PS5 Slim with its detachable/upgradable optical drive to the existence of the Pro, he has yet to put a foot wrong. Even his less-shared reporting on the technical make-up of Sony’s cloud-based PS5 streaming looks accurate based on our analysis of the system.

The second tier of leak is more understandable and some might say inevitable. The key details seen recently come from documentation available on PlayStation’s ‘devnet’ portal. What we’re looking at here is a wide scale disclosure to third-party developers and publishers that was almost certain to leak immediately just as ‘PS4K’ or ‘PS4.5’ did back in March 2016, before Sony made it official several months later as PlayStation 4 Pro. The relatively widespread nature of this disclosure made it relatively easy to verify.

And while hardly marketing approved, Sony lays out in very basic terms what PlayStation 5 Pro – Project Trinity – is setting out to achieve. Similar to PS4 Pro, it is of the same generation as the base model (called the ‘standard’ PS5 now by Sony) but offers enhancements in the form of higher rendering resolutions, higher effective rendering resolutions via custom machine learning silicon and a new PlayStation Spectral Super Resolution (PSSR) technique. The ray tracing capabilities are also augmented by 2x to 4x depending on the workload.

PlayStation 5 Pro Specs Confirmed, Analysis + New Information – A DF Direct Special

Here’s a brand new DF Direct Special, discussing everything we know about PlayStation 5 Pro.

PlayStation 5 Pro
PlayStation 5

CPU Architecture/ Clock Speeds
Eight core/16 Thread Zen 2 at 3.5GHz/3.85GHz
Eight core/16 Thread Zen 2 at 3.5GHz

GPU Compute Units/ Architecture
60 CUs, RNDA 3 (TBC)
36 CUS, RDNA 2

TFLOPs/GPU Clock Speed
33.5TF/ 2.18GHz (TBC)
10.23TF/ 2.23GHz

GDDR6 Memory
16GB at 18Gbps
16GB at 14Gbps

Memory Available For Games

Memory Interface/ Bandwidth

PlayStation 5 Pro also features advanced ray tracing hardware/custom machine learning silicon and an enhanced audio block. TFLOPs on PS5 Pro are ‘inflated’ vs gameplay purpose owing to dual-issue FP32 support in Pro not found on the standard PS5.

So far, so PS4 Pro. The difference this time is the lack of a credible target display upgrade that justifies the arrival of an enhanced console. Back in 2016, we were beginning to see the ramping up of 4K display manufacture. High dynamic range (HDR) was an equally palpable upgrade to the display experience and Sony rolled out PS4 Pro primarily to accommodate those new screens.

Under the hood, PS4 Pro was viable thanks to the use of a new process technology – 16nm FinFET. The 28nm silicon in the standard PlayStation 4 was replaced with a smaller, more efficient technology that allowed Sony to develop a PS4 Slim with a tiny processor and to deliver the Pro model with twice the GPU power and faster clock speeds.

The challenge facing Sony this time is that, for its Slim model at least, the improved process technology is less impactful. There is a shrink, there is more efficiency, but the leap from 7nm to 6nm is nowhere near as pronounced as the jump from 28nm to 16nmFF. Sony doesn’t talk about fabrication in its documentation (or generally, at all), but the evidence points to PS5 Pro running on the same 6nm process as the Slim. PS5 Pro only has limited clock speed increases (or actual decreases potentially) and the size of the GPU architecturally has not doubled in the way it did with PS4 Pro. Instead, machine learning upscaling is used to make up the difference. Let’s look into the specifications in a more detailed manner.

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CPU: Zen 2 remains with an optional 10 percent speed increase

This is the headline point that may disappoint many. The AMD Jaguar CPU cores in the last generation consoles were replaced with Zen 2 in PS5 and Xbox Series hardware – and we’re essentially looking at a 4x performance multiplier there. This opened the door to cross-gen titles that ran at 30fps on PS4 running at 60fps or even 120fps on PS5. However, as cross-gen becomes a thing of the past, we are seeing more and more titles hitting CPU limits. Our investigation of the AMD 4800S desktop kit – built on the exact CPU used in Xbox Series X – reveals that the processor is way behind the capabilities of today’s mid-range PC CPUs.

PlayStation 5 Pro sticks with Zen 2 but offers developers the ability to run at a capped 3.85GHz clock speed, as opposed to the 3.5GHz cap on the standard PS5. Similar to the existing machine, the Pro appears to operate with a strict power limit, adjusting CPU and GPU clock speeds within a pre-determined power budget. Activating the 10 percent speed increase means that clock speeds on the GPU decrease by circa 1.5 percent, leading to a one percent performance hit, according to Sony.

In PlayStation 4 Pro, the CPU gained a 33 percent increase in CPU power with no impact to GPU performance at all – the kind of gain you would expect from a new silicon process node. The fact that the PS5 Pro is compromised in comparison does seem to suggest that Sony is doing the best it can with a 6nm process.

In real terms, those hoping that PS5 Pro will turn CPU-limited 30fps titles into super-smooth 60fps experiences will be disappointed. With that said, the 3.85GHz mode will bring greater stability to 30fps games that may not be hitting their frame-rate target when CPU limited – and yes, we have started to see those titles. And if the one percent impact to GPU performance is verified, that’s not really an issue in the age of dynamic resolution scaling. There’ll be an imperceptible reduction in rendering resolution and that’s it. If a game is CPU limited, the GPU will stall and will lose far more performance anyway.

Cover image for YouTube videoPC Gaming on the Xbox Series X CPU: AMD 4800S Desktop Kit Review

How fast is console Zen 2 CPU performance against PC parts? AMD’s unique 4800S Desktop Kit is a PC board built on the Xbox Series X CPU – and its performance is surprising compared to modern processors.

GPU: 60 Compute Units – and it looks like RDNA 3 architecture

While the CPU doesn’t change much, there’s plenty of interest in the PS5 Pro’s graphics core. The 36 RDNA 2 dual compute units in PlayStation 5 receive a considerable boost, increasing to 60 CUs in the Pro. With 33.5 teraflops of compute performance vs the 10.23TF of the standard PS5, the boost here looks incredible. However, these numbers flatter to deceive. AMD’s latest GPU architectures, starting with RDNA 3, feature ‘dual-issue FP32’, the ability to double operations at the same clock speeds. However, this does not mean we get double the gaming performance. Indeed, despite the 67 percent increase in CU count (even factoring out dual-issue FP32), Sony itself says in its developer disclosures that the actual throughput boost in gaming applications is around 45 percent.

An increase in compute power alone is only one part of the equation, however. To keep the CUs ‘fed’, it’s important to increase memory bandwidth. Sony moves from 16GB of 14Gbps GDDR6 in the standard PS5 to 18Gbps GDDR6 in the Pro – a 28 percent increase in bandwidth. So, the 448GB/s of peak theoretical bandwidth increases to 576GB/s. Actual throughput may also be enhanced still further with architectural improvements (possibly via improved compression?).

What’s curious is that Sony’s stated teraflops figure suggests a peak GPU clock speed of 2.18GHz – which is actually a touch slower than the 2.23GHz in the standard PS5. Again, this does suggest either a conservative power limit, retaining the 6nm silicon process technology – or both. There are no details on back-compat with PS5, but we should expect the Pro to run existing PS5 games, of course, and perhaps the GPU upclocks in that scenario – or else simply runs those games across the whole GPU, delivering overall performance increases. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Sony has also taken the opportunity to boost its audio engine, which it says is 35 percent faster than the standard PlayStation 5 equivalent. Compute-heavy tasks like convolution reverb and Fast Fourier Transformations (FFT) and Inverse Fast Fourier Transformations (IFFT) process more quickly, opening the door to improved soundscapes.

PS5 Pro also receives certain GPU-based RDNA features that the standard model does not have. Hardware-based variable rate shading (VRS) was present in Xbox Series hardware but not PlayStation 5. Sony does mention that PS5 Pro gains VRS.

Cover image for YouTube videoCompetition Works: AMD RX 7800 XT/ RX 7700 XT Review vs RTX 4070/ RTX 4060 Ti Review

AMD’s RX 7700 XT and RX 7800 XT are the closest PC parts we can envisage compared to the PS5 Pro GPU – but outcomes in console games will be very different owing to the PS5 Pro’s PSSR ML upscaling.

Improved ray tracing – 2x to 4x faster than PS5

Sony says that depending on the workload, ray tracing performance in the new Pro will be twice as fast as the vanilla unit, but with 3x and 4x multipliers in some scenarios. It’s important to point out that this concerns just RT processing – not the frame-rate of actual games. The platform holder says that in practical terms, this means that some games without RT on the basic PS5 can gain RT features on the Pro. Another cited example is that a standard PS5 game with RT reflections could benefit from RT shadows as well on PS5 Pro.

There’s been conjecture that the PS5 Pro GPU is benefitting from RT architectural improvements AMD is planning for its upcoming RDNA 4 graphics cards. These enhancements look promising but it’s important to point out that a lot of the boost here will be coming from the fact that the PS5 Pro GPU is much larger than the standard model’s GPU. So, the 2x to 4x boost is coming from both architectural improvements and the increase in compute units.

There’s no mention of a custom Sony solution for RT here, which does suggest that PS5 Pro is using AMD technology – and there is precedence for console parts receiving those features ahead of their debut in the PC graphics space. Indeed, PlayStation 4 Pro had aspects (such as dual-rate FP16 and a new compute unit design) that preceded their release in AMD’s Vega architecture.

Cover image for YouTube videoMarvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales PC Tech Review – Ray Tracing Upgrades – Optimised Settings!

Sony talks about PS5 Pro perhaps adding RT shadows to a game that already has RT reflections on the standard machine – which sounds rather like the PC version of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

Machine learning means a DLSS-style upscaler is coming to console

This is important, because as it becomes more difficult to create cost-effective games machines owing to a static ‘cost per transistor’, platform holders will need to use software as much as hardware to increase performance and add new features – the Nvidia RTX playbook, effectively. PS4 Pro effectively doubled the size of the GPU and doubled compute unit count, while PS5 Pro ‘only’ increases the size by 67 percent. However, thanks to machine learning-based upscaling, I believe that PS5 Pro should be able to deliver a far higher perceptual increase in resolution vs PS5 than the PS4 Pro did against its junior variant.

We need to learn more about how Sony is achieving this, but the evidence suggests that the platform holder has created its own custom ML silicon for PS5 Pro, in the same way that custom checkerboard hardware was found within PS4 Pro. The ML solution looks to be integrated into the GPU – as opposed to being a separate AI block in AMD’s APUs – and is rated with a maximum of 300 TOPs (tensor operations). As an aside, the fact that Sony has created custom ML hardware may indicate that whatever AMD has planned for future RDNA GPUs (if anything) may not be a good fit.

PlayStation Spectral Resolution (PSSR) aims to deliver similar results and resolution multipliers as Nvidia DLSS. A game internally rendering at 1080p can be upscaled to a convincing-looking 4K image in two milliseconds, which is broadly equivalent to a similar task undertaken by AMD’s non-ML FSR2 upscaler. The difference is that the quality level should be significantly higher – but as always, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. There is some speculation concerning 8K upscaling and 4K at 120Hz – but it’s worth noting that 2ms of processing time. A 120Hz frame has an 8.3ms budget, 60Hz has 16.7ms of processing time and that rises again to 33.3ms at 30fps. Depending on the performance target, that 2ms varies in significance.

Sony says that PSSR has a 250MB memory footprint, but interestingly, developer disclosures reveal that the technique can be backported to any existing PlayStation game. This is at odds with ‘back compat plus’ features bolted on to PS4 games running on PS5, which required games to run on modern development environments (SDKs). This could be of crucial importance in upgrading existing PS5 games that suffer from image quality problems – and we’re seeing a lot of those thanks to low internal resolutions and FSR2 upscaling. The Pro could deliver vastly improved results via its extra GPU power and PSSR upscaling.

Cover image for YouTube videoExclusive – Intel XeSS ML Upscaling – The Digital Foundry Tech Review – XeSS vs DLSS vs Native!

Nvidia’s DLSS is the state of the art in terms of machine learning-based upscaling – but it can be challenged, as Intel’s XeSS demonstrated. XeSS has improved in quality terms too since we first looked at it here.

PS5 Pro has 1.2GB more memory for games

One of the biggest complaints we heard from developers about the last-gen PS4 Pro concerned the lack of extra memory and only marginally improved memory bandwidth – not enough to service 4K display resolutions. In terms of available memory for developers, Sony has made genuine efforts to improve matters for PlayStation 5 Pro.

While the new system retains the same 16GB of GDDR6 memory as the standard model (albeit with more bandwidth), Sony has clawed back an extra 1.2GB of system RAM for game makers. The 12.5GB of available memory for the creators of PS5 games rises to 13.7GB for PS5 Pro. Quite how the platform holder has achieved this is unknown right now. PS4 Pro gave an additional 512MB of RAM to developers and did so by moving low performance systems apps to a secondary pool of new memory, so a similar solution may be in play in PS5 Pro.

Bearing in mind that the standard PS5 already has enough memory to service a 4K display, you might wonder why this 1.2GB is necessary. Sony cites the use of PSSR with its 250MB footprint as one use-case, while also pointing out that ray tracing features (particularly the BVH structures used to calculate ray bounces) are also memory-intensive. Developers can use the memory as they please, but if they max out the 12.5GB on the standard model without RT features, there’s now memory available to tap into more of the Pro’s capabilities.

Cover image for YouTube videoBuy A PS5 Now… Or Wait For PS5 Pro?

A recent question from a DF Supporter highlights a quandry many prospective PS5 buyers will be facing in light of the Pro’s existence.

Analysis: what is PS5 Pro and do we actually need it?

Back in the day we wondered why there was a need for a mid generation console upgrade, primarily because cross generation game development meant that games targeting PS5 and Xbox Series hardware specifically only came to the fore three years after the consoles arrived. There was the sense that bringing new hardware to the market lacked meaning when developers were only just starting to tap into the capabilities of three-year-old machines. We also pointed out that while Moore’s Law is alive and well, the cost of cutting-edge silicon was problematic. And yet here we are with a PS5 Pro, almost certainly due later this year. Why?

First of all, it’s important to remember that consoles take years to develop. When PS5 Pro was first envisaged, Sony would not have known just how long cross-gen development would persist. In evangelising PS5, Mark Cerny repeatedly told us how Sony was still wedded to the concept of the console generation. Corporate messaging spoke of the need to move users from PS4 to PS5 as quickly as possible. The strategy changed, but the investments in PS5 Pro had already been made.

In terms of the cost of a more powerful machine, we should be expecting something like a $599 minimum price in my opinion – perhaps without the optional/detachable BD drive. This seems viable as Sony has evolved the PS4 Pro philosophy: the major increased cost will come from the main processor (SoC) only and possibly a more robust cooling assembly. The evidence suggests that Sony is possibly sticking with 6nm which will mitigate costs, but seemingly isn’t upgrading the amount of available memory or its storage solution.

In terms of the ‘why’, this is still something of a mystery. PS4 Pro launched to cater for the arrival of 4K screens, but while PS5 Pro aims to target 8K resolution via PSSR, this is currently still in development at Sony. And some might say that it’s not worth the effort bearing in mind the lack of take-up of 8K displays in the market. On a personal note, I’ve moved from an 8K 75-inch LCD display to a 4K 77-inch OLED – and I don’t regret the ‘downgrade’ at all. Even with large screens, 4K is still more than enough.

Cover image for YouTube videoAvatar: Frontiers of Pandora – PS5/Xbox Series X|S Tech Review – Graceful Scaling vs Maxed PC

A state of the art game with RT, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora just about holds up in its performance mode – but resolutions can drop as low as 720p. Cutting-edge rendering with higher resolution, improved performance, better image quality and more advanced RT would see PS5 Pro improve this game significantly.

Could the PS5 Pro instead be targeting the needs of the gamer more attracted to a higher-performing PC set-up? Possibly, but there’s one big problem here: sticking with the Zen 2 CPU architecture means that meaningful frame-rate upgrades in games can only apply to titles which are limited by the GPU, not the CPU. Today’s mainstream CPUs blow console-spec Zen 2 out of the water. Meanwhile, the RT and machine learning features in PS5 Pro are already present in today’s Nvidia GeForce GPUs – and have been for years. These PCs will still be more expensive than the PS5 Pro in totality, but ultimately, I still feel that the Pro is aimed at the more discerning gamer in the lounge.

Higher frame-rates, substantially enhanced image quality and improved RT features – that’s what’s going to separate PS5 Pro from the standard model. Assuming there are no further surprises lying in wait, I’d venture to suggest that this is going to be a more niche offering than PS4 Pro back in the day. Some might even say it’s a ‘Digital Foundry machine’, as its forward-looking design delivers the kind of features we like and want to see in a games console. And for many, just having the most performant console will be enough. It’s difficult to see anything else competing with this until the next generation of hardware arrives.

With that said, PS5 Pro also emphasises the direction of travel for the future of gaming technology. Nvidia started it all back in 2018 with dedicated ray tracing and machine learning silicon. Intel followed suit. Microsoft’s FTC leak last year also indicated that this is the future of console hardware – and yet Sony is delivering much the same package today in 2024. More developers embracing RT and machine learning hardware sooner can only be a good thing – and I do wonder to what extent game-makers will use the ML capabilities for things other than upscaling (though the need for feature parity between PS5 and PS5 Pro may limit that).

Beyond that, there are still more questions beyond how Sony plans to market this. How does backwards compatibility work with existing PlayStation 5 titles – will they run faster? And are there further enhancements for PS4 games? Are we looking at strict compatibility or will boost mode return? Nvidia DLSS has proven the worth of machine learning-based upscaling, but just how good is Sony’s solution? Just how wide of a gap will there be between PS5 and PS5 Pro titles when both are essentially targeting the same display? I remember that there were a range of questions surrounding the leaks of PS4 Pro – and a lot more came into focus when Sony made its official reveal. With that in mind, I can’t wait to see what Sony has prepared for us.

Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/digitalfoundry-2024-spec-analysis-playstation-5-pro-the-most-powerful-console-yet?utm_source=feed&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feed


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