The rumour mill started churning this week with news from technology analyst blog Semi-Accurate that Sony is planning to launch the PlayStation 5 console very soon. Semi-Accurate’s Charlie Demerjian has been pretty close to launch dates and hardware specifications in the past, and this is the first that anyone is hearing about the hardware build or a possible launch date. Last month news broke about the shipment of ultra-secret PlayStation 5 dev kits, but specifications weren’t available and no further leaks arrived about the units. If Demerjian is right, we could be looking at Sony announcing a PlayStation 5 for late 2018, or aiming it at a 2019 release.
In Semi-Accurate’s report, which is behind a massive paywall of at least $100, Demerjian reports that they’ve received some hints about the hardware specifications and possible launch dates. To summarise:
The console uses AMD’s next-generation Navi GPU architecture as its base architecture, but it’s not specifically the Navi architecture
The processor is based on AMD’s Zen architecture
Large amounts of dev kits have been delivered to Sony’s first-party studios and their partners
A 2018 release is “not out of the question”
“VR goodies” to be baked in at the silicon level
That last part, baking in VR capabilities, would be the most plausible thing, personally. The PlayStation VR platform still requires an external splitter and extra processing power to run the PSVR headset, and baking in that connectivity would allow Sony to lower the build price of the headset dramatically. The recent price drop for the PSVR platform seems to indicate movement within Sony internally to make way for something newer, but that’s an educated guess on my part. Either way, by the numbers, Sony’s VR platform is the most successful one out of all the others to date, and it’s a really good experience too.
The rumours about a Zen processor and a Navi core are not new, and quite logical. Both Sony and Microsoft have found an able partner in AMD, and we’ve seen how well AMD’s hardware can perform in the Xbox One X. Moving up to Zen will alleviate the bottlenecks the system has currently, and AMD has always used their prototype GPU architectures in consoles to influence their eventual desktop rollout. The GPUs inside the PS4 and Xbox One were once based on the older Pitcairn architecture, before being updated to a GPU based on Bonaire. The PS4 Pro is more similar to Hawaii than Polaris, although it supports HDR features and rapid packed math. The Xbox One X is based on Polaris and supports FreeSync over HDMI, but it has features that also appear in the Vega architecture. The mishmash of features and capabilities is one of AMD’s strengths as a semicustom silicon provider, and it’s been used to Sony’s and Microsoft’s advantage when building their consoles for future technologies and capabilities.
The release date might be the only thing that doesn’t fit. The PS4 Pro was launched in late 2016 and is over 15 months old this April. Replacing it with a much more powerful unit this early would be a bit of a sore point for anyone who spent the money on upgrading to both a 4K TV and a 4K-capable console. The PS4 Pro launched three years after the PS4 did, and a three-year gap seems to be the right time to have a console launch to replace the old one. It won’t have any of the issues with backwards compatibility out of the box, being based on the same hardware, and by that point Sony might be able to emulate PS3 games with all the extra CPU power the PS5 will have. Microsoft will have the same opportunity if AMD offers them the same hardware deal, keeping some parity between the hardware capabilities of both consoles.
As with all rumours, keep your salt close. The PS5 being based on AMD hardware is probably a given, and being launched soon isn’t entirely out of the question. We’re all just expecting a date from Sony at this point.