A developer kit isn’t a console
What might be the technology behind the PS4? One thing’s for certain – it won’t be uncovered by looking at dev kits.
Let me get this out of the way first: I’m not a technician, and I’m not a computer expert. There are those far better equipped than I to delve into the numbers and names of complicated chips, but I have my doubts over the way developer kits have been portrayed (somewhat) accidentally as “the components of the next generation of consoles.” Kotaku got hands of a 90 page document from renowned leaky tap ‘SuperDae’, from which they listed the “specifications” for a PS4 developer kit.
Kotaku themselves said “And before we go any further, know that these are current specs for a PS4 development kit, not the final retail console itself,” yet this didn’t stop comments such as “why does [the PS4] have two ethernet ports?” The short answer: because that’s not a console, it’s a PC.
The “specifications” were listed as follows:
- System Memory: 8GB
- Video Memory: 2.2 GB
- CPU: 4x Dual-Core AMD64 “Bulldozer” (so, 8x cores)
- GPU: AMD R10xx
- Ports: 4x USB 3.0, 2x Ethernet
- Drive: Blu-Ray
- HDD: 160GB
- Audio Output: HDMI & Optical, 2.0, 5.1 & 7.1 channels
Anyone who’s built their own PC knows that the above “specifications” are tantamount to useless. 8GB of RAM? Huh… what speed? What channel? What type? 2.2GB of video memory? What type? What speed? The GPU is also a very interesting pick, I’m sure a fan of the “AMD R10xx” which, when ‘Googled’, returns regurgitation’s of this exact leak. What’s more, the number of USB ports on the developer kit is incredibly useful information as to deciphering the build of the PS4, isn’t it? And I wonder if including the developer kit’s current HDD size accurately represents the size (or type) of the drive shipped with the PS4.
What I’m trying to say is that this is all completely meaningless – especially the Bulldozer CPU which will most certainly not be the CPU powering the PS4. These aren’t the preliminary specs of the PS4 as is inferred by a great many readers; these aren’t related to the PS4 in any real meaningful way at all. It’s just a vaguely mid-high range PC.
So let me reiterate Kotaku’s own statement: the “specifications” (I use the term loosely) of this developer kit in no way, shape, or form, reflect the components of the actual PS4. I don’t know if anyone purposefully intends to mislead you into thinking it does, but I can see from a lot of comments on every gaming site on the internet that a great deal of you do.
So what will it contain? Well, I have my own theory. This is, of course, my own opinion, and guessing at this stage is merely a matter of bad ideas vs good ideas – not accurate ideas vs inaccurate ones. I’m not an Observer.
Note: this isn’t the total, complete AMD roadmap, this is just the section I’m focusing on.
Check out the AMD 2013 client roadmap. At the top, their latest performance hardware is listed. Ostensibly, the PS4 will probably be an APU system. This is beneficial because the ‘innards’ are soldered to a single board (or die), which is cheaper to manufacture, and requires less power to operate. This also reduces heat. Now, the idea that the PS4 will use AMD’s current Bulldozer technology seems senseless. The Bulldozer CPU is not a very well optimized chip, requiring much more power than their forthcoming Steamroller technology, producing much more heat. It seems illogical to even risk implying the next system with a life-span of 10 years will use technology from 2011, which was slammed, leading to technical humiliation for AMD, and many consumers pondering the fate of the troubled company.
Steamroller is showing a clear improvement over the last generation, and modifying the low-cost, low-heat, low-power 26nm Kaveri APU to house the new Steamroller’s rolling out in the second half of 2013 seems much more likely – it also means potentially higher graphical fidelity than the rumored 7750 comparable GPU.
Intriguingly, the Steamroller Kaveri APU’s are expected to launch during the second half of this year (2013), which is when the PS4 should begin the manufacture phase – although I personally doubt a 2013 release. The theory is also a fun development on the early “Liverpool APU” rumors that circulated early June.
So what are we looking at here? Well, in my opinion, the 26nm Steamroller Kaveri APU seems place to start guessing as to the actual architecture and components of the next PS4. Looking at PC rigs built for games development on the system is only fun when it comes to guessing potential graphical fidelity, but think about the difference between launch titles and heavily optimized titles towards the end of a consoles life-span. Right now, everything is subject to change, but I wouldn’t be looking to Bulldozer, nondescript RAM, ethernet ports, and gossip for accurate insight into the guts of your next gadgetry thrill.
Again, don’t take my word for it – I’m not an analyst, and I’m not an expert. You’ve seen my own personal line of reasoning, and that’s all I’ve really got at the moment. For now, take every “leak” with a pinch of salt, because magazines have to publish something, and they love some tasty gossip – so here are my two tasty cents.