Sony’s PlayStation Neo (also sometimes called the PlayStation 4.5 or PlayStation 4K) has been a hot topic since rumors of its existence started spreading earlier this spring. Sony is expected to unveil its mid-cycle upgrade platform in just under a month, at a special press event held in New York City. Sony supposedly chose the September 7 date to avoid going directly up against Nintendo’s anticipated announcement of its NX platform at the Tokyo Game Show on September 12.
This report, by French website Gameblog, confirms rumors we’ve heard concerning the PS4 Neo’s anticipated launch. Sony is rumored to want both the new platform and PlayStation VR to launch in time for Christmas 2016, and the resulting hardware extravaganza could contribute to significant earnings for the company — assuming customers bite.
What can the PS4 Neo do?The rumors we’ve heard to date suggest that Sony will rigidly enforce backwards compatibility requirements for this new PS4. Games can’t include all-new modes of play or Neo-specific features, though developers are allowed to enhance existing capabilities for the new platform. The new console will supposedly feature eight AMD “Jaguar” CPU cores clocked at 2.1GHz (a 31% improvement), a Polaris-derived GPU with double the GPU cores and a higher clock frequency (2,304 cores total and a 911MHz clock, up from 1,154 cores and 853MHz), and 218GB/s of memory bandwidth, up from 176GB/s on the PS4 standard.
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t tell us much about actual game performance. While there are a number of differences between the PC ecosystem and its console counterpart, we should be able to draw some relative performance data by looking at our own AMD RX 480 review. While none of our desktop GPUs is an exact match for the PS4 or PS4 Neo, the R9 270X comes fairly close to the PS4, while the RX 480 isn’t far off the PS4 Neo. In the graphs below, pay attention to just the 270X and the RX 480 — those are the GPUs we’re comparing against each other.
In two DX11 benchmarks and one DX12 test, we see the RX 480 blasting past the R9 270X. Again, we’re not claiming that the PS4 Neo will be twice as fast as the PS4 — the two platforms are simply too different to make that assertion. But the significant performance improvements to Polaris should have a correspondingly significant impact on the PS4 Neo’s overall performance, and a 1.4 – 1.6x performance increase seems completely plausible.
The 31% increase in CPU clock speed will keep games from becoming CPU-limited, and it’s possible that Sony addressed other issues in the SoC as well. The PS4’s SoC is better described as two quad-core chips than a single eight-core SoC, but Sony may have paid AMD to design a unified eight-core chip with a faster L2 cache (Jaguar’s L2 historically runs at 50% CPU clock). Past presentations from developers like Naughty Dog have stated that looking up data in the other CPU cluster’s L2 cache has a latency hit almost as severe as just pulling data from main memory in the first place; a unified eight-core chip would alleviate this problem and allow developers to multi-thread more effectively.
There’s still no word on price or availability, but this new console could effectively sweep Microsoft’s refreshed Xbox One S completely off the table. While the Xbox One S is slightly faster than the original model, it’s not going to fare well against a revitalized PS4 — not when those comparisons already tilt Sony’s direction in the first place. Microsoft’s Project Scorpio is expected to leapfrog the PS4 altogether, but that’s not going to happen for another 12 months. If Sony’s VR experience is strong, the company could be set to own 2017 — news that’s probably not particularly welcome at Nintendo, which is hoping to ignite fan interest around its own platform, the mobile/living room hybrid Nintendo NX.