We build a PS4! What can the rumoured specs do?

So what have we learned? To help us understand these figures and just how much we can read into them, we asked Techradar’s components editor Dave James. And inevitably, it turns out it’s a bit more complicated than just putting two sets of numbers against each other:

“Sadly just benchmarking the relevant PC components in the current crop of Windows-compatible games wont give you much of an idea how a PS4 utilising those components would actually perform.

Coding on closed-platform devices, like consoles, means you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of the hardware because you know that every one of those devices will be exactly the same.”

So we could have done the same thing with the PS3′s equivalent PC components, run some benchmarks, and yielded much lower results, simply because the mass-market PC parts aren’t designed to work together and with nothing else, James says:

“On such an open platform as the PC that means coding in redundencies for myriad different components. So as much as us tech geeks like to talk about the slick bits of silicon inside the machines so much of the final product is dependent on the software that is created and actioned on it.”

That’s hopeful, given the less than earth-shattering performances our test rig gave. It means that with the right firmware and the benefit of not having to worry about compatibility with other hardware, those seemingly modest components that Orbis reports kept flaggin up are capable of much, much more than we got out of them.

Crisp details and super-HD textures may yet come as standard with PS4.

But there’s still a worry here – regardless of the framerates AMD’s A8 3850 CPU and the HD 7670 GPU are capable of in the current generation of games, they don’t represent next-gen hardware. It’s not new technology, so how can the PS4, if it’s powered by this hardware, represent a significant step forwards for gaming? Again, Dave James provides some insight:

“There is also the possibility that the rumoured specs are based on the builds for the PS4 development kits which might have gone out. The final PS4 itself might contain more up to date iterations of that hardware further down the line.It should be possible to code with that current spec knowing that things are set to be x times faster by the time the final machines are released.

AMD itself is set to release an update to the A8-3850 APU this summer, codenamed Trinity, which would happily run the same code on both chips. Though the Trinity APU ought to be significantly faster.”

…which means, happily, that the performance results from our own version of the PS4 aren’t the final word. Updated, more powerful versions of the components we tested in a closed environment that can be optimised much more than PC parts – it’s clear that such a system would have tonnes more graphical and processing clout than our humble test rig.

So, what if the PS4 spec rumours are true? With the benefit of developing on a closed platform, AMD and Sony have the potential to squeeze much more from the reported hardware than it might seem by benchmarking the PC hardware itself.

Then there’s the possibility that the rumours are based around specs for the dev kits developers have been given – if that’s the case, there’s really no telling how powerful the off-the-shelf PS4 may be. Our dreams of donning a VR headset and entering a world even more detailed than this one are still intact – phew.
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