PlayStation 5 specs revealed; Strong emphasis on speed with SSD

A strong emphasis on speed and audio.

We’ve all been chomping at the bit to learn more about the PlayStation 5 this year. Xbox has been crushing it with regular massive news that tells us how powerful the Xbox Series X and all the fancy features it’ll be capable of. Now, Sony has taken their first step at giving us a glimpse at what we can expect from their next-gen system.

Today, system architect Mark Cerny gave an extended talk about what’s going on under the hood for the PlayStation 5. It’s very techy, it’s very complicated, there’s a lot of fancy buzzwords but we’ll do our best to help make it as comprehensive as possible for you.

First, let’s get the specs out of the way.

CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz (variable frequency)

GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (variable frequency)

GPU Architecture: Custom RDNA 2

Memory/Interface: 16GB GDDR6/256-bit

Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

Internal Storage: Custom 825GB SSD

IO Throughput: 5.5GB/s (Raw), Typical 8-9GB/s (Compressed)

Expandable Storage: NVMe SSD Slot

External Storage: USB HDD Support

Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray drive

As expected, the PS5 is slightly trailing behind the Xbox Series X in some areas. For example, the PS5 has 10.28 teraflops while the Series X has 12. That said, it’s kicking major ass in other areas, particularly in the SSD department which affects speed.

The PlayStation 5’s SSD will allow it to be faster than the Xbox Series and while you can upgrade it, there’s currently nothing on the market that is faster than it. Cerny stated it will need to be certified by Sony for the PS5 so you can’t just put any SSD in, so don’t expect to buy one before the console launches.

The switch from hard drives to SSD was to give game developers more freedom. Game loads are 100x faster, install times won’t be a slog, Cerny noted that they could stream in assets so that they appear only when you’re looking at them to use less memory and space, and much more.

The idea is to help developers design their games in much more appealing ways, you probably won’t see any more (or nearly as many) hidden load screens. That means no squeezing through crevices like in Tomb Raider or Uncharted, no extended elevators like in Mass Effect, and whatever else may apply.

Cerny even boasted the SSD so much that he claimed it may be *too* fast in some cases. “As game creators, we go from trying to distract the player from how long fast travel is taking – like those Spider-Man subway rides – to being so blindingly fast that we might even have to slow that transition down,” says Cerny.

Sony also took a look at 100 of PS4’s top played games by playtime and expects most of them to be backward compatible with PlayStation 5 on day one. Some games will require tweaks to keep up with the new hardware’s speed. As for other games, including ones from systems prior to PS4, it remains unclear.

Despite not being as powerful as the Xbox Series X in terms of sheer horsepower, it’s still going to be a great place to play your games. It can’t be understated how Xbox Series X is such a monster that it’s almost unprecedented. Sony is still going to deliver the goods and will likely be the more affordable console of the two.

Cerny noted that he has seen a PS5 game flexing impressive ray tracing and that he’s getting “bullish”.

“How far can we go? I’m starting to get quite bullish,” says Cerny. “I’ve already seen a PS5 title that is successfully using ray-tracing-based reflections in complex animated scenes, with only modest costs.”

His bullishness was clear when talking about the PS5’s approach to audio. Using an audio engine known as “Tempest 3D Audio Tech”, you’re going to get some of the best audio you’ve probably ever gotten from a gaming experience. The idea is to immerse you in the world, make every sound clear and distinct with specific locality. If it’s raining, instead of a general sound that just sounds like a generic audio file, you’re going to feel like you’re in a rain shower.

Cerny noted that gamers tend to get far better audio from headphones over their TV speakers. With Tempest, Sony hopes to change that and create a much more immersive audio experience across the board.

There were no games shown at the event as this was a much smaller scale event aimed at developers/tech-heads. This event was Sony’s planned talk for GDC before it was canceled but they opted to shift it to a pre-recorded YouTube video instead. For an even greater breakdown, we highly recommend checking out Digital Foundry’s article on Eurogamer.

If you’re curious as to how it stacks up to the Xbox Series X directly, you can take a look at Microsoft’s recent info dump by clicking here. Both Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are due out this holiday season.