March 02, 2013, 7:00 AM — Sony's PlayStation 4 launch last Wednesday was monumental, and not just because it may very well be the first console announcement in history where the company failed to actually show the console itself.
While the rest of the world was bemoaning the mythical, missing hardware, Sony also announced some basic high-level hardware specifications for the impending machine. Hidden within the technical jargon was a secret: This so-called console is in fact a full-blown x86 PC at its multicored core. More interestingly, the specs indicate that unlike its predecessor--which was an absolute beast when it launched seven years back--the PlayStation 4 will likely lag behind cutting-edge gaming PCs from the very first day it hits the streets.
That's not exactly a surprise. "If you predict how hardware evolves at the current speed of evolution, and then take consumer pricing evolution, already two years ago you could see [that] whatever [console] launches in 2013 or 2014 or 2015 will never beat a PC again," Crytek head Cevat Yerli recently told Eurogamer.
Sony just proved Yerli correct. Should gamers on either side of the console/PC divide be worried?
The PlayStation 4 by the numbers
Before we dive into portents, let's talk about the PlayStation 4's core technical specifications and how they stack up against desktop gaming rigs. (Fear not--I'll try to keep the jargon to a minimum.)
A "semi-custom" AMD accelerated processing unit (APU) lies at the heart of the PlayStation 4. It's made up of eight CPU cores based on the company's upcoming "Jaguar" architecture. Those Jaguar cores are joined by a next-generation Radeon GPU featuring 18 compute units capable of pumping out 1.84 teraflops of performance power.
As with every other AMD APU, both the CPU cores and the GPU are situated on the same physical die, and the two will have a whopping 8GB of blazing-fast GDDR5 memory to share between them. (Cue Keanu Reeves: Whoa.) Some other specs were announced, but the central APU is really the focus here.