Development of the Sony PS3’s Graphics Processor and Hard Drive For Use in the PS4

The current generation of games consoles consists of the Microsoft Xbox 360 (launched November 2005), the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii (both launched November 2006). Whilst the Wii offers a more basic specification than its rivals, the Xbox and PS3 are both at the cutting edge of games console technology. Out of the two the PS3 is regarded as the most technologically advanced, but what can we look forward to with its successor? Expected around 2011 and most likely called the PlayStation 4, what can we anticipate in terms of technical advancements compared to the current generation console? In a previous article we dealt with the main processor and the main memory specifications. In this article we’ll cover the graphics processor and integrated hard drive. The optical media drive, control and connectivity features will be covered in a subsequent article.

First we turn to the graphics processor. As with the main processor, the PS3’s NVIDIA RSX ‘Reality Synthesizer’ graphics chip is more than capable of handling current requirements. Seeing that the current processor is based on NVIDIA’s 7800 PC graphics card I would expect the PS4’s graphics processor to be based on the companies line up at the time of development, thus giving an increase in performance over its predecessor but with a minimal development budget. The DDR3 RAM memory used at present is still considered a high-end product in the PC world and as a result I would expect this to either remain or be replaced by XDR type memory as used in the main Cell Processor. Whichever type of memory is used I would expect an increase in total capacity to at least 512MB and possibly 1GB as this is becoming a standard amount amongst high end graphics cards. This philosophy falls neatly in line with that of the Cell Processor in developing existing technology.

With regards to a replacement for the current consoles integrated hard drive, I would expect the PS4 to employ a solid state drive for its storage, with its capacity exceeding the current maximum 160GB so far seen in the PS3. This extra capacity would reflect the increasing demand for high-definition and downloadable content and the additional storage space that this dictates. Solid state drives are at the moment fairly expensive but have seen a steady rise in their use in the domestic personal computer market. A 250GB solid state drive retails for around £520 (or $700) at the moment but as with all things technology related I would expect their capacity to increase and the price to drop at a fast rate as the technology becomes more popular and production can benefit from economies of scale and research and development costs are re-paid. By the time of the PS4’s launch in two-to-three years time the technology should be available at a reasonable price for inclusion in the new machine. A solid state drive also has no moving in parts like a conventional hard drive, the mechanical parts of which operate in quite an extreme environment. This means a much higher level of reliability for both the user and Sony with a cost benefit in terms of lower numbers of warranty claims for hard drive failures.

That concludes our look at the next two elements of the future PS4 games console. Look out for the final article dealing with the future of the PS3’s optical media drive, control system and connectivity features. Pokemon cards

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