Sony is looking to the future with the PlayStation 4. A "supercharged PC architecture" and increased role for the graphics chip have been conceived to take the next generation console into its next decade or more.
"The time frame when we were designing these features was 2009, 2010," says PS4 lead hardware architect Mark Cerny to Gamasutra. "And the timeframe in which people will use these features fully is 2015? 2017?"
Work on the PS4 began in 2007 with "postmortems on the PlayStation 3", which had puzzled developers with its unfamiliar Cell processor. Acknowledging that developers will transfer games to the Xbox too, Cerny didn't want the PlayStation to miss out because the technology was too complex.
Graphics to the future
Because consoles have longer lives than PCs, the team had to look to the future, deciding that the X86 PC architecture would have evolved into a powerful enough force by the time the PS4 came along and would remain so during the console's life.
Cerny predicts that in the future the graphics processor will play a bigger role. The eight-core CPU and ATI Radeon GPU are on a single chip with other units, including a separate audio unit.
The CPU and GPU can talk to each other easily for "asynchronous compute", allowing developers to decide how they want the PS4 to run. When the graphics chip is doing something simple like showing off a map, for example, the remainder of its brainpower can be assigned to do something else.
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