Technical Difficulties: PS4 Hardware Followup; RE: Forbes’ Erik Kain


Man, for a second there I thought I got redirected to Kotaku…

[As always Technical Difficulties is a segment where I lose my shit and rant, so please, don’t see this as some kind of high-quality article]

I’m keeping an eye on you Erik, someone has to.

Don’t get me wrong, I even like you, as long as you keep your Dark Souls obsession in check (Your 170 word article on Deep Down mentions Dark Souls 5 times, c’mon man), but this kind of article did surprise me quite a bit. I wasn’t joking when I wrote it reminds me of Kotaku. It’s the same type of misinformation, mixed with idle speculation, guesswork and the rumor-mill I’ve seen you rally against, yet here we are.

The problem isn’t so much that you are uninformed and writing about technical issues that you need to have expertise in, it’s more that you used language in your article as if you do.

In my recent article about the PS4 I was extra careful to mark my words as speculation, and for good reason. Nobody knows anything about the performance or architecture of the PS4, maybe except the developers themselves, but they are conspicuously silent.

I’m a tech-nerd, like you, in that I understand the bare minimum about our technology and have read some of Wikipedia. I got 3 years of education in electronics, but knowing how to build an 8-bit Gray Converter circuit isn’t going to help me understand microchip design at the level we are talking at.

Your article speaks in an authoritative language, and I would even call it misinformation at this point. Someone without experience will take your word for it and this is ultimately how rumors get made. You are actively contributing to the pointless console-wars with inflammatory information that is part complete fantasy and part pseudo-knowledge guesswork.

Some examples:

Let’s take a look at the memory first. In the PC set-up, we have 8 gigs of common DDR3 RAM, but Sony has somehow crammed the same amount of GDDR5 RAM into its PS4.

GDDR5 is primarily used in graphics chips. It’s not something you see used as system RAM at all.

For instance, the nVidia “Titan” GPU, which costs $1000 by itself, has just 6GB of GDDR5 RAM, and that’s still all reserved for the GPU. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any PC with GDDR5 plugged directly into the motherboard rather than sitting on the graphics card. This just isn’t how PCs work at the moment, though that will likely change.

First, comparing the 8GB RAM of the PS4 to the 6GB nVidia Titan is borderline pointless. In addition you are using language implying its worse (bolded), you even frame the fact that the 6GB are reserved for the GPU as a if it’s a bad thing (its actually a non-argument, since the Titan is a GFX card, so why would it share RAM with the system?).

Second, you can’t say how the PC market will evolve and change, not even  with a “likely” educated guess. In fact, as I mentioned in my other article, CPU integrated GFX chipsets have been shown to consistently suck and the industry shows no signs even considering something like this (for reasons that would break the scope of this article).

Lets continue

GDDR5, while suffering from slightly higher latency, offers a substantial bandwidth boost over DDR3, and given the make-up of the integrated CPU/GPU chip in the PS4 this will translate to a substantial performance boost.

How do you know this? Like you just said in your previous paragraph, this wasn’t done before ever, so how do you know? You talk about it like you know, can we get a source on that?

This has officially crossed into fantasy land.

Would a “could/maybe/possibly” have hurt in that sentence?

What does this mean? Basically it means that the two chips will be able to communicate with one another much faster and more efficiently than in a traditional PC set-up.

Again, how do you know?

This isn’t even a hypothetical, we don’t know nothing about the inner workings and architecture of the CPU integrated GFX-chip, we only know its processing capability, which is a 1.84 TFLOPS. We don’t know if putting the GPU in the CPU will translate into any benefit, for all we know this was purely a decision required for the form-factor making the hardware smaller (we still don’t know how the PS4 actually looks).

It’s at this point where you lost 90% of the readers, claiming things without evidence and presenting them as fact as well as using superlatives comparing them to the PS4.

Unlike a PC, the PS4 won’t need to bother with all those pesky PC applications.

Yet it will run an on-the fly recording software (supposedly continuous, so you can go back and upload what you just played), streaming services, and connectivity applications as well as updates and downloads (in the background).

Again, you are framing this in a way with the word “pesky” like this is somehow showing us the superiority of the PS4, this is just nothing short of baiting.

The fact is, no matter how you slice or dice it, you can’t build a PC with the same specs or performance as the PS4. You could almost certainly build something faster and more powerful, but it will cost you more than the PS4 is likely going to cost.

We don’t know that unless we have

a. A price-point for the PS4, which neither you nor anybody else has. (for all we know this might be another 699$ fiasco)


b. A performance benchmark for the PS4 (some claim the Unreal Engine 4 demo that was running did not perform at the same quality current PCs are capable of)

You state this as a fact, yet there isn’t anything backing it up.

There will be many PS4 exclusives that will only play on that machine. If you want to play those games, it won’t matter how amazing your gaming rig is—just like the PS4, however high-powered, will not have access to the entire breadth of titles available on PC.

For now, we know of 2 confirmed PS4 exclusives: Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall. Deep Down might be one, but we don’t even know. Other titles shown are not exclusive to PS4.

So again this is speculation masquerading as fact.

 Unlike your gaming rig, Sony’s CPU/GPU combo chip is much cheaper to manufacture.

How do you know?

In fact, I’d wager this can’t be true if this is a chip unique to the PS4 and needs its own production line alongside the “normal” chips used day in day out on PC.

Indeed, all the parts—save for the RAM—should come at a pretty reasonable price.

How do you know that? This isn’t like building a PC, like you yourself have remarked. The pieces are custom and probably are integrated on a custom board with custom architecture.

If the PS4 utilizes an SSD for a hard drive, you can easily add another 100$ to your calculation, and I would wager that the console will -need- an SSD, because else the streaming data to RAM, even if GDDR5, will take forever making load-times horrible. And again we know nothing about the HDD used.

The average throughput of a high-end SATA drive is ~150MB/s, that of an SSD almost double that. You will need that speed if you really want to stream that data into your shared RAM (those sweet ass 2k/4k textures you expect from next-next-gen games). Given that 6x Blu-Ray has read speeds of 27 MB/s, most games will choke out if they don’t load from HDD. There isn’t a way to make load-times not suck from optical disc so we need to expect an installation (like on a PC). If the HDD sucks, so do your games (trust me on this one, I got an old first-gen SATA and know the micro-stutter first hand)

The good news for PC gamers is that this technology is likely coming our way as well, and we’ll undoubtedly see much more powerful configurations than anything in the PS4.

What? Why?

There isn’t anything indicating a technology shift towards something like the PS4 architecture. In fact, I’m pretty sure that nVidia/ATI [Edit: sorry, nVidia/AMD – force of habit] want to stay far away from integrating their chips into CPUs for many reasons:

a. Modularity, you can’t upgrade your GFX card without upgrading your CPU, bad business choice for consumers

b. Heat mitigation, CPUs are far more susceptible to overheating and performance-loss than GPUs, it would complicate cooling.

c. Modularity part 2, If your GPU croaks, you have to replace your CPU as well, no thanks.

d. GDDR5 still sucks as system memory (I use my PC for other things than gaming, notably video editing and gfx work, which needs low latency RAM, not high bandwidth)

c. Modularity part 3, you would need to produce an incredible variety of choice in the CPU/GPU combinations (from low-low to high-high range)

PCs are good as they are, they don’t need the architecture of the PS4, in fact it would be a hindrance to the core principles of a PC.

I can’t argue in favor of a system that hasn’t yet released, but I do think it’s important to note just how structurally unique the PS4 will be compared to its PC counterparts, at least for the time being. Not better, necessarily, but certainly different enough that any comparison is basically apples to oranges.Not better, necessarily, but certainly different enough that any comparison is basically apples to oranges.

Well, here you say it outright, but unfortunately this is the end of your article and you already managed to piss everyone off that read this far without rage-quiting.

It feels insincere and tacked on considering the framing of your article and the authoritative language used up to that point.

I would suggest updating the article with a preamble so the ignorant masses don’t take your words for fact and start shit somewhere with misinformation thinking they have now understood the PS4.

If you just wanted to say how different the PS4 and PC architectures really are, you would have done just that in a far simpler setup and with far less superlatives towards the PS4.

[EDIT: Erik Kain’s article has been updated with a clarification]


3 Responses to Technical Difficulties: PS4 Hardware Followup; RE: Forbes’ Erik Kain

  1. sylight says:

    Good article, even if a lot relies on “you don’t know how it really is yet”.
    Though I’m not a big fan of these hardware specs discussions because it’s senseless.
    It’s nearly a fact that the PS4 will be cheaper than a PC with the same hardware. It’s fact that games _optimized_ for the PS4 will run faster than the same game on a PC with the same hardware. But that’s a positive aspect all consoles had for now. Still: The PC will always be better because of modularity and always more expensive because a single person isn’t a multi-billion dollar concern who gets a wole lot of discount on the hardware parts.
    But one day HD4K displays will be a standard and the PS4 is not able to play games on them whilst the PC will be – one day…
    I’m a confident PC user and I cannot understand all these consoleros jerking over their new hardware. It’s the same with mobile phones: A few have a technological lead for about a year, then they’re old again.
    I’ll continue to enjoy Dwarf Fortress now. Get a taste of that, consoleros.

  2. Matthew says:

    “For now, we know of 2 confirmed PS4 exclusives: Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall. Deep Down might be one, but we don’t even know. Other titles shown are not exclusive to PS4.”

    Wasn’t there also The Witness, Driveclub and Infamous: Second Son?

    • tradamtm says:

      Yes you are absolutely right, Driveclub and Infamous are PS4 exclusive (as far as we know) I have completely forgotten about them.

      The Witness however is not a PS4 exclusive, its coming to PC and iOS and with the deal on PS4 being a timed exclusive, eventually also for Wii/U and Xbox360+its next gen successor.

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