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Sony PlayStation NEO Console for VR Revealed?

According to multiple sources we managed to talk to during the last couple of industry conferences, and the story that just break today, Sony is rushing ahead towards introduction of “Playstation 4.5”, codenamed NEO. The company decided to update the console rather than performing a ‘simple’ die shrink, a tactic both Microsoft and Sony utilized over the lifetime of their Playstation 2 and 3, Xbox and 360 consoles.

The original plan for NEO was to introduce a 14nm die-shrink of 8-core Jaguar processor and an update of a GCN-based graphics processor. However, a shift from 28nm to 14nm is significantly more complex due to the fact that 28nm process used planar transistor design (i.e. “2D”), while 14nm brings FinFET (i.e. “3D”) transistors, and the move came at a prohibitive cost.

The CPU portion of the die was ‘converted’ to 14nm with significant power benefits, enabling a 30% clock boost while reducing the power by as much as 45%. In plain english, the octa-core Jaguar APU is now being clocked at 2.1 GHz vs. 1.6 GHz, and will still consume 10-15% less power than the core from the original PS4. On the other hand, the GPU is where the situation got complicated. Due to complexity of the GPU architecture, it was not possible to simply switch from 28nm to 14nm as the custom GPU has significant changes when compared to the conventional PC graphics processors (direct access to L2 cache, for example). Also, not all CU units were enabled (128 cores were left unused for yield purposes).

Last piece of the puzzle was the arrival of 4K TVs and more importantly, Virtual Reality with its 90Hz demand. While TV’s are okay with upscaling the picture into Ultra HD, or even into Full HD on most demanding titles (both Xbox One and PS4 are guilty of upscaling from as low as HD Ready, 720p or 960p at best) – VR is another beast altogether.

Meet the Playstation 4.5 i.e. NEO

  • AMD Custom Built Silicon
  • 14nm FinFET, GlobalFoundries
  • Diffused in USA (New York state)
  • Made in Malaysia
  • 8 ‘ZEN Lite’ Cores at 2.1 GHz
  • 512 MB DDR3L (up from 256)
  • 2304 Polaris 10 GPU Cores (silicon: 2432)
  • 36 enabled Core Clusters (silicon: 38)
  • New GPU architecture
  • Enhanced 256-bit Memory controller
  • 8GB GDDR5 in double density configuration (4 instead of 8 chips)

If these specs look familiar, don’t be surprised. Last week, we ran a story on Ellesmere chip, now known as Polaris 10. This APU just might be one of reasons why AMD pushed Vega 10 into 2017, as working on adding the Jaguar cores inside the Polaris 10 design.

Perhaps the most important aspect is that PS4 and NEO will be 100% compatible, and developers will not see the difference between the two. Polaris is a part of GCN family, and if you use OpenGL 4.5 or Vulkan, you will get the same back-end access with increased performance. However, one source claims that really skilled game developers will be able to squeeze significantly more compute power than it was the case with PS4.

Get ready for some serious PS4 discounts once NEO launches, planned for Tokyo Game Show in September, with availability in November 2016.