We’re drawing ever closer to the PlayStation meeting scheduled on September 7 where Sony will officially showcase the PS4 Neo, at least, that’s their most likely reason for hosting the event. The PS4 Neo has been the hot topic of many leaks and rumours and has even had a 40+ page document leaked online detailing the specifics of the system.
Since Microsoft officially announced their “monster” Xbox Project Scorpio at E3 2016, some enthusiasts have taken to rumours that Sony might be upgrading the Neo specs in response but the information Eurogamer has makes this seem very unlikely indeed. Here’s what they had to say, and of course, full credit to Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry for this investigative work.
So what options are open to Sony here? The reality is that the options available are somewhat more limited than you may think. Microsoft’s Xbox One clock-speed boosts were possible owing to a number of factors – but first and foremost there was the sheer size of the chassis and its relatively enormous cooling solution. Adding nine per cent to CPU clocks and seven per cent to the GPU would not have troubled the thermal solution whatsoever. Conversely, assuming Neo follows PS4’s design philosophy, we should expect a traditional console-like design with a similar cooling assembly. PS4 already gets hotter and noisier than Xbox One – upping clocks on what is likely to be a large processor may not be an option unless there’s a new approach to the size of the machine and the internal cooler.
One of the reasons Digital Foundry identify is the inherent architecture of the current systems – remember, these are only internal upgrades of existing hardware. Digital Foundry detail that pushing it further than the current rumoured Neo specs would be big trouble for the fan/cooling system in the PS4 which already runs hotter and louder than the Xbox One.
However, we have to put the emphasis on ‘theoretical’ there, because the effectiveness of additional compute resources tends to scale in line with memory bandwidth. Here, the Neo spec sits at 218GB/s – not especially prolific sitting next to the 320GB/s bandwidth that Microsoft has allocated to Scorpio’s 6TF system. Upgrading this would require Sony to move to premium-priced 8gbps GDDR5, as found in graphics cards such as RX 480 and GTX 1070. Such a move seems unlikely.
So what of the speculation concerning two competing Neo designs, one of which would have a more capable CPU and faster GPU with a $100 premium? It’s worth stating that no development sources I’ve spoken to have knowledge of this, and all of the documentation open to developers – who are making Neo games now – still reports the same 2.1GHz Jaguar CPU cluster paired with a 4.2TF GPU.
It seems here that, according to Digital Foundry sources, this second more powerful Neo spec could be fiction – something made up by an ‘insider’ on NeoGaf.
The biggest obstacle to a Neo specs boost is rather more mundane in nature though – production timescales. A 2016 release date is looking likely and we could even see Neo on shelves as soon as October, meaning that the console spec would have been nailed down many, many months ago. This is the reality of creating a mainstream consumer electronics device with a production run in its millions. The processor would have been in production for some time, and the memory module deal would have been completed many months ago – probably way ahead of the Scorpio specs reveal.
This seems like the most pragmatic reasoning why we won’t see anything boosted from the 4.2TFLOPS leaked spec; companies work on very stringent timelines and Neo seems like it’s on the way to store shelves so making a slight spec bump would cost Sony millions of unnecessary dollars. It just doesn’t hold up.