See What’s Inside the PlayStation 4 With These Exclusive Photos
BY CADE METZ11.07.136:30 AM
A closeup of the green motherboard. The central processor is that big thing on the right, surrounded by eight memory chips. The other eight memory chips are on the other side of the board.
TOKYO — Inside Sony headquarters, at the heart of Tokyo’s Shinagawa district, Yasuhiro Ootori is about to reveal something that almost no one outside the Japanese tech giant has ever seen: the inside of a PlayStation 4.
It’s the middle of October, four weeks before the new game console is due to reach stores in the U.S. and Canada, and Ootori — director of the mechanical engineering team in charge of the PS4 — is surrounded by a phalanx of other Sony engineers, several PR handlers, two journalists, and six guys set to capture the moment on video. Not to mention the interpreter who will instantly translate his commentary into English.
The video producer slaps his hands in front of the two cameras — an imitation of an old movie clapboard — and the Sony man spends the next hour and half taking the console apart, piece by sacred piece. He even wears white gloves. It’s the world’s first PlayStation 4 teardown.
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What we see is a hardware architecture that’s both simple and powerful. With longtime game designer Mark Cerny leading the way, lending his software-minded expertise to Ootori and the rest of the hardware engineering team, Sony abandoned the overly complex Cell microprocessor that drove the PlayStation 3, building the PS4 around an “x86″ chip similar to the processors that have driven most of our personal computers for the last three decades. The idea was to make it that much easier for developers to build games for the new console, to create the things that will ultimately capture our attention.
“We ended up with a platform that was more appropriately targeted at the game — which is kind of the point — and less about designing a hardware platform in a vacuum,” says Chris Zimmerman, the co-founder and director of development at Sucker Punch Productions, a game designer owned by Sony that is currently building a title InFAMOUS: Second Son for the new console.
“Things have gotten a little more standard, in layman’s terms. The Sony hardware, historically, has been very quirky. If you were willing to put the effort in to take advantage of those quirks, you could do some incredible things, but there was a lot of effort involved to just get to the point of getting everything running. That’s less the case with this [console] generation.”
That said, the PS4 still goes beyond the average PC, combining a CPU, the central brain of any computer, with a GPU, which is typically used to render graphics. The result is a processor that can juggle those two roles with unusual efficiency, as it taps into 8GB of GDDR5 memory — 16 times what you got with the PS3. What this ultimately gives you, Cerny explains, are “richer” game worlds. In other words, if you enter a virtual city during a PS4 game, “everyone looks different — finally.”
Zimmermann says much the same thing. “There is more fine detail on everything on the screen, but for us, the real changes are more qualitative,” he explains, explaining that the console has allowed games to offer, among other things, a more realistic lighting model. “Things we couldn’t do before — like wet streets — we can now do an exceptional job on.”
It should be noted that many high-end PC gaming rigs provide much the same horsepower as the PS4, but the console certainly exceeds what you get in the new world of mobile games, and it offers one thing you don’t get from a PC: the enormous game machine that is Sony, which owns a wide array of well-known game design houses, including Sucker Punch. It’s these design houses that will ultimately show the worth of the PS4. “It’s not the box that counts as much as the games,” says Harold Goldberg, a game pundit and author of the book All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture.
In the photos above, you’ll also notice the power adapter tucked inside the console — which means the PS4 won’t clutter your living room with an external power brick — and you’ll find all the other hardware essential to any modern console, from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas to an optical drive that reads DVDs and Blu-ray discs. It’s a tight fit for all this hardware inside the rather slim PS4, but the console was carefully designed to efficiently move heat out of the enclosure, using two heat pipes and a specially designed centrifugal fan.
What the console doesn’t give you is hardware that can play PS3 games. But you can’t have everything.
All photos: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED