The PlayStation 4 Pro Actually Has A Little Bit More RAM

The PlayStation 4 Pro reveal six weeks ago was a fairly divisive one. It wasn’t just in terms of what it means for PlayStation gamers going forward, but also how Sony were managing to get 4K gaming out of something that might appear underpowered for the task. Mark Cerny has spoken to a number of sites to explain just how that works.

One simple point is that, while the PlayStation Meeting stressed that 4K and HDR were only really extracting and showing the detail inherent in the games more clearly, the PS4 Pro does, in fact, have a small amount of extra RAM compared to the standard PS4. This is 1GB of DDR3, that sits alongside the much faster pool of 8GB of GDDR5 that the two consoles have in common.

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“For me, one of the hallmarks of a new console generation is the use of significantly more memory,” Cerny said when speaking to Engadget. “By contrast, the PS4 Pro is definitely part of the PS4 generation, so we took a different direction with the console. We felt games needed a little more memory, about 10 percent more, so we added about a gigabyte of slow, conventional DRAM to the console.”

This will be used by system and non-gaming apps to free up extra space for games to use to deal with rendering in 4K. Things like Netflix will live in the DDR3, for example.

Additionally, he went into great depth with Digital Foundry to talk about the various techniques and custom elements to the GPU design that help to extract the very best out of the hardware. Excuse the technical jargon, but things like making half-float and 16-bit operations only take up exactly as much power as they need means that twice as many of those operations can run at the same time. There’s also a bespoke and high quality hardware-based object tracking anti-aliasing technique, which sounds very impressive.

Of course, not all games are running at a native 4K resolution, but many are using a technique called checkerboarding. Suffice it to say that Digital Foundry’s Richard Leadbetter was impressed with his second extended taste of this technique, and that while the image was a little bit softer than native 4K in the side-by-side comparisons, but still often a very clear image.

Another technique that’s much easier to implement is something called “geometry rendering” which blends 1080p rendering with depth values associated with 4K, allowing the PS4 to use a post-processing technique to scale that up to 4K. It’s not as clear a 4K image by a long shot, because many elements are still trapped at 1080p, but it can be used to get an improved and larger image that can then be reduced back down for a cleaner image in 1080p.

If this kind of thing interests you, I’d suggest heading over to Digital Foundry for their full write up of their time with Mark Cerny and the PS4 Pro.

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20 Comments

  1. Adding the raw power for native 4K would have been better! These fancy techniques have limit legs and I get it keeps the price down but there really isn’t anything wrong with the base PS4 for those not after uber visuals, so the Pro at £400-£450 would still have caught those hardcore games looking for the best PlayStation can offer.
    PS4 is great, no fancy crap – just a great GPU, beefy RAM (GDDR5) and an “ok” cpu. When Sony revealed the PS4 it was all around what developed wanted – an easy way to get games on the system. The XB1 using stupid 32MB E-DRAM was seen as a needless complication. It is almost like Sony have gone backwards! No 4K-UHD drive, remove the optical from the Slim and push (nearly) 4K with the Pro using fancy techniques to save costs.
    If MS start talking about how the Scorpio uses fairy dust and matrix code to render fake 4K then I’m dusting off the PSone and going retro, or taking up Golf!

    • How is it “(nearly) 4K”? If it’s using fancy techniques to get 4K out of something less, does that not still count as 4K? It’s the Killzone argument all over again (wasn’t 1080p using fancy techniques legally declared to count as 1080p, after some idiots moaned about it not really being 1080?)

      Adding enough power to do “real” 4K would make it stupidly priced. Something MS might struggle with next year. You can’t stick the price up too much mid-generation. Scorpio could end up being stuck in the weird situation of being too expensive for a current gen machine, or being a half-arsed attempt at a next gen machine.

      It’s going to be interesting to see where MS position it. Sony seem happy with a small upgrade and presumably a PS5 in a couple of years. MS have abandoned the generational thing and it might not work out for them.

      Or maybe sales of the original XBone plus Scorpio add up to something decent, even if neither comes anywhere close to PS4 sales? They’ll probably claim Scorpio plus it’s successor are both XBones and so the XBone is the most successful console ever.

      • The direction MS are taking is far more future proof than Sony right now. Sony have admitted they are trying to retain mid-gen usersbase that would otherwise jump to PC gaming. MS are looking for the userbase to use Xbox or PC, it doesn’t matter to them. The Scorpio seems more about letting console players play closer to PC gamers and indeed letting either play their games on either.

        No it doesn’t count as 4K. Running 90 metres and then being carried for 10 metres is not sprinting 100 metres. However, that is not every game – some games will run native 4K. But, this goes for Scorpio too, if you’re going to sell a system on 4K capabilities then give it the raw power to do so. The Pro seems like a half-arsed cheap approach to getting where it is aiming to be. I was ready to upgrade my PS4 but I wanted raw power and am happy to drop £400-£500 on it as that is still £500 less than the PC rig I would love and enough to keep me spending on PC for a few more years. You get what you pay for and at £350 you are certainly doing that, a smoke and mirrors attempt at competing with the PC mustard faces.

      • £400+ for a console is a pretty disastrous price. How’d things work out for MS with the £429 XBone launch price? How did it go for Sony with the PS3 at launch?

        Some people might be happy to pay that, but most won’t, not with the cheaper versions available. MS could be trying to launch something £150-200 more expensive than the competition next year, with something even more powerful coming from Sony a year or 2 later.

      • Scorpio is rumoured to be close to a grand. It sits outside the reach of most, and if it is in reach, you are better off spending that cash on a upgradable PC.

        That is the unfortunate truth. Scorpio has failure written all over it from the outset. It doesn’t fit affordable console gaming, it doesnt stand up against dedicated gaming PC either.

        Sony are delivering “good enough”, now, and at a very affordable price point. That is what matters above all other.

        Also without mass adoption, you won’t be seeing mass game support, so expect patchy Scorpio game support, and consumer confusion with a userbase split.

        Sony have made a very smart decision by NOT opting to split their userbase, all titles work on both consoles.

      • it is not going to be near a grand. The people who peddle that are basing it on the cost of current PC hardware that they can buy online and have zero clue about how hardware is bulk purchased for mass produced devices.

    • As much as Sony would like you to buy a 4K television, they’re obviously being very honest with themselves about 4K gaming and the hardware it takes to make a console for it.

      4K gaming gets bandied around a lot but the uptake is dreadfully slow. Sony’s half-way house feels right for this generation. True/native 4K can come with the PS5.

    • Digital Foundy say they couldn’t really tell the difference between native 4k and checkerboarded 4k, when:
      1 foot away from a 65″ 4k screen,
      And with the frame rate slowed down so that they could compare.

      So for any of us they will be identical.

      No point making things harder for themselves for the sake of it.

      Scorpio’s difference is that the larger RAM (12GB expected) will enable higher quality textures to be used, space permitting on the blu-ray. However if it cannot use checkerboarding for 4k resolution, it’s possible that PS4 will look better. It depends on whether it’s a Sony or AMD thing.

  2. Digital Foundry writing something that isn’t full of pictures demonstrating the exact opposite of what they were claiming in the text??? What’s going on?!?

    Maybe it was the threat of an 8 hour Powerpoint presentation from Mark Cerny that did it? Which is probably something that happens to you before you realise it’s happening. Strange man. Obviously very clever, but watching him reveal the Pro last month, I couldn’t work out if he was trying to hypnotise or seduce everyone. So I rubbed my man parts against the screen and fell asleep, just to be on the safe side. I’m sure it’s what he wanted.

    • Between that and the Nintedo Direct I nearly slit my wrists! In the age of YouTube and Twitch Mark Cerny managed to make me feel I’d have been better off reading a textbook!
      It needed a simply formular: This is what the console looks like – this is what the console is packing inside – this is what the games look like and how the games will blow you away – this is the price – ‘a goodnightah.

      • A textbook? A very sexy, seductive, hypnotic text book, maybe?

        Maybe that’s the problem. You wanted excitement. Nice looking games. Maybe a small explosion. And so you weren’t listening to him and being hypnotised by his calm, seductive voice. I’m surprised ships weren’t crashing into his presentation.

    • Really interesting, thanks for the link! I didn’t understand a lot of it, it’s been a decade since I kept up with the ins and outs of the hardware, but the article was a good reminder of how much work goes into console hardware. We take a lot for granted.

      • I really like to know how things work so spend ages reading stuff like this, especially the info about the techniques and custom hardware Sony adds to AMD’s APUs. Infact I’ve never read a ‘story book’ since school (a canny few years ago). I would rather read about the latest technological advances in just about any category but especially computers and F1.

  3. I’d like to see some good info on the benefits for PSVR. I’ll rephrase that – I’d like to know, in laymen’s terms how it’s gonna make PSVR better. It’s the only reason I’m considering the PS4 Pro.

    • According to a lot of developers, PS4 Pro improves the VR drastically so if that’s the case the pro is beneficial if you own PSVR & want to see that change.

      • This is what I’m hearing…

      • Same here, the visuals are meant to be a lot better.
        That’s why I’m getting one, I’ll get a 4K TV sometime in the future.

  4. I kinda want that checkerboard rendering tech on a driver-level for PC. Could make for interesting, cleaner results when paired with dynamic performance scaling.

    • There’s nothing stopping it being used on PC. It was discussed quite some time ago as a way of reducing GPU load for VR, and it’s used in Rainbow Six Siege with an option in the graphics menu called “Temporal Filtering”. So it’s eminently possible, but what’s standing in the way is developers actually implementing it.

      It’s there as a recommended hardware function on PS4 Pro, which will grease that particular wheel, and we might see it made an option more regularly on PC off the back of this.

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