Tim Sweeney is not just anyone in the world of video games. The founder of Epic Games showed yesterday an amazing demo of what Unreal Engine 5 will be, but he did it from a very special platform: the PS5.
That next-generation console raised the question of what the future of these visual experiences will be, but strangely enough, Sweeney didn’t talk much about his GPU. For him the magic is in the PS5 storage system, which is “far ahead of anything that can be bought on any PC for any amount of money right now . ” The question, of course, is what makes it so advanced and how long will it take to have something like this on our PC.
New consoles boast PCIe 4.0, but PS5 boasts something else
The next generation of consoles promises more and more. We already know some very interesting details both the Xbox Series X and the PS5, but one of the great advantages that both Microsoft and Sony write about is their storage systems.
That absolute prominence of this section was especially clear in the case of the presentation of the technical characteristics of the PS5. This console will integrate an 825 GB SSD, a very special capacity that is designed so that the entire internal architecture of the storage system works optimally.
The use of the PCIe 4.0 standard that has been available for a long time thanks to AMD’s Zen 2 architecture and that anyone can use on a PC with the new AMD Ryzen 3000 motherboards and processors and the AMD Ryzen Threadripper will play a fundamental role in this architecture. for desktop PCs. The question is, can’t we achieve those mind-blowing PS5 performances on a PC? According to Sweeney, no . At least for now.
Sweeney and his team are praised
The head of Epic Games explained that the hardware of the Sony console is “absolutely phenomenal. Not only does it have an unprecedented amount of graphics power, but it also has a completely new storage architecture that blows up the architectures of the past . “
Sweeney further noted that “Sony’s storage system is top notch. It is not only the best on consoles, but the best on any platform. Better than high-end PCs . I think this will allow for the kind of Dive that was a dream a short time ago. The world of loading screens is over. The days of pop-in geometry that made objects appear as you moved through the game environment are over. “
Nick Warden, head of engineering at Epic, also highlighted this ability when talking about how Unreal Engine 5 could unleash its full potential thanks to this architecture . “There are tens of billions of triangles in that scene,” he said in speaking of his demo and the fragment of the statues.
In fact, he went on to explain that “it just isn’t possible to have them all in memory at the same time , so what we ultimately needed to have to do was stream those triangles as the camera moves through the scene. The input capabilities The PS5’s output [in other words, the storage system] is one of the key features that enables us to achieve that level of realism. “
An unparalleled system in the PC world (for now)
At NUpgrade we already talked in detail about the keys to that storage system that we broke down in our presentation of many of the technical specifications of the PS5.
To achieve those mind-boggling performance, Sony has had to design quite a lot of custom hardware, something that allows the SSD to pair with the processor in a way that closely resembles the intimate relationship between the processor and main memory.
The diagram shown by Cerny outlined how everything works. In that image you can see the components of that storage architecture that seems to be unmatched in the PC world or on any other platform:
- Custom Flash Controller : This chip is in charge of managing all the data supplied by the SSD to the processor through a four-line PCIe 4.0 interconnect. As explained in Eurogamer, that controller also has hardware blocks designed to remove bottlenecks from the unit, and it has six priority levels that allow developers to set those priorities so that certain game data arrives before others if necessary. In addition, this controller supports hardware decompression of both the ZLIB standard and the new Kraken system that allows dizzying transfers of up to 9 GB / s.
- SSD with 12 memory modules : The 825 GB of the SSD is spread across those 12 NAND memory modules. Cerny himself stated that “we explored the available NAND flash memory and built something with an optimal price / performance ratio.”
- 12-channel interface : Each of the 12 NAND memory modules that make up the SSD is connected to the controller with its own independent channel, making the parallelism that can be achieved in those transfers theoretically spectacular.
The interface that links the custom controller with the PS5 CPU is a four-line PCIe 4.0 link, so we can intuit that the controller will have the responsibility of assuming the torrent of data that it receives from the NAND flash chips through 12 dedicated lines and channel it to the CPU preventing a bottleneck from occurring .
This last characteristic is therefore another of the keys to that “magical” performance of the storage system of the PS5 , and one of the reasons why at least for the moment it does not seem possible to achieve something like this on a PC.
We can see it in the block diagram of the AMD X570 chipset, which is currently one of the most advanced for AMD processors with Zen 2 architecture (only the TRX40 for Threadrippers surpasses it). In this image you can see how the 24 available PCIe 4.0 tracks are distributed among different components, with 16 of them dedicated to the graphics card.
In fact “only” 4 are reserved to connect the NVMe units with the processor compared to 12 of the design proposed by Sony, which may represent one of the potential disadvantages of the PC storage system with this configuration.
That does not mean that what we can achieve in a PC with PCIe 4.0 is not negligible at all . Independent analyzes of drives like the Sabrents showed for example in Tom’s Hardware that it was feasible to achieve up to 5 GB / s.
However, the architecture is not specifically prepared to constantly offer these rates to developers, something that the PS5 is intended for.
And what about the Xbox Series X?
It will be interesting to see if all that architecture marks, for example, differences with the one proposed by Microsoft in the Xbox Series X, which will also have a PCIe 4.0 SSD although with rates that will be more or less half than those achieved on the PS5 .
|PS5||XBOX SERIES X|
|PROCESSOR||AMD Zen 2 (3.5 GHz octo-core)||AMD Zen 2 (3.8 GHz octo-core)|
|GPU||AMD RDNA 2 (10.25 TFLOPS, 36 CUs at 2.23 GHz)||AMD RDNA 2 (12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs at 1,825 GHz)|
|MEMORY||16 GB GDDR6||16 GB GDDR6|
|STORAGE||825 GB SSD (M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0), 5.5 GB / s (raw data)|
Optional high-performance SSD
drives External USB drives
|1TB SSD (M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0), 2.4GB / s (raw data)|
Optional 1TB SSD cards
External USB drives
|OPTICAL UNIT||Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD||Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD|
|4K / 8K SUPPORT||Yes Yes||Yes Yes|
|PORTS||Information not available.||3 x USB-A 3.0|
HDMI output 2.1
SSD card slot
|DIMENSIONS||Information not available.||301 x 151 x 151 mm|
|WEIGHT||Information not available.||4.45 kg|
|PRICE||Information not available.||Information not available.|
At Microsoft, they focused more on talking about the benefits of their storage system than on giving details about how it worked, as Sony engineers gave.
At Microsoft, they did highlight the presence of the so-called Xbox Velocity Architecture , aimed at “streaming the resources [textures, for example] during the game”, something that according to one of the managers of Microsoft goes beyond the fast charging times.
They also told us about at least two striking features of that proposal. First of all, the Quick Resume technology that will allow you to leave a game at any time and return to it is something that you can do in an instant.
Secondly, the improvement called DirectStorage reduces the CPU consumption for these operations, but as we mentioned in our topic about it then, at Microsoft they seem to have made improvements to not demand so much from the CPU more than to speed up the transfer rates.
What Unreal Engine 5 suggests makes it clear that having a storage system like the PS5 storage system will bring significant benefits to video game users and developers, but it must be borne in mind that the engine will not be available until 2021 and it is likely that games that they squeeze all that potential take even longer to arrive.
Be that as it may, it seems that the focus on the PS5 storage system is promising: we will see if when we can finally have access to both this console and the Xbox Series X that really makes the difference (if there is one) or no.
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