Sony shares first official details about PlayStation 5

We have heard a lot of rumor and hearsay about the PS5, but Sony’s lips have been pretty tightly sealed… until now. In an exclusive interview with Wired Magazine, Sony’s own Mark Cerny, lead architect of the PS5 and former architect of the PS4, laid down some specific details about what we can expect from Sony’s next generation console. Many of the rumors have been confirmed true, but we still got some interesting tidbits to share.

So what will the PS5 look like? What are its specs? What will we be getting for the rumored $500 price tag?

Well the very first thing everyone wants to know about is graphics. While the details are still somewhat fuzzy, Cerny confirmed that the PS5 will support 8K displays. It will be using a custom GPU based on AMD’s Radeon Navi hardware which fully supports ray-tracing graphics. This should make this the first console to officially announce ray-tracing integration (although to be honest, we can’t imagine the next Xbox wouldn’t do the same.)

Cerny says that ray-tracing capabilities will do much more than simply enhance the PS5’s graphics. If you wanted to run tests to see if the player can hear certain audio sources or if the enemies can hear the players’ footsteps, ray tracing is useful for that,” he says. “It's all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment.”

The core of the PS5 will be a “CPU… based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line and contains eight cores of the company’s new 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture.” Aside from making the console itself faster and more powerful than its predecessor, the chip will also include a custom unit for 3D audio generation.

3D Audio is basically using the normal sound feeds from a stereo device, such as headphones or TV speakers, to produce a surround sound like effect and no console has been able to truly hardness this technology yet. This means that the sound from the PS5 would feel like it’s coming at you through all sides, but would require no additional hardware. Just play it through your TV speakers and you’ll be fine, though Cerny said that you would get the best experience by wearing headphones. This effect would be particularly valuable for VR applications.

“As a gamer,” he says, “it's been a little bit of a frustration that audio did not change too much between PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With the next console the dream is to show how dramatically different the audio experience can be when we apply significant amounts of hardware horsepower to it.”

Another major way that the PS5 is changing the way games are played is by changing the way that games are stored. Games are absolutely massive these days, with some coming in at over 100GB. While this has created amazing experiences it has also created harsh and lengthy load times.

So how do you reduce load times? Change the storage to an SSD. Though SSD’s have become quite common in desktops and laptops these days, Sony and Microsoft have yet to embrace them, even with their pro line of upgraded consoles.

Cerny says that the PS5 will have a “specialized” storage device that makes use of SSD technology. Supposedly he showed a demo using Spider-Man as an example. Using a traditional HD, fast-travel in Spider-Man took about 15 seconds, but using their new specialized SSD on a PS5 devkit, the same process took only .8 seconds. That’s a significant increase in load speed.

Cerny also said that this would change the way that games were developed because it would change the speed at which data can be grabbed from storage. Using another demo, he showed that camera speed is limited by the rate at which you can load in a level. The PS5’s SSD would allow cameras and environments to move at “fighter-jet” level speeds according to Wired, blazing across entire environments in the blink of an eye while still rendering them in crisp detail. While the demo once again used Spider-Man as an example, I can’t help but imagine what this could do for say, a new Sonic the Hedgehog title.

While specific details about this SSD were not shared, Cerny said that it will be faster than any commercially available SSD. “The raw read speed is important,“ Cerny says, “but so are the details of the I/O mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them. I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and then I put in a SSD that cost as much as the PlayStation 4 Pro—it might be one-third faster."

And of course, then there’s the matter of backward compatibility. The PS5 will supposedly be backward compatible with all PS4 software, although Cerny did not comment on the rumor that the PS5 would be “forever backward compatible” all the way to the PS1. However, he did say that the transition between generations would be much smoother this time around. Sony looks to support the PS4 for quite some time after the PS5 comes out, and will dual release many games for both consoles. He also confirmed that the PS5 won’t be a “digital only” console. Physical copies will still exist, though he did not confirm the format.

That’s about all the details Cerny was willing to share in his interview. There’s still a lot we don’t know about official specs, compatibility with PSVR, software, services, rumors about streaming game capability, and more. Several rumors were not confirmed or denied, such as the Dualshock 5’s supposed built in camera or the new premium version of PSnow in development. We also still don’t know an official price as well. While Sony won’t be making an official appearance at E3 this year, we can’t hope but speculate that we will get more official info about the console around the same time all the other big summer announcements are made.