The 7 Year Console Refresh
The consoles are coming! The consoles are coming! Ok, that is not necessarily true. One is already here and the second essentially is too. This of course brings up the great debate between PCs and consoles. The past has been interesting when it comes to console gaming, as often the consoles would be around a year ahead of PCs in terms of gaming power and prowess. This is no longer the case with this generation of consoles. Cutting edge is now considered mainstream when it comes to processing and graphics. The real incentive to buy this generation of consoles is a lot harder to pin down as compared to years past.
The PS4 retails for $399 US and the upcoming Xbox One is $499. The PS4’s price includes a single controller, while the Xbox’s package includes not just a controller, but also the next generation Kinect device. These prices would be comparable to some low end PCs which include keyboard, mouse, and a monitor that could be purchased from large brick and mortar stores like Walmart and Best Buy. Happily for most of us, we can build our machines to our own specifications and budgets.
As a directive from on high (the boss), we were given the task of building our own low-end gaming and productivity machines at a price as close to that of the consoles and explaining which solution would be superior at the price points given. The goal was to get as close to $500 as possible and still have a machine that would be able to play most recent games at reasonable resolutions and quality levels.
Does downloading make a difference?
I posted a story earlier this week that looked at the performance of the new PS4 when used with three different 2.5-in storage options: the stock 500GB hard drive, a 1TB hybrid SSHD and a 240GB SSD. The results were fairly interesting (and got a good bit of attention) but some readers wanted more data. In particular, many asked how things might change if you went the full digital route and purchased games straight from the Sony's PlayStation Network. I also will compare boot times for each of the tested storage devices.
You should definitely check out the previous article if you missed it. It not only goes through the performance comparison but also details how to change the hard drive on the PS4 from the physical procedure to the software steps necessary. The article also details the options we selected for our benchmarking.
- HGST 500GB 5400 RPM HDD - $50 - $0.10/GB
- Seagate 1TB Hybrid SSHD - $122 - $0.12/GB
- Corsair 240GB Force GS SSD - $189 - $0.78/GB
Today I purchased a copy of Assassin's Creed IV from the PSN store (you're welcome Ubisoft) and got to testing. The process was the same: start the game then load the first save spot. Again, each test was run three times and the averages were reported. The PS4 was restarted between each run.
The top section of results is the same that was presented earlier - average load times for AC IV when the game is installed from the Blu-ray. The second set is new and includes average load times fro AC IV after the installation from the PlayStation Network; no disc was in the drive during testing.
Load time improvements
On Friday Sony released the PlayStation 4 onto the world. The first new console launch in 7 years, the PS4 has a lot to live up to, but our story today isn't going to attempt to weigh the value of the hardware or software ecosystem. Instead, after our PS4 teardown video from last week, we got quite a few requests for information on storage performance with the PS4 and what replacement hardware might offer gamers.
Hard Drive Replacement Process
Changing the hard drive in your PlayStation 4 is quite simple, a continuation of a policy Sony's policy with the PS3.
Installation starts with the one semi-transparent panel on the top of the unit, to the left of the light bar. Obviously make sure your PS4 is completely turned off and unplugged.
Simply slide it to the outside of the chassis and wiggle it up to release. There are no screws or anything to deal with yet.
Once inside you'll find a screw with the PS4 shapes logos on them; that is screw you need to remove to pull out the hard drive cage.
Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2013 - 09:07 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, remote play, ps vita, playstation 4, gaming
Today, Sony announced a new Vita-branded product called the PlayStation Vita TV. The small 60mm x 100mm box connects to televisions over HDMI and is able to play Vita games using a while PS3-style controller or a touchpad-equipped PS4 game controller.
The PS Vita TV also connects to your home network over Ethernet and is able to pull down content from various Sony online services including Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, and Karaoke according to Engadget.
Those features alone make it an interesting product, but the PS Vita TV will also be able to connect to the PlayStation 4 over your home network and remote play PS4 games. Users will be able to play PS4 games on a second TV using a PS4 controller and network-connected PS Vita TV.
The PS Vita TV will be available in Japan in November for 9,954 Yen ($100 USD). Alternatively, a bundle that includes the PS Vita TV, controller, and memory card can be purchased for 14,995 Yen ($150 USD).
If it works as advertised, the PS Vita TV looks to be an excellent companion product to the PS4 which will allow users to play their PS4 and PS Vita library and access streaming content in multiple rooms without needing to pony up for multiple PlayStation 4 consoles.
I hope that the PS Vita TV comes to the US as it should shake up the decision of Xbox One or PS4 in favor of the latter, as the $100 Vita TV will bring the two consoles to the same price, but with the PS4 having remote play and more powerful hardware. In short, I believe the PS Vita TV to be a much more desirable add-on over Microsoft's bundled Kinect.
Does the announcement of the PS Vita TV affect your pre-order decisions at all?
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | August 22, 2013 - 05:39 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation 4, Kabini, hUMA, amd
UPDATE: I have added new info at the bottom of this post with more commentary from AMD (kind of).
You might have seen some reports in the last couple of days claiming that the upcoming Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) will have a big advantage over the Xbox One thanks to its unique ability to support AMD's hUMA memory architecture. hUMA, heterogeneous unified memory architecture, is an exciting new memory technology that AMD has built into upcoming APUs.
Josh published a story on hUMA that sums it as so:
The idea behind hUMA is quite simple; the CPU and GPU share memory resources, they are able to use pointers to access data that has been processed by either one or the other, and the GPU can take page faults and not rely only on page locked memory. Memory in this case is bi-directionally coherent, so coherency issues with data in caches which are later written to main memory will not cause excessive waits for either the CPU or GPU to utilize data that has been changed in cache, but not yet written to main memory.
There's just one problem with these various reports (VR-Zone, ExtremeTech): they're incorrect. After sending some emails to our representatives at AMD I was told that "Kabini doesn't support hUMA" which is the APU that both the PS4 and Xbox One processors are based on. AMD further clarified with us:
Our spokesperson made inaccurate statements about our semi-custom APU architectures and does not speak for Microsoft, Sony or the AMD semi-custom business unit responsible for co-developing the next generation console APUs.
So while the PS4 will still be a faster system thanks to its higher SIMD processor (GPU core) count, there is no support for a true heterogeneous unified memory architecture in either upcoming console platform.
NOTE: I have had several people point out that it's possible Sony and Microsoft worked on their own custom memory architectures that will perform similar functionally to hUMA. That is entirely possible but means that official hUMA support isn't on the SoCs.
UPDATE: AMD contacted me again to make another comment. Essentially, they said that the correction statement to the original statement claiming hUMA was part PS4 was "inaccurrate" but that this correction does NOT mean the opposite claim is true. Even when pressed for a more specific and debate-ending comment, AMD wouldn't give us any more information.
So does the PS4 have support for some type of heterogeneous unified memory? Maybe. And the Xbox One? Maybe. At this point, I'd stop listening to anything AMD has to say on the subject as they are likely to recant it shortly thereafter. Many readers have emailed me with their thoughts and I personally feel that its more likely the original statement from AMD (that the PS4 will have the edge with a hUMA design) will turn out to be the truth in the long run...
Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2013 - 03:52 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xperia z, xperia, triluminos, sony, Android
Sony has a new smartphone on the way called the Xperia Z Ultra. This 6.4” tablet-sized smartphone uses high end hardware and will be available in Q3 2013.
The Xperia Z Ultra measures 17.9 cm x 9.2 cm x 0.65 cm and weighs in at 212 grams (approximately 0.47 lbs). The front of the device is dominated by a large 6.4” Triluminos display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080p (342 PPI). Users will be able to use touch or a capacitive stylus to interact with the screen. The back of the smartphone includes an 8MP camera (no flash). The chassis is IP55 and IP58 rated as being dust resistant and waterproof.
Hardware.info was able to get some hands-on time with the upcoming Sony phablet.
Internally, the Xperia Z Ultra features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC clocked at 2.2 GHz along with Adreno 330 graphics, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and support for microSD cards. Wireless radios include 4G, NFC, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. A 3,000 mAh battery provides power to the smartphone, which Sony rates at 14 hours of usage per full charge. It will run Google's Android operating system.
Hardware.info managed to get some hands on time with the Xperia Z Ultra, and it looks like a promising device. The crew stated that the display had some of the best viewing angles they have seen on Sony devices, for example. According to the site, Sony will be releasing the Xperia Z Ultra in the third quarter of this year for 719 Euros, which works out to about $940 USD. However, keep in mind that if/when the smartphone does come to the US, it will likely be subsidized to a much lower price point.
Computex 2013: Sony Unveils New Haswell-Powered VAIO Duo 13 Tablet and VAIO Pro 11" and 13" Ultrabooks
Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 5, 2013 - 01:53 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vaio pro, vaio duo 13, vaio, tablet, sony, computex 2013, computex
Tablets and ultrabooks are proving popular devices at Computex, and Sony recently joined the release party with three new Haswell-powered VAIO notebooks. The VAIO Pro 11 and VAIO Pro 13 are thin and light laptops while the VAIO Duo 13 is the company's first Haswell-powered convertible tablet (slider style).
All three new mobile devices share Full HD 1920 x 1080 Bravia Triluminos touchscreen displays, ClearAudio+ sound, Haswell processors, and respectable battery life.
The VAIO Duo 13 is a 13" notebook that can be converted into a slate tablet by sliding the screen forward and having it lay on top of the keyboard. The keyboard is back-lit and sits above a tiny trackpad that is much wider than it is tall. Other features include a stylus, 8MP camera with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software called CamScanner, and a claimed 15 hour battery life according to Sony and as tested by MobileMark 2007.
Internal specifications match those of the VAIO Pro series, with a dual core 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD, and a beefy 6,320 mAh battery.
Aside from the small trackpad, this looks like a solid device that matches Intel's "It's a laptop when you need it; it's a tablet when you want it” mantra. At the very least, it looks like a worthy (and improved) successor to the company's existing VAIO Duo 11 convertible tablet.
The VAIO Duo 13 will be available for purchase in Carbon Black or Carbon White later this month for $1,399.
Sony has also announced two new thin-and-light ultraportable VAIO Pro notebooks. As the product names suggest, they are 11” and 13” ultrabooks.
The VAIO Pro 11 weighs in at an ultra-light 1.92 pounds (0.87kg) and offers up a 1920 x 1080 display, backlight keyboard, trackpad (again, rather tiny), and decent internals.
Specifically, the base model Pro 11 notebook is powered by an Intel 4th Generation Core i5-4200U (dual core at 1.6GHz) processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. For a bit more, you can upgrade to a Core i7-4500U and a 256GB SSD. The base model has an MSRP of $1,150.00 USD.
Sony's VAIO Pro 13 steps up to a larger 13” display (albeit still 1080p). The larger form factor is still only 2.33 pounds (1.06kg), however which is nice to see. The base model contains a Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB PCIe SSD. Users can upgrade to 8GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD, however. The MSRP for the base model is $1,250.00 USD.
For only $100 over the base VAIO Pro 11, you can get a larger screen and faster storage drive which is pretty good. Judging by the reviews, such as this one by The Verge, the Pro 13 is the one to get as the Pro 11 is almost too small with a hard-to-read screen and cramped keyboard. On the other hand, if you need portability however, it is hard to beat the Haswell-powered Pro 11.
Both the VAIO Pro 11 and VAIO Pro 13 will be available later this month for $1,150 and $1,250 respectively.
What do you think about Sony's new offerings? Any Duo 11 users out there wishing for a larger form factor?
Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2013 - 03:37 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, semi-custom business unit, ps4, gaming, financial report, amd
Sony, a company with an annual profit of 436 billion Yen ($458 million USD) in its fiscal year ending March 31, 2013 saw PS3 and PS2 sales decline and a slight bump up in PSP and PS Vita sales. In a recent earnings call covered by Euro Gamer, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Masaru Kato stated that the company expects this year to be even better with the launch of its upcoming PlayStation 4 console. Sony does not believe it will incur any significant losses with the PS4 and that sales will "increase significantly." Unlike the PS3 which used a Cell chip that was expensive to develop, the PlayStation 4 uses mostly-traditional PC hardware. With the upcoming console, AMD did the majority of the development legwork which saved Sony money. As a result, Sony believes that the PS4 will turn a profit much faster than it took the PS3.
Looking into Sony's next fiscal year ending March 2014, the company is putting a renewed focus on smartphones and smart TVs. In the previous year, Sony saw combined PS3 and PS2 sales decline to $16.5 million from $18 million the prior year. Sony expects to sell approximately $10 million worth of PS3s in the upcoming fiscal year. While the company's PS2 console had a wild ride, it is no longer included in the company's sales forecast. Sales of Sony's mobile PSP and PS Vita gaming consoles are expected to decrease to a mere $5 million as well. Basically, Sony has a lot riding on its PlayStation 4 console. It expects to see its next-generation console make up for the decreased sales of its existing hardware.
Either way, a profitable Sony is a good thing, and I hope that the upcoming console is priced to sell while also resulting in a tidy profit for the company. I expect the Xbox-PS3-PC gamer flame-war to be especially entertaining this year, as the consoles are essentially using lower-end PC hardware (heh) and the two consoles specs are more-similar than ever.
Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2013 - 06:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation eye, playstation 4, gaming, dualshock 4, APU, amd
Sony teased a few more details about its upcoming PlayStation 4 console at the Games Developer's Conference earlier this week. While the basic specifications have not changed since the original announcement, we now know more about the X86 console hardware.
The PS4 itself is powered by an AMD Jaguar CPU with eight physical cores and eight threads. Each core gets 32 KB L1 I-cache and D-cache. Further, each group of four physical cores shares 2 MB of L2 cache, for 4MB total L2. The processor is capable of Out of Order Execution, as are AMDs other processor offerings. The console also reportedly features 8GB of GDDR5 memory that is shared by the CPU and GPU. It offers 176 GB/s of bandwidth, and is a step above the PS3 which did not use a unified memory design. The system will also sport a faster GPU rated at 1.843 TFLOPS, and clocked at 800MHz. The PS3 will have a high-capacity hard drive and a new Blu-ray drive that is up to 3-times faster. Interestingly, the console also has a co-processor that allows the system to process the video streaming features and allow the Remote Play game streaming to the PlayStation Vita at its native resolution of 960x554.
The PlayStation Eye has also been upgraded with the PS4 to include 2 cameras, four microphones, and a 3-axis accelerometer. The Eye cameras have an 85-degree field of view, and can record video at 1280x800 at 60 Hz and 12 bits per pixel or 640x480 and 120Hz. The new PS4 Eye is a noteworthy upgrade to the current generation model which is limited to either 640x480 pixels at 60Hz or 320x240 pixels at 120Hz. The extra resolution should allow developers to be more accurate. The DualShock 4 controllers sport a light-bar that can be tracked by the new Eye camera, for example. The light-bar on the controllers uses an RGB LED that changes to blue, red, pink, or green for players 1-4 respectively.
Speaking of the new DualShock 4, Sony has reportedly ditched the analog face buttons and D-pad for digital buttons. With the DS3 and the PS3, the analog face buttons and D-pad came in handy with racing games, but otherwise they are not likely to be missed. The controllers will now charge even when the console is in standby mode, and the L2 and R2 triggers are more resistant to accidental pressure. The analog sticks have been slightly modified and feature a reduced dead zone. The touchpad, which is a completely new feature for the DualShock lineup, is capable of tracking 2 points at a resolution of 1920x900–which is pretty good.
While Sony has still not revealed what the actual PS4 console will look like, most of the internals are now officially known. It will be interesting to see just where Sony prices the new console, and where game developers are able to take it. Using a DX11.1+ feature set, developers are able to use many of the same tools used to program PC titles but also have additional debugging tools and low level access to the hardware. A new low level API below DirectX, but above the driver level gives developers deeper access to the shader pipeline. I'm curious to see how PC ports will turn out, with the consoles now running X86 hardware, I'm hoping that the usual fare of bugs common to ported titles from consoles to PCs will decrease–a gamer can dream, right?
Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2013 - 09:00 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, sony, tap20, vaio, iosafe, n2, synology, NAS, Z77, dragon, msi, pata, apacer, seasonic, thermaltake, urban
PC Perspective Podcast #241 - 03/07/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the Sony VAIO TAP 20, ioSafe N2 NAS, new Z77 motherboards and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:04:57
Podcast topics of discussion:
- 0:01:25 We did a Tomb Raider stream
- Week in Reviews:
- 0:22:2 00 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
News items of interest:
- 0:24:25 ASUS PadFone Infinity from MWC
- 0:27:10 Apacer Launches New PATA SSDs
- 0:32:00 Seagate will cease 7200 RPM mobile HDDs this year
- 0:34:50 Thermaltake launches Urban S21 case
- 0:38:55 Double your HDD density with HGST
- 0:43:00 MSI has new gaming series of MB coming out, based on Z77
- 0:49:30 NVIDIA refreshes Quadro with Kepler GPUs
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