PS4 maker chose x86 chip for its broad technology uses

PS4 maker chose x86 chip for its broad technology uses
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

September 17th 2013 at 12:14PM

Tech shifts mean chip is 'finally usable in a console'

PlayStation 4’s chief system architect has said the console’s CPU was chosen for its ability to suit practically anyone who’s involved in making technology.

There’s been much discussion about PS4 and Xbox One being, for all intents and purposes, more or less the same technology-wise.

However, with PS4, Sony has chosen to avoid going down the proprietary technology route of its predecessors, instead going to AMD for an off-the-shelf x86 Jaguar processor, but one that it believes will allow the platform to suit game makers and software makers alike.

Speaking to Official PlayStation Magazine UK, Mark Cerny said there were concerns over the chips suitability for the game console, but advancements in technology led him to believe that the chip was “finally usable in a console”.

“There was definitely a first-party voice that said [the x86 chip] probably couldn't be used for games,” said Cerny.

“Because of its very long history, the x86 is rather complex... If you read an x86 manual, it takes pages to explain all the different ways that you can move data from one register to another, based on all the additions to the architecture over the years. It's a bit overwhelming from that perspective.”

Cerny and Sony’s internal hardware team set to work on researching a chip as early as 2007, during his post-mortem on PS3.

Cerny added: “Actual work on PS4 didn’t start until 2008. [At first] I wasn't deciding whether the x86 would be the chip. I was trying to work out whether it would be an option. If your only option is the Power PC, it's very restrictive in terms of hardware vendors. If you can also use the x86, you can talk to anyone out there who makes technology.

“We made 15 separate presentations [with first-party teams]. The presentation we did was so long that one of the teams was stranded on the tarmac for five hours, and they still arrived before we finished going through all the materials we prepared.”