When Sony announced its new 4K-ready PlayStation 4 Pro would launch with mismatched hardware--a powerful new AMD Radeon Polaris GPU alongside the woefully outdated Jaguar CPU--we predicted the inevitable bottlenecking would occur. Lo and behold, we've just received some new evidence on the PS4 Pro's CPU.
Eurogamer's Digital Foundry has identified a clear instance where the PlayStation 4 Pro's CPU is preventing adequate performance, mainly in frame rates. Batman: Arkham City and Arkham Asylum actually have native PS4 Pro without any Forward Compatibility patches or updates, but their enhancements have been added stealthily and are solely focused at boosting raw performance; the upgrades are unoptimized and not very streamlined, with some scenes being entirely based on the PS4 Pro's overclocked 2.1GHz Jaguar CPU instead of the Polaris GPU, which more than doubles the original PS4's graphics processing power.
Digital Foundry finds that the scenes that only tap the PS4 Pro's 2.1GHz Jaguar CPU only provide a minimal bump in FPS, with one scene hitting just a 6FPS bump, which actually directly corresponds to the 31% boost in the CPU's overclock. The publication hints that if the PS4 Pro had a more optimized and powerful CPU, these specific scenes would have better frame rates.
"In this scene, the Pro manages just a 6fps uplift over the base PS4. The numbers correspond to the 31 per cent increase in CPU power in the new console, suggesting that the AMD Jaguars are the limiting factor in this scene," DF's Richard Leadbetter writes.
"Nothing escapes the fact that Return to Arkham is, to put it politely, 'sub-optimal' and our tests here highlight that simply turning on the taps and allowing PlayStation 4 Pro to power past its shortcomings simply doesn't work in the way it might on PC, where CPU power in particular is instrumental in brute-forcing engines originally designed for 30fps gameplay to hit twice the frame-rate."
"Something is holding the title back and the maths are illuminating - the Pro's 2.1GHz CPU clock-speed represents a 31 per cent increase in frequency, and this seems to account precisely for the frame-rate differential here between the same Arkham City scene rendering on base hardware and in Pro mode. But regardless, it is an improvement, and other areas that drop below 30fps on base hardware remain above that threshold on Pro."
Original PS4 Specs
- CPU: 8 Jaguar Cores at 1.6GHz
- GPU: AMD GCN, 18 CUs at 800MHz (equivalent to Radeon HD 7850)
- Memory: 8 GB GDDR5, 176 GB/s
PS4 Pro Specs
- CPU: 8 Jaguar Cores at 2.1GHz
- GPU: 4.20 TFLOPs Polaris GPU
- Memory: 8 GB GDDR5, 218 GB/s
But remember that all games are different, and Return to Arkham is rather messy compared to most of the PS4 Pro's optimized games: Rise of the Tomb Raider and The Last of Us Remastered come to mind. But even with their janky optimizations, the Batman games delivered a clear answer to the question that's been nagging console-users for some time: is the PS4 Pro being held back by the CPU?
At the same time, however, there's lots of PS4 Pro upgraded games that actually run worse on the new console than on the older, outdated launch PS4. This is because of the PS4 Pro's super-sampling, which downscales an upscaled 4K image to improve fidelity on a 1080p HDTV display, but at the cost of FPS.
There's also been reports that native 4K games on the PS4 Pro take a small bite out of frame rate performance, showing us the age-old resolution vs. frame rate balancing act hasn't been abolished even with Sony's new Polaris-powered PlayStation 4.
Why Sony launched the PS4 Pro with outdated hardware
So why did Sony launch the PS4 Pro fully knowing the hardware is mismatched? It's rather simple: they wanted to get ahead of Microsoft's new Project Scorpio, even if it meant alienating the core 40 million PS4 owners who now see their consoles as obsolete.
Project Scorpio will almost certainly utilize AMD's new powerful Zen CPU and enthusiast-grade Vega GPU architectures that aren't actually ready yet, so Sony had to improvise and use what's currently available, packing in a new 4.2 TFLOPs Polaris-grade GPU and an outdated--but overclocked--Jaguar CPU in the system.
AMD's next-generation Zen CPU is specifically designed to complement its new 14nm FinFET architecture, mainly Polaris and the enthusiast-grade Vega GPUs, so packing it alongside an older Jaguar microprocessor won't afford the best results. But also remember that AMD has carefully scaled and customized both the CPU and GPU to maximize optimization--but that can only go so far.
In fact, AMD is already testing out its new Raven Ridge APUs that feature Zen CPUs and Vega GPUs, which could pave the way for next-generation SoCs that power future consoles.
Sony affirms that the reasoning behind the CPU is to ensure smooth backward compatibility with existing PS4 games, but it's not a coincidence: even if they wanted to boost the CPU, they'd have to wait until 2017 until Zen is ready.
Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro console is now available for $399. Check below for a huge list of everything we know about the console so far, including specs and more.
PS4 Pro: What we know so far:
- Double GPU power over existing PS4 models (roughly 2x AMD Radeon HD 7850)
- AMD Polaris GPU support
- 14nm FinFET SoC likely
- CPU with boosted clock rate
- Higher memory bandwidth
- No 4K UHD Blu-ray player
- Launches November 10 for $399
- 4K resolution upscaling
- HDR support
- Higher frame rates, improved in-game performance across the board
- Plays all existing PS4 games, but not every PS4 game will leverage the new hardware for improved performance
- 1TB hard drive
Read more about Sony's PS4 Pro:
- PS4 Pro upgrades of PS4 games take no effort, says Sony
- PS4 Pro 'turns off half the GPU' to run normal PS4 games
- PS4 Pro's native 4K games trigger FPS drop
- PS4 Pro apparently incompatible with some 4K TVs, showing blank screen
- PS4 Pro's 1080p super-sampling causing frame rate drops
- PS4 Pro max temps only hit 35C
- PS4 Pro reportedly melts its casing due to extreme heat
- PS4 Pro's stock 1TB hard drive can't hit SATA III speeds
- Crytek says 1GB extra RAM on PS4 Pro is 'substantial'
- PS4 Pro owners have an edge in Battlefield 1 multiplayer
- Here's why Sony nixed PS4 Pro's 4K Blu-ray player
- PS4 Pro uses AMD Polaris GPU, sits below RX 470
- PS4 Pro FAQ: Sony explains the new $399 4K PS4 console
- 14 games have PS4 Pro support built-in so far
- Here's all the PS4 Pro upgraded games so far
- PS4 Pro won't play all PS4 games at 1080p 60FPS
- Mass Effect: Andromeda runs at 4K 30FPS on PS4 Pro
- Sony's new PS4 Pro rocks double GPU power, 4K and HDR
- Sony's high-end PS4 Pro costs $399, launches November 10
- Devs have final say on PS4 Pro's Forward Compatibility
- PS4 Pro specs: 4.2 TFLOPs, Jaguar CPU, 310W power draw
- Microsoft trolls PS4 Pro's lack of a 4K Blu-ray player
- Sony's PS4 Pro doesn't hit native 4K gaming