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PlayStation 5 GPU emulates PS4, PS4 Pro with special modes

Sony's PS5 has three modes: An unlocked next-gen mode, and two modes that scale down GPU tech to emulate PS4 Pro and PS4 performance.

10 minutes & 28 seconds read time

Sony's next-gen PlayStation 5 will ensure seamless and full native backward compatibility with PS4 games thanks to downscaling profiles built right into the Navi GPU.

PlayStation 5 GPU emulates PS4, PS4 Pro with special modes 24

According to massive new leaks verified by Eurogamer, the PS5 will indeed carry forward the full PlayStation 4 generation of games with complete games backward compatibility. This is made possible by two special modes built right into the silicon that downscale the PS5's GPU to current-gen performance targets, complete with lowered clock frequencies, RAM speeds, and Render Output units.

In essence, the PlayStation 5 was built from the ground up with backward compatibility in mind, similar to an iterative console. I've said right from the beginning that the new consoles will blur then line between next-gen and iterative cycles with both hardware and software.

Technically the PS5 has three GPU performance profiles:

  • Gen2 mode - Fully unlocks the Navi GPU at 2GHz for next-gen games
  • Gen1 mode - Downscales the GPU to 911MHz, 218GB/sec bandwidth, and 64 ROPs to emulate the PS4 Pro
  • Gen0 mode - Drops the GPU to 800MHz with 176GB/sec bandwidth and 32 ROPs to emulate the base PS4
PlayStation 5 GPU emulates PS4, PS4 Pro with special modes 5
PlayStation 5 GPU emulates PS4, PS4 Pro with special modes 1

The big question is if current-gen games can run in Gen2 mode or not.

Whether or not the PlayStation 5 will allow developers to enhance older PS4 games to harness the power of the PlayStation 5's new beefier specs remains to be seen.

It likely depends on whether or not said game will run in Gen2 mode, which allows for big performance optimizations like Variable Rate Shading, which can tremendously boost frame rates, or amazing new lighting effects with ray tracing. If this happens depends on how much work it is for developers--if it's tough to do, devs may simply move on and release two SKUs of their new games (a PS4 and PS5 version) rather than going back and retroactively enhancing their older titles.

Then again, developers say the PlayStation 5 is the easiest console they've developed games on. This assertion further underlines the architectural similarities between the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, hinting the next-gen leap isn't as pronounced as we once thought.

There's still no word on the rumored BC support for PS1, PS2, and PS3 games, though. Sony did patent the tech that would make it possible for the full PlayStation generation of games to play on the PlayStation 5, but nothing's been confirmed so far.

Sony has already confirmed the PS5 will play PS4 games, but didn't comment about the sweeping scope of the support. Based on this new info, it appears all current-gen games will carry forward to the new system.

Backward compatibility is paramount for the PS5's success. The PS4 currently has an install base in excess of 100 million with many more times that in software, and the console will simply die if it doesn't let users bring their already-owned games over.

Sony is expected to reveal the PS5 in a special event in February 2020. The console will release in Holiday 2020, and it may cost $499.

Check below for more info:

PlayStation 5 specs and details:

  • Custom SoC with second-gen Navi GPU, Zen 2 CPU
  • 8-Core, 16-thread Zen 2 CPU at 3.2GHz
  • Navi GPU at 2.0GHz with 36 Compute Units
  • Navi, Zen SoC uses new AMD RDNA 2.0 architecture
  • Ultra-fast SSD
  • Support for 4K 120 Hz TVs
  • Ray-tracing enabled
  • 8K output support (for gaming)
  • Plays all PS4 games
  • Separate games that ship on BD-XL Blu-ray discs
  • New controller with extensive haptic and tactile feedback

PlayStation 5 Coverage:

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Sony PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console - Black (PS4 Pro)

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Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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