Ah Sony, you never quite got the PC did you? The Vaio range of laptops were nice-looking and all, but overpriced lumps might be best used to describe them. And now you're making a PC-based console in the guise of the new PlayStation 4.
At least it'll mean all the poorly coded console ports we've cursed our way through ought to be a thing of the past as everybody will essentially be writing for PC hardware now. Good times. So, with this next-gen future now so very close on the horizon with Sony finally kicking off the great closed-box bun-fight, what will it take to build a PlayStation 4-a-like PC?
Sony announced the PS4's general system specs today: an 8-core x86 CPU, an "enhanced" PC GPU (read: physics acceleration), and 8 gigs of GDDR 5 RAM. Using a little detective work and some creative thinking, I've put together an idea of what you can build now that will give you comparable or better performance.
This is an AMD-dominated console future, and rumour has it we're looking at an eight-core Jaguar APU sitting at the heart of the PlayStation 4. That's the update to the existing Brazos 2.0 architecture, possibly on a smaller manufacturing process, and is suggested to be running at a positively pedestrian 1.6GHz clock speed.
The reason it's such a low-speed part is because it's one of AMD's ultra-mobile parts running at just 18W in dual-core guise. That power draw will rise with this touted eight-core version however.
In our PC world though I couldn't possibly recommend that family of chips for a competing machine, and in a desktop rig, constantly plugged into the wall, you don't need to bother jamming in a mobile chip. The silicon I'd put up against this is the AMD FX-6300. It may only be six-core, but it's already running at twice the speed of the Jaguar cores, and with more effective cores too, so it'll make sure your GPU is happily fed with data.
The PS4 will likely have a custom board with AMD's Jaguar chip soldered into it. We'll need to get our own board to shove the CPU in and Gigabyte do a fantastic, well-specced 970 chipset board for just $80. Into that we can throw the processor, graphics card and as much RAM as we like.
Speaking of which...
Given that the next Xbox will supposedly launch at 8GB, it only seems right that Sony also sticks in a full 8GB of GDDR 5 RAM. Impressive, but it seems like massive overkill to me, so I'll recommend 8GB of DDR3 RAM.
This is where Sony have spent the big bucks: allegedly nabbing AMD's current Graphics Core Next (GCN) technology and creating a bespoke GPU with 18 GCN compute units for a total of 1152 Radeon cores. The HD 7850 may be a close comparison, packing 16 GCN units and 1024 cores itself. To be safe, a GeForce GTX 660 should do the trick.
At the moment, I'm not sure what's actually going to be the storage capacity of the PlayStation 4, but we know it isn't using a solid state drive. We love SSDs, so you could go for one of Seagate's Momentus XT drives at around $80, but I reckon this standard 500GB drive will probably do you just fine.
The rest of the components you can put together from any number of budget parts. So long as the PSU has a PCIe power connector for your graphics card you're good to go. With that and a cheapo chassis you can have the lot for another $50.
I'm assuming you have a display, as I'd assume a PS4 buyer would have a TV, and you'll notice I'm not including a Blu-ray drive here. Not because I'm trying to stick to a price-point, but because optical media's dead, man. We've got digital downloads and operating systems that can be installed from USB sticks, so why would we?
We're speculating a bit, but we've put together a PlayStation 4 rig for around $600 . That's more than the $430-$530 the PS4 is rumoured to ship at, but by the time the PlayStation 4 is out those parts will be even cheaper and more powerful ones will fill their place. It is also a small price to pay to have next-gen gaming right now. Y'know, like we've been enjoying on the PC for the past year or so. And you'll also have access to the largest catalogue of gaming titles on any platform in the history of mankind. Who cares if Uncharted 3: Drake's Colonic or Wet Rain don't appear on the PC, have Sony got Antimatter or PlanetSide 2?
Well, that's my two cents, but one of the beautiful things about the PC is the vast range of hardware at our disposal. We can create machines weird and wonderful from any number of lumps of silicon. This week I've been playing around with $3000 worth of graphics hardware in a three-way SLI GTX Titan rig, tacked onto a $2000 Xeon CPU as well as building a mini-ITX rig with that wondrous HD 7850 1GB card. No console has that range in performance.
That's me though, what would you want to stick in your next console-beating rig?