Unreal Engine 5 PS5 demo runs happily on current-gen graphics cards and SSDs

(Image credit: Epic Games)

The Unreal Engine 5 tech demo, Lumen in the land of Nanite, has caused quite a bit of excitement since it was released. While we won't be seeing anything using the technology any time soon, and the engine itself won't be dropping until next year, that hasn't stopped a small war erupting between would-be fans of the next-gen consoles. 

This escalated after an interview with an engineer from Epic China (which has since been taken down) revealed the demo seen running on the PS5 ran just as well on a laptop. In fact the PC reportedly ran the demo better, with the PS5 managing 30fps at 1440p while the laptop hit 40fps at the same resolution from within the editor itself. 

The laptop in question is no slouch mind, featuring Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics and a 970 Evo Plus. Epic's CTO, Kim Libreri, has already confirmed to us that you'll get "pretty good" performance with UE5 running on something like an RTX 2070 Super, but having a more specific performance figure is always good.

Still, it feels weird quoting the SSD of the laptop alongside the graphics card like that, but that is the world in which we now live, or rather where we will be living if the next-gen hype lives up to its promise. This is because one of the big selling points of the PS5 is its storage, with Sony claiming a throughput of 9 GB/s (using compression) or 5.5 GB/s in terms of straight throughput. 

The assumption was that the UE5 tech demo was managing some of its impressive techie feats because of this throughput, with Sweeney himself telling us that the PS5's SSD was "god-tier." He also explained that you'd see "awesome performance" from an NVMe SSD on a PC, and now it seems he wasn't talking about some super high-bandwidth PCIe 4.0 drive either.

The interview confirms there's no reliance on something so godlike; last-gen PCIe 3.0 solid state drives seem more than a match for the impressive UE5 tech.

For reference, the Samsung 970 Evo Plus, suggested to be in the laptop in question, has a throughput of 3.5 GB/s. Which is great, but it's not the fastest drive you can buy, and can't touch the growing number of PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs that can hit up to 5 GB/s. In other words, the incredible fidelity that can be seen by the tech demo isn't going to be limited by the technology that can be found in modern, current-gen PCs. 

Epic's Tim Sweeney did respond directly to reports of the laptop performance, although this just added to the confusion. His initial response seemed to discount the entire discussion because the video on display was the PS5 demo video running on a laptop and not the actual engine itself.

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He's correct, it was. But that wasn't what the engineer was referencing when he was discussing the actual performance of Unreal Engine 5 on his personal machine. That was seemingly in response to a question during the long, wider piece about the impressive UE5 technology. 

Sweeney then explained in the Twitter thread that VSync was holding back some of the PS5 performance and that some frame times behind the scenes would offer "much higher" than 30fps. 

He then shut down any more questions with a classic wait and see:

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It's worth reiterating that the Unreal Engine 5 is cross-platform, and it'll run on the Xbox Series X, the PlayStation 5, and on PCs when it is finally released at some point in 2021. So all of this spear-waving is essentially pointless anyway, but we wouldn't want simple facts to get in the way of tribalism.

In (tangential but) related news, a certain Martin Nebelong, has managed to piece together the opening sequence from the Lumen in the land of Nanite using Dreams on the PS4. It's impressive not just for what the final thing looks like, but simply because it's all created using the console in two hours (it's sped up for your enjoyment).  

Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.