The next PlayStation console may rely on an AMD Ryzen processor. The news arrives by way of principal programmer Simon Pilgrim from Sony’s Advanced Technology Group who is tweaking the LLVM (Low Level Virtual Machine) compiler stack to improve support for the “Zen” core architecture used in AMD’s Ryzen processors. That compiler component is part of the development environment for PlayStation consoles — and what we assume will be called the PlayStation 5.
The current PlayStation 4 relies on a custom all-in-one chip from AMD that contains six “Jaguar” CPU cores and 1,152 Radeon-branded graphics cores. Sony also sells the Pro variant, which packs updated graphics cores and higher CPU core speeds to support 4K HDR visuals. This model landed in September 2016.
For developers, that hardware creates a better environment because the components are based on what they are using on a PC to create games. Both Sony and Microsoft went with AMD’s hardware for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, and the fact that Sony is gearing up for another console using AMD’s hardware isn’t surprising.
AMD spent four years designing its Zen architecture to pack more performance per watt, providing processors that could match Intel’s CPUs in performance but at half the cost. The first family of Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5, and Ryzen 3 processors arrived throughout 2017 followed by the initial rollout of the second-generation Ryzen processors based on a refreshed Zen design earlier this year.
Serving as a principal programmer at Sony since 2009, Pilgrim is spending his time supporting the first-generation Zen architecture, listed as “znver1,” in the LLVM compiler. The information regarding this work resides on Github where he made several znver1-based changes last week and submitted a cleanup for the znver1 code on Friday. Improvements go back at least two weeks.
Despite the generation one Zen reference in Pilgrim’s work, he’s likely updating the LLVM compiler with support for AMD’s new Zen architecture refresh used in its four new Ryzen desktop processors. As previously reported, AMD’s next processor family, its third-generation Ryzen processors for 2019, will be based on a second-generation Zen architecture (Zen 2). Given Sony needs to be locked down to specific hardware now for a future PlayStation console release in the next few years, the company will likely miss out on Zen 2.
Meanwhile, Microsoft deems its just-released Xbox One X as the most powerful console currently on the planet. Like the original Xbox One, it’s based on AMD’s hardware, but packs a meatier all-in-one chip with eight “Jaguar” cores clocked at 2.3GHz and 2,560 Radeon graphics cores clocked at 1,172. When released, the PlayStation 5 could be the first gaming console based on AMD’s new Zen CPU architecture.
We can’t help but wonder if Sony will tease the PlayStation 5 next month during the E3 2018 gaming convention. A reveal is highly unlikely given the PlayStation 4 Pro isn’t even two years old, but at least we will already have an idea of what will be under the hood whenever the fifth-generation console finally makes its debut.