PS4 vs. PS5

The PS5 is quickly approaching, and although it may not be the world’s fastest console, it’s a significant upgrade over the PS4. With a whole new architecture, superior resolution support, and faster storage, the PS5 is better than the PS4 in almost every way. There’s a lot to talk about here, so let’s waste no time in comparing PS4 vs. PS5.

PS4 vs. PS5 specs

Even a cursory glance at the specs of the PS5 show that it’s in a different league than the PS4 (and even the PS4 Pro). Sony has improved the capabilities of its platform in every way, adding more efficient storage, faster compute parts, support for larger capacity disks, and support for higher resolutions.

PlayStation 5 PlayStation 4 PlayStation 4 Pro
CPU 8-core, 16 thread, up to 3.5Ghz (variable frequency) 8 Jaguar Cores, 1.6GHz 8 Jaguar Cores, 2.1GHz
GPU 36 CUs at 2.23GHz, 10.3 TFLOPs (variable frequency) 18 CUs at 800MHz, 1.84 TFLOPS 36 CUs at 911Mhz, 4.2 TFLOPS
Memory 16GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR5 8GB GDDR5
Internal Storage Custom 825GB SSD 500GB, 1TB HDD 1TB HDD
External Storage NVMe SSD slot, USB HDD 2.5-inch HDD, USB HDD 2.5-inch HDD, USB HDD
Optical Drive Ultra HD Blu-ray Blu-ray Blu-ray
Video Output 4K at 120Hz, 8K 1080p 4K

We’ll get into the specifics of most of these specs as we go throughout this comparison. As a general note, though, it’s important to consider the context of these specs. The PS5 is a much newer console built on a different architecture, and because of that, some of the specs shouldn’t be directly compared.

For instance, the PS5 and PS4 Pro have the same number of compute units (CU), but the PS5’s CUs have a much higher transistor density, making them more powerful than the PS4’s CUs. That said, other specs can be directly compared. The PS5 has a strictly better optical drive and resolution support, for example.

PS4 vs. PS5 graphics

The PS4 and PS5 are both based on custom AMD Radeon chips, though the latter packs a lot more of a punch. Sony is boasting twice the number of CUs on the PS5, as well as significantly higher clock speed. However, the biggest difference between the two comes in the ever-important TFLOPs.

“Teraflops” is a hot term for console developers, and for good reason. Although TFLOPS aren’t holistically indicative of performance, it’s a solid number to refer to when making comparisons. The PS4, with its 18 CUs running at 800MHz, clocks in at 1.84 TFLOPS, meaning it can handle 1.84 trillion floating-point operations per second. By contrast, the PS5’s GPU is rated for 10.3 TFLOPs.

Referring to that single number, the PS5’s GPU is roughly eight times more powerful than the PS4 and two and a half times more powerful than the PS4 Pro. Sony is able to achieve such high performance because of the PS5’s 36 CUs and higher clock speed. Over the PS4, the PS5’s cores run at 2.23GHz with variable frequency.

(Credit: Sony)

The higher clock speed is expected, but we’re more interested in variable frequency. Speed is capped at 2.23GHz, though it will lower based on what’s required of the GPU. Locked at 800MHz, the PS4 varies power based on the workload to meet the clock speed. More demanding games require more power, but the speed is always 800MHz.

For the next generation, power is the constant and clock speed is the variable. In the PS5 technical reveal, system architect Mark Cerny explained why this was the case, stating that a graphics core with 36 CUs running at 1GHz would produce the same number of TFLOPs as a 48 CU core running at 750MHz — 4.6 TFLOPS — but gaming performance would not be equal.

The general idea is that higher clock speed is better, not more CUs, as the extra, slower units wouldn’t have enough computing work to pull their weight. By allowing variable frequency, the PS5’s GPU can achieve much higher clock speeds than expected, so long as the higher frequency can be supported by the system’s power budget.

So far, we’ve compared PS4 vs. PS5 graphics on raw numbers, but that doesn’t take into account the latter system’s more modern architecture. Each of the PS5’s CUs has roughly 60 percent more transistors than a PS4 CU. As Cerny pointed out in his presentation, that means the 36 CUs of the PS5 equal the same performance as 58 PlayStation 4 CUs.

In short, the graphical capabilities of the PS5 are massively more impressive than the PS4. The PS5’s GPU will have more cores, and those cores will be faster and more efficient.

PS4 vs. PS5 resolution

The PS5’s increased graphical fidelity is, presumably, to push games to resolutions never seen before. For output, the PS5 supports 4K at 120Hz and 8K, both with variable refresh rate as determined by HDMI 2.1. By contrast, the base PS4 can output at 1080p, often decreasing resolution in-game based on power consumption, and the PS4 Pro can output at 4K.

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

Sony including an HDMI 2.1 output is very forward-thinking, even if most TVs don’t include an HDMI 2.1 port quite yet. The new standard supports higher resolutions and frame rates, but those upper limits won’t matter for years, or even decades. More important to gaming, HDMI 2.1 supports variable refresh rate, which will prevent screen tearing.

Going into the next console generation, we suspect resolution will be a key marketing point, as Microsoft and Sony have already pushed that their consoles are capable of 8K resolutions. Although this is true — and exciting, even — that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be playing games at 8K.

8K displays will likely become more common towards the end of the PS5’s life cycle. For now, the focus is on 4K. The big deal with the PS5 is support for 120Hz displays, as there’s already a slew of TVs and monitors that support 4K and higher refresh rates. Assuming the GPU has the horsepower to push 60 frames per second and above, you should be able to take advantage of a high refresh rate TV with the PS5.

PS4 vs. PS5 price

With the massively improved specs, many assume that the PS5 will be more expensive than the PS4, and for good reason. However, we’re of the mind that Sony learned its lesson with the PS3’s massive price tag, and built the PS5 with a price target in mind. We don’t know that number yet, though, so all we can do is speculate.

The PS4 released with a retail price of $399.99 in the U.S., which dropped to $349.99 two years later and eventually $299.99. Based on leaks and industry estimates, the PS5 should release with an MSRP of $499.99. Although higher than the PS4, it’s not a backbreaking price point, and given the specs, it makes sense for Sony moving into the next console generation.

Sony, of course, hasn’t announced the price of the PS5. There are two sources pointing toward a $500 price point, though. PSErebus — the same leaker who correctly predicted The Last of Us: Part II release date — leaked that the console would release on November 20, 2020 for $500. Additionally, Twinifite reports that Ace Research Institute estimates the same price.

PS4 vs. PS5 storage

The PS5 isn’t seeing an upgrade in storage capacity over the PS4, or at least, over the PS4 Pro. If you’re still holding onto an original PS4, you’ll see slightly more storage, with the base PS4 model sporting 500GB of storage and the PS5 shipping with 825GB. Those with a later PS4 model or the Pro are actually seeing a decrease in capacity, losing about 175GB of space.

Performance is the key difference. The PS5 sports a custom SSD with a raw read bandwidth of 5.5GB/s. Sony’s new storage medium is built specifically for the PS5, allowing it to more effectively communicate with the PS5’s architecture. That’s why the 825GB capacity may seem a bit strange at first.

(Credit: Sony)

Even an off-the-shelf SSD would perform much faster than the PS4’s hard drive, with the older system rocking a 5400RPM mechanical disk. Beyond the performance benefit from flash-based storage, the PS5 also has a new SSD controller. This controller supports hardware decompression for ZLIB, but more importantly, Oodle Kraken.

Kraken is a newer compression and decompression algorithm from RAD Game Tools, which can compress files smaller than ZLIB, as well as decompress them faster. In practice, that means game files can be read from the flash modules, decompressed, and fed to the system much faster on the PS5 than on the PS4.

Current PS4 users have already benefited from efficient decompression, as recent games like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order render based on what the player can actively see, loading extraneous data out from the game world. Up to this point, developers were forced to leave at least some assets in the game world, as the PS4’s hard drive isn’t fast enough to deliver the necessary data in time (think texture pop-in).

(Credit: Sony)

Games will load faster with the new SSD, that’s apparent, but developers also have more freedom in how they display assets. Because the PS5’s storage is as fast as it is, game files can be read from the storage device and delivered to the system within milliseconds, opening up far more possibilities in how game assets are displayed.

The biggest bottleneck is capacity, which thankfully, the PS5 has a solution for. Like PS4, you’ll be able to upgrade the storage of your PS5 with off-the-shelf parts. Instead of chucking in a 2.5-inch hard drive, though — you can learn how to do that here — you’ll be inserting an NVMe SSD.

Compared to the PS4, you’ll see a significant performance boost with a PCI-e NVMe SSD over a 2.5-inch mechanical drive and even standard SATA SSDs. That said, the open nature of the PS4’s medium isn’t present with the PS5; you’ll need to wait until PCI-e 4.0-based drives hit the market before expanding the PS5’s capacity.

PS4 vs. PS5 games

The PS4 has a long list of excellent exclusive games, including Bloodborne, God of War, Until Dawn, Uncharted 4, and more. Thankfully, you’ll still be able to play those games on your PS5 (more on that in a minute). As for PS5 games, it’s safe to assume most games announced for late 2020 and beyond will launch on Sony’s new console.

We don’t have a list of launch titles quite yet, but there have been some games officially announced for the PS5. Here are the titles confirmed, not rumored, to be coming to the console:

  • Dying Light 2
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Godfall
  • Gods & Monsters
  • NBA Live 21
  • Outriders
  • Rainbow Six: Quarantine
  • Watch Dogs Legion
  • WRC 9

And now the much longer list of games rumored to be coming to the PS5:

  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Demon’s Souls remake
  • Diablo 4
  • Dreams
  • The Elder Scrolls VI
  • Ghost of Tsushima
  • God of War 2
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn 2
  • The Last of Us: Part II
  • The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • Overwatch 2
  • Project Awakening
  • Silent Hills
  • Sniper Elite 5
  • Starfield
  • New Uncharted game
  • New Assassin’s Creed game
  • New Bioshock game
  • Unnamed Guerrilla shooter
  • Unnamed Harry Potter RPG

Although the PS4 has a developed list of high-quality exclusives, that doesn’t mean you should sleep on Sony’s new console. In an official PlayStation Blog post, Senior Vice President of Platform Planning Hideaki Nishino said that that “the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5.”

In the same post, Nishino also said that the team expects backward compatible titles to run at a boosted frequency on PS5. That could mean higher resolutions or, more likely, higher frame rates for legacy titles. However, Sony warns this will be handled on a game-by-game basis, much like PS4 Pro Enhanced titles.

(Credit: Sony)

Unfortunately, backward compatibility starts and stops with PS4 games. PS1, PS2, and PS3 games are not backward compatible, though we suspect Sony will maintain support for classic titles through the PlayStation Store, much like it has with the PS4.

In addition to new games, the PS5 also supports larger games than the PS4. Both the PS4 and the PS4 Pro have a standard Blu-ray drive. Blu-ray disks can store up to 25GB of data on a single layer, and although up to six layers are possible, the vast majority of Blu-ray disks don’t exceed two layers.

The PS5 will ship with an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, much like the Xbox One X. In addition to playing UHD movies off a disk, the new optical drive bay can take advantage of the capacities offered by Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Currently, UHD Blu-rays support three capacities: 50GB and 66GB with two layers, and 100GB with three layers. Unlike standard Blu-rays, the higher capacities should be present on games.

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