When the PlayStation 5’s specs were unveiled, most gamers found the GPU to be rather underwhelming in comparison to the Xbox Series X’s 12 TFLOP hardware. Furthermore, the variable clock speeds were any red marker. You can read more about that here. Now, after the Unreal Engine 5 demo was showcased on the PS5, Tim Sweeney has been singing praises of Sony’s next-gen console. The most notable was his claim that the PS5’s SSD is more superior than both the Xbox Series X as well as high-end PCs.
Systems integration and whole-system performance. Bringing in data from high-bandwidth storage into video memory in its native format with hardware decompression is very efficient. The software and hardware stack go to great lengths to minimize latency and maximize the bandwidth that’s actually accessible by games.
Those PC numbers are theoretical and are from drive into kernel memory. From there, it’s a slow and circuitous journey through software decompression to GPU driver swizzling into video memory where you can eventually use it. The PS5 path for this is several times more efficient. And then there’s latency.
On PC, there’s a lot of layering and overhead. Then you have the issue of getting compressed textures into video memory requires reading into RAM, software decompressing, then calling into a GPU driver to transfer and swizzle them, with numerous kernel transitions throughout.
Intel’s work on non-volatile NVDIMMs is very exciting and may get PC data transfer on a better track over the coming years.
I’m not saying that he’s wrong. The PS5’s SSD and I/O may be slightly superior to the XSX or an average PC SSD, but that’s hardly going to be a bottleneck. Last-gen consoles were more hamstrung by the poor CPU IPC and limited graphics processing power. Sure, the I/O wasn’t exactly top-notch but that was less of a concern. Looking at the recent PS5 and XSX demos, it looks like the same scenario will be replayed this cycle as well.
While the XSX demo ran at 4K 30 FPS, the PS5 showcase was running at 1440p and that too at sub-50 FPS. To be frank, that’s a shame. I’ve got a PC with a Ryzen 9 3900X and the GeForce RTX 2080 Super and I can easily push 4K 60 FPS in games that look as good or even better than that UE5 demo. The most notable examples are Metro Exodus and Control (both @ 4K ultra with RTX and DLSS). Even certain non-RTX titles like Ghost Recon Breakpoint and The Outer Worlds look nearly as pretty and run quite well on RTX 2080/2070 Super level hardware.
So what I’m trying to say is that even if you’re using a SATA based SSD, you’ll have to wait a few second more than an NVMe based SSD for even the most memory intensive games to load, not more. Any midrange NVMe drive is more than enough. The GPU and CPU raw performance is what will actually matter, not the SSD speeds. And the former is looking to be fairly average, and nowhere as impressive as Sony and MS want everyone to believe. Furthermore, render optimizations like temporal filtering, reconstruction and AI-based upscaling techniques will be much more important than ever before in the coming years.