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PS5 already beats gaming PCs with this key feature

PS5
(Image credit: Epic Games)

The PS5 is going to be a powerful system; that’s not really in dispute. We know from previous press conferences that Sony’s new console will feature eight cores of 3.5 GHz processing power, 16GB of RAM, a GPU capable of calculating more than 10 teraflops and a custom 825GB SSD that can access memory faster than almost anything on the market today. 

The PS5 may, in fact, be powerful enough to change the conversation around the future of gaming PCs — at least according to Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, who believes there’s something unique about Sony’s synthesis of hardware and development tools.

Information comes from The Verge, reporting on an Unreal Engine 5 press conference on May 13. Sweeney made a number of bold claims about the PS5’s technical capabilities, particularly its GPU and SSD:

“[The PS5] has an immense amount of GPU power, but also multi-order bandwidth increase in storage management,” he said. “We’ve been working super close with Sony for quite a long time on storage. The storage architecture on the PS5 is far ahead of anything you can buy on the PC for any amount of money right now. It’s going to help drive future PCs.”

The claim that the PS5’s SSD is beyond anything else currently available isn’t unique to Sweeney, incidentally. Mark Cerny made the same assertion at the PS5 hardware reveal event back in March. Cerny clarified that similar SSDs would be available for PCs later this year, but that a standardized PS5 could have much better hardware/software synchronicity than a custom-built PC.

Sweeney also conceded that in terms of raw speed, PC manufacturers will match the PS5’s SSD sooner rather than later. But like Cerny, Sweeney pointed out that the PS5 has a specialized data management system that wouldn’t be possible to implement on a PC SSD. Sony has full control over both the parts and the firmware on each PS5; no PC manufacturer can say the same, nor would one really want to.

Still, Sweeney believes that level of integration is worth pursuing. He said that when PC manufacturers see just how efficiently the PS5 can access data, they’ll say to themselves, “oh, wow, SSDs are going to need to catch up with this.”

If you need proof of how quickly the PS5 can access data, it’s actually already out in the wild. On May 13, Sweeney and his team showed off Lumen in the Land of Nanite: a tech demo showcasing the Unreal Engine 5, which ran live on a PS5 console. In this demanding title, an adventurous protagonist traversed a rocky canyon and explored an ancient tomb, showing off dynamic lighting and complex 3D objects in both locations.

Granted, Epic created the demo from the ground up to showcase the PS5’s capabilities; it’s entirely possible that another team could have done something very similar for a PC or an Xbox Series X. (Don’t forget: the Xbox Series X has much better raw specs than the PS5, while you can already build a PC that’s more powerful than the PS5 in every aspect except its SSD.) On the other hand, Unreal Engine 5 games will also be available on the Xbox Series X and PC, so Sweeney has no particular incentive to boost the PS5 over other systems.

PC gamers (including myself) may view the claim of a console leading the way with skepticism, but it’s not really that outlandish an idea. My colleague Adam Ismail was quick to point out that consoles generally make new tech cheaper and more accessible, which benefits PC gamers as well.

In any case, there will be no way to verify Sweeney’s claims until the PS5 comes out this holiday season. But the subtext is clear: Of all the tech to watch in the PS5, the SSD may well be the key to the console’s innovations.