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Sony promises PC-based PlayStation 4 for Christmas

AMD x86 tech helps console break out of Cell

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Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Sony PlayStation 4 - or, as we say in the trade, a PC.

Yes, the PS4 will indeed be based on an octo-core x86-compatible processor, incorporate 8GB of GDDR 5 and will be equipped with a PC-centric GPU. It’ll have a hard drive too, plus the inevitable Blu-ray drive. It will incorporate 802.11n Wi-Fi.

It’s an inevitable move, perhaps. Just as the Mac became a PC running Mac OS X a decade ago, so now PlayStation shifts to the Intel world. Not that the chip giant is directly involved: the PS4’s 64-bit CPU was built by AMD. So was the GPU, which, Sony chirped, can “generate 1.84 Teraflops of processing power”.

The new console will come with a new controller, the Dual Shock 4. It combines the classic PlayStation button and joystick array with a new touchpad and the motion-control technology previously embedded in Sony’s Move add-on. This time round, it’s tracked by an Xbox Kinect-like “light bar” hooked up to the console.

Sony DualShock 4 for PS4

DS4 for PS4

In addition to control data, the Dual Shock 4’s wireless link can route sound signals to the handset, allowing the controller to feed a pair of headphones.

Other innovations include game state-preserving stand-by, so no more battles as you insist your nipper calls it a day, and he draws out the process, insisting he has to save his game first. When they’re not gaming, young players can do social network stuff on the console.

The PS4 also automatically copies the screen buffer to the hard drive, compressing your cool moves and fails in shareable video form. Rather than go down the Wii U route and turn the controller into a second screen, Sony is looking to Android phones and tablets - Apple iDevices too - to take on that role, as well as the PS Vita.

And the new console will accept secondhand games discs, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida has confirmed. Speaking to Eurogamer, he said “used games can play on a PS4”, despite past claims by the rumourmill to the contrary. Not PS3 discs, though, which will not play natively on the console, but can at least be streamed using technology Sony took on board when it acquired Gaikai last year. Likewise PS1 and PS2 games will be streamed rather than downloaded.

Sony Light Bar for PS4

EyeToy tweaked: the PS4's Light Bar sensor

There will, of course, be bucketloads of PS4-specific games from all the major games developers, natch.

Sony did say it’ll ship in time for Christmas, but it’s not clear from yesterday’s announcement whether that’s a Japan-only debut as per previous PlayStation introductions, or a global roll-out. Certainly Sony executives have been hinting of late that they want to release the PS4 across the world from the start, but presumably they are hedging their bets. It was for similar reasons, no doubt, not to mention competitive advantage, that Sony didn't reveal what the console will look like. ®

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