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Was 8 CPU cores enough for 9th gen consoles? Strix Halo, the prefect console.

Loxus

Member
We talk about the CPUs in the 9th gen consoles are enough and we need more GPU power to make next-gen games. But what if we were wrong all along?

Game devs asked Sony for 16-core CPU in the PlayStation 5
The PS5 could've had a 16-core CPU...but the GPU would be dramatically smaller.

Sony built the PlayStation 5 around game developer feedback. Devs share what they want with Sony, and then Sony takes that info and makes a console out of it. The PS5 uses a custom 7nm SoC with a 3.8GHz 8-core, 16-thread Zen 2 CPU and 2.3GHz RNDA 2.0 GPU, but at one point developers actually wanted Sony to use a 16-core CPU instead.

In a recent interview with Wired, PS5 architect Mark Cerny said that a portion of devs wanted a monstrous 16-core CPU but changed their mind once they realized that would take a bite out of GPU power.

"When we did our tour, we had some devs that really liked 16 cores. But game development is so graphically-oriented that when we explained that we could do that but the GPU would get smaller, they instantly backed off," he said.



Cerny highlights how specific games like Miles Morales, Returnal, and Destruction AllStars uses the PS5's Zen 2 CPU cores for graphics deformation, stabilized performance with tons of on-screen physics, and AI simulations. Other examples include huge open-world games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 6, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart--all of which make tremendous use of the CPUs capabilities.


The major thing to note here is at the time of asking for game developers' feedback when developing the PS5, they wanted 16 cores instead of asking for a GPU with more than 40CUs. I can see Rockstar being one of those devs with it comes to designing GTA6 in-game world and not necessarily frame-rate.

As listed by Mark Cerny, the CPU is responsible for graphics deformation, stabilized performance with tons of on-screen physics, and AI simulations. The decision of going with 8 CPU cores may have been the biggest defining factor of why current gen games lack that extra next-gen feel.

Looking at the PS5's die shot, we can see 16 Zen2 CPU cores would of removed 8WGP (16CUs), leaving the PS5 with 12WGP (24CUs) if aiming for 300mm² on 7nm and would most likely hurt PS4 Pro BC.
o5s7i7w.jpeg

To help free CPU resources, Sony built an IO Complex.
anhiTBF.jpeg

But was this enough? Especially with 1-2 cores being reserved for the OS.

This brings me to Strix Halo.
As detailed in my previous thread.
AMD "Strix Halo" Zen 5 Mobile Processor Pictured
d4X7dGH.png


Strix Halo is a chiplet-based SoC, which features 16 CPU cores, 40 CUs and unified 256-bit LPDDR5X memory (most likely 16/24GB). This sounds like it could be an exact copy of what the PS5 was intended to be. The LPDDR5X bandwidth maybe questionable, but LPDDR is an in-between choice vs DDR and GDDR latency and bandwidth.

Nvidia' Grace LPDDR5X has a 500GB/s bandwidth, same as Strix Halo. So Strix Halo with 32MB of MALL/Infinity Cache, should result in a higher effective bandwidth.
NVIDIA Grace CPU Superchip Architecture In Depth
Compared to an eight-channel DDR5 design, the NVIDIA Grace CPU LPDDR5X memory subsystem provides up to 53% more bandwidth at one-eighth the power per gigabyte per second while being similar in cost.
60avGNV.png


Could Strix Halo be a custom chip for an unannounced console?
Similarly to how PS5 and XBSX was spotted in the Linux driver code.
wQZzjIL.jpeg

PS5
Ariel (Oberon) (Cyan Skillfish)
GFX:1000 / Navi10 Lite
GFX:1013 / Navi12 Lite

XBSX
Arden (Lockhart/Scarlett)
GFX:1021 / Navi21 Lite

Strix Halo was spotted in AMD open-source.
WMz83cN.jpeg

GFX:1150 / Strix
GFX:1151 / Strix Halo

If the word "Halo" = "Lite", Strix Halo may very well be a custom chip for a Console/PC, similarly to AMD & Intel's NUC.

With 16 CPU cores, 40CUs, RT and AI/ML upscaling, how would you guys feel if a 4th Console Manufacturer like Sage returning with the Dreamcast 2 or Valve with a Steam Deck Console with exclusive games, full PC games compatability as well as having games patched to take advantage of the hardware entered the chat?
 
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Zathalus

Member
16 cores would have led to a substantial decrease in clock speed, which would mean even worse performance in the vast majority of games. Even Unreal 5 struggles with populating high thread counts.
 

Embearded

Member
I think 8 would be fine even for ps6. Problems gpus solve are much easier to run parallel whereas cpus even with best job systems and running things parallel are going to be limited by critical path, so there is a lot of time spent on idle outside of that
This.

Unless their tools and infrastructure systems are fined tuned for parallelism, don't expect much difference no matter how many Cores you throw in there.
 

HL3.exe

Member
Game-logic and simulation is still dependent on one fast CPU core. Multiple CPU's is only beneficial for offloading asynchronous visual tasks that are not depended on the game-logic (collisions, gameplay relevant physics, ai, etc).

You can multi thread your rendering on your engine but you are still stuck on one thread for simulation/game-logic, so the benefits are only aesthetic (streaming geometry, non-gameplay relevant particle collisions, etc), offloading as much as possible to create breathing room for the main game-simulation thread, with the probable downside of added motion to photon latency. So, 8 is more than enough, most games don't even manage to use most of the threads properly, because it's very tricky to get right because games are highly dependent on direct I/O (input, reactivity) compared to other software that benefit more from multiple cores.

For the next console, I hope for faster CPU IPC that'll actually benefits complex game-logic leaps. But these CPU's are usually off-the-shelf laptop parts, so that'll never happen.
 
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THE DUCK

Banned
It would be logical for valve to release a "steam deck" like console, with more horsepower and a reasonable price.
This chip would fit the bill exactly. I mean they already built most of the front end, and the store costs them nothing to bring to another platform.

Or is this the core of the new ms handheld? (Or Sony for that matter) Underclocked in mobile mode, opened up when plugged in hooked to a tv?
 
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Silver Wattle

Gold Member
I would rather 8 wider CPU cores than 16 smaller cores, we all know developers can't utilize multi threading for shit, or even less dense cores to keep heat down to allow higher clocks.
 

Zathalus

Member
Game-logic and simulation is still dependent on one fast CPU core. Multiple CPU's is only beneficial for offloading asynchronous visual tasks that are not depended on the game-logic (collisions, gameplay relevant physics, ai, etc).

You can multi thread your rendering on your engine but you are still stuck on one thread for simulation/game-logic, so the benefits are only aesthetic (streaming geometry, non-gameplay relevant particle collisions, etc), offloading as much as possible to create breathing room for the main game-simulation thread, with the probable downside of added motion to photon latency. So, 8 is more than enough, most games don't even manage to use most of the threads properly, because it's very tricky to get right because games are highly dependent on direct I/O (input, reactivity) compared to other software that benefit more from multiple cores.

For the next console, I hope for faster CPU IPC that'll actually benefits complex game-logic leaps. But these CPU's are usually off-the-shelf laptop parts, so that'll never happen.
I hope AMD goes with the big.LITTLE approach next gen. A few fast cores and then many smaller cores.
 

winjer

Member
Considering that most games have poor multithreading capabilities, having 16 cores would be pointless.
Even today, a lot of game engines have their performance limited by 1 or 2 main threads, while the remaining cores are at low utilization, if not idle.
Considering how bad multithreading is in the vast majority of games, it would be better to have better IPC, or more cache, or higher clocks.
 

Panajev2001a

GAF's Pleasant Genius
Considering that most games have poor multithreading capabilities, having 16 cores would be pointless.
Even today, a lot of game engines have their performance limited by 1 or 2 main threads, while the remaining cores are at low utilization, if not idle.
Considering how bad multithreading is in the vast majority of games, it would be better to have better IPC, or more cache, or higher clocks.
Difficult on consoles and on PC’s it gets even worse…

 

Panajev2001a

GAF's Pleasant Genius
Considering that most games have poor multithreading capabilities, having 16 cores would be pointless.
Even today, a lot of game engines have their performance limited by 1 or 2 main threads, while the remaining cores are at low utilization, if not idle.
Considering how bad multithreading is in the vast majority of games, it would be better to have better IPC, or more cache, or higher clocks.
I agree with you, but the free lunch of higher clocks, higher IPC, and more cache is coming to an end… we will need to tackle the multithreading bitter pill, there will soon be no choice.
 

winjer

Member
I agree with you, but the free lunch of higher clocks, higher IPC, and more cache is coming to an end… we will need to tackle the multithreading bitter pill, there will soon be no choice.

Not on consoles.
Remember that the PS5 only has 4+4Mb of L3 cache.
Now consider how much performance the 5800X3D gained over the 5800X.
And the 5800X already has 32MB of L3.
If Sony was to slap a 64MB of Infinity Cache on top of their CPU, it would do wonders for performance.

And console CPUs have lower clocks. So there is room there for improvement.
Another thing to consider is that IPC is still rising at a decent rate. Zen5 is supposed to bring a jump of 30-40% IPC performance.

I do agree that devs have to improve multithreading capabilities on modern games.
But when most games barely use more than a couple of main threads, there is still a lot that can be done with 8C16T CPUs.
 
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mrcroket

Member
No, more cores is a horrible idea. They take up more space on the APU (which means less space for GPU cores), they consume more (which means less clock frequency per core in a power-constrained environment like a console), they are considerably more expensive to produce and they need more cache memory (which means even more cost).

There are 8-core cpus since 13 years ago, and there are still many games and graphics engines unable to squeeze more than 1 or 2 cores or where the performance contribution of the extra cores is minimal. It is much more efficient to have faster and more advanced cores, especially considering that many of the asynchronous processes can be derived to the GPU, which is much more efficient for this type of processes.

On PCs it does make sense to have more cores, because PCs are multitasking and also have more complex OS with many processes running in the background, but not on closed systems like consoles.
 

SHA

Member
Why everyone look at each core assigned for a single task ? it's much more complex than that, look at dirt5 interview on yt, I think it clears most of op doubts, long story short, adding 1 core doesn't mean adding 1 extra task, it's a sum calculation, the more the bigger and more complex the world could be, assigning individual tasks separately is stupid and if devs don't adapt to this it's over, the Tech industry don't care about the ones who don't adapt.
 

HL3.exe

Member
Difficult on consoles and on PC’s it gets even worse…

It's a bit of a funny thread. Cerny explicitly mentioned in the beginning of the Wired video that "game devs preferably want one amazingly fast CPU core, but that technology simply doesn't exist today" (due to thermal/energy/life expectancy issues).

Multi-threaded game development has been an issue since its first inception. I remember John Carmack talking about this problem back in 2003/2004.



Multi-core CPUs are a necessity due to limitations and can be incredibly beneficial for pretty much all software, except for video games (ironically). Game engines are the only software tech branch that has experienced (and still is experiencing) difficulty adapting to this unfortunate status quo.

Edit: another example why brute force CPU leaps have stagnated for the last 10 years:
 
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The cost of the console would be more if they used 16core. 8 cores is still plenty could of used the X3D for its cpu its proven to be a beast of a cpu. Makes me wonder if they would use a 10 core or a 12 core for the ps6 hopefully use the X3D technology. Even with the gpu they could lower the gpu but have duel gpu on the die.
 
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LordOfChaos

Member
8 cores was definitely the right choice at the time and possibly even now 4 years later, it would just be 8 much better cores. 16 at the expense of the GPU with all the compute that does these days would have been wrong, similar mistake to the PS3 prioritizing the CPU so much when the GPU was just about to take over a lot more compute.


8 much much better cores with X3D or something with the PS6 would also be a fine choice to me over 12 cores with less improvement etc. And we're going to have a new die area spend on larger NPUs too.
 
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I kinda wish they would. For sure next gen. If it will help to add more stuff to happen on screen I want it. To me, from ps3 to ps5. But also, would it help make that much difference in new games design? Cause graphics wise I’m fine. Anything 1080p between 4K I’m happy. Keep improving the gpu. So we can add more details and stuff. But don’t improve it so much that we want to try to go pass 4K now.

Edit: but that also if we can even take advantage of that. Gaming have only been able to take advantage of only 4-6 cores at most right? But I just wonder if, they did made a 16 cores ones. That like maybe, 3-5 years in the console life, that they really start figuring out how to get more out of more cores.
 
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intbal

Member
Should've given developers the option of multiple configuration profiles.
Physics and AI heavy sim games could significantly lower the clocks of the GPU (or disable 4-8CUs), and bump the CPU speed to 4.0-4.2GHz.
I'm not saying that would yield a similar power budget. Don't really know. But Sony/AMD could find the limits of possibilities and then define a couple of extreme states of operation in either direction, allowing developers to choose whichever suits their game's needs best. Or they could stick with the default behavior of PS5's narrow-range Smartshift technology.
Always best to give developers more options.
 

DaGwaphics

Member
As others have said, the biggest shortcomings of the console CPUs is the low clocks and the limited cache (Ryzen is very cache dependent in gaming). I can't see where additional threads would help them out that much. On the PC side you might benefit from more threads since the CPU will be running the IO/compression.
 

Polygonal_Sprite

Gold Member
Loxus Loxus

"The decision of going with 8 CPU cores may have been the biggest defining factor of why current gen games lack that extra next-gen feel."

The limiting factor to visual fidelity is now budget. It has absolutely zero to do with hardware. I was told this by three separate devs working at two different top of the food chain publishers.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if R*, Ubisoft and ND wanted 16 cores to advance physics simulation way above last gen's efforts. They would have had to target 1080p though to get double the CPU cores and threads with the loss to GPU die space.
 
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Rudius

Member
8 good cores was enough for 2020. Decreasing GPU power to accommodate 16 CPU cores would necessitate targeting 1080p, instead of 1440+ upscaled to 4K. The PS5 would end up being a beefed up Series S in terms of CPU-GPU balance. It would not be the end of the world, but the 1080p boat has sailed, with basically all TVs sold now being 4K.

They can go to 16 cores 32 threads with the PS6 in 2028, providing more CPU power while still targeting 4K via more GPU power + PSSR.
 

Three

Member
They would have had another PS3 cell processor on their hands if they went the highly parallel CPU route with a weaker GPU.
 

BadBurger

Many “Whelps”! Handle It!
Considering that once you fire a game up they essentially become single-purpose devices that rely heavily on their GPU, 8 cores with 16 threads should be plenty for even next gen.
 

Three

Member
If the word "Halo" = "Lite", Strix Halo may very well be a custom chip for a Console/PC, similarly to AMD & Intel's NUC.

With 16 CPU cores, 40CUs, RT and AI/ML upscaling, how would you guys feel if a 4th Console Manufacturer like Sage returning with the Dreamcast 2 or Valve with a Steam Deck Console with exclusive games, full PC games compatability as well as having games patched to take advantage of the hardware entered the chat?

The more I think about it the more it becomes likely to me that Strix Halo might be an upcoming xbox SoC. It would be beneficial for MS to pull a PS3 style move but they could only do that after having bought the most popular 3rd party games. The PS3s problem was that PS2 relied on a lot of 3rd party games for its audience. PS3 got poor 3rd party support for popular games with the CPU shift to more cores and they didn't have any first party as popular as GTA, CoD etc to show any benefit to that shift at the start of the gen. If you own the biggest 3rd party games then this is no longer a problem. You can capitalise on it. You can have games you've developed run like crap on 8 core PCs and PS systems. Games like CoD, Minecraft, Fallout, Doom, Elder Scrolls, etc can become heavily CPU bound and run worse on everything except xbox and maybe the latest AMD CPUs. Wouldn't land them in legal trouble either because they can just point to an 8 core CPU in other machines and talk about technical feasibility.
 

yurinka

Member
PS5 games are ok, and the consoles already are too expensive IMO. More powerful would mean more expensive, which I think it would be a failure because one of the selling points of consoles is being able to play recent AAA games with great visuals at an affordable price.

Regarding Pro consoles, I think that for niche they could go for a way more powerful and way more expensive approach, different from the base consoles. Something like base console for $399 (or maximum $499) and Pro console for $999.
 
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Sethbacca

Member
I'm ready for Minisforum and the other Mini PC makers to get ahold of these. I'd like one of the strix point setups for handling emulation duty through Switch on my tv (the current 780m isn't quite there), and hopefully they'll make a halo strix mini itx board too.
 

octos

Neo Member
"... uses the PS5's Zen 2 CPU cores for graphics deformation, stabilized performance with tons of on-screen physics, and AI simulations" =>
The GPU is actually capable of doing most of those things, and way way faster than a CPU would, but then of course you're going to lose some of the GPU rendering time. Also the programming is more tricky because it requires different algorithms, but the results are worth it.
 

JohnnyFootball

GerAlt-Right. Ciriously.
It would be logical for valve to release a "steam deck" like console, with more horsepower and a reasonable price.
This chip would fit the bill exactly. I mean they already built most of the front end, and the store costs them nothing to bring to another platform.

Or is this the core of the new ms handheld? (Or Sony for that matter) Underclocked in mobile mode, opened up when plugged in hooked to a tv?
Yep, I am waiting for the next gen of Steamdeck before I consider buying one. Hopefully they release one with a 20W TDP.

Keep the screen at 1280 x 800 though. Don't do what Asus and Legion did by giving it an overpowered screen that almost no game can take advantage of.
 
8 good cores was enough for 2020. Decreasing GPU power to accommodate 16 CPU cores would necessitate targeting 1080p, instead of 1440+ upscaled to 4K. The PS5 would end up being a beefed up Series S in terms of CPU-GPU balance. It would not be the end of the world, but the 1080p boat has sailed, with basically all TVs sold now being 4K.

They can go to 16 cores 32 threads with the PS6 in 2028, providing more CPU power while still targeting 4K via more GPU power + PSSR.
Or they can go with a 12core cpu with a duel gpu.. 40cu each running at 1.6ghz each with that and with high performance mode they can combine the gpu which then bumps it up to 80cu at 3.2ghz which amd gpus running at anyways practically add the pssr should easily be 4k 60fps and possibly 8k
 
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64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
Yep, I am waiting for the next gen of Steamdeck before I consider buying one. Hopefully they release one with a 20W TDP.
Keep it at 15w. Increase the performance at the same envelope

Don't fall into the windows handheld trap of sacrificing efficiency for performance
 

Panajev2001a

GAF's Pleasant Genius
Not on consoles.
Remember that the PS5 only has 4+4Mb of L3 cache.
Now consider how much performance the 5800X3D gained over the 5800X.
And the 5800X already has 32MB of L3.
If Sony was to slap a 64MB of Infinity Cache on top of their CPU, it would do wonders for performance.

And console CPUs have lower clocks. So there is room there for improvement.
Another thing to consider is that IPC is still rising at a decent rate. Zen5 is supposed to bring a jump of 30-40% IPC performance.

I do agree that devs have to improve multithreading capabilities on modern games.
But when most games barely use more than a couple of main threads, there is still a lot that can be done with 8C16T CPUs.
I agree, but it will take time to get all those
Improvements at the cost you can afford to spend on CPUs on consoles. Which could make the situation even worse for multiplatform devs on PC. I agree there is more they can do, but slapping 32-64 MB of more cache and increasing clocks is not a small ask for a console.
 

Loxus

Member
Good points all round, brilliant.

Keep in mind, nothing is cut from Strix Halo's CPU because of being chiplets.

16c Zen5,
L2: 16MB
L3: 64MB
Clock up to: 5.8GHz
And the GPU is has 32MB of Infinity Cache and clocked at 3.0GHz. All this with a TDP of 150/175W. Also, AI/ML upscaling would help the GPU punch much higher above it's weight.


Moving on to the 16 cores debate, the main point of having 16 CPU cores is to have some cores dedicated to graphics deformation, physics, and AI simulations.
We see current gen lacking in this department.
 

mrcroket

Member
Good points all round, brilliant.

Keep in mind, nothing is cut from Strix Halo's CPU because of being chiplets.

16c Zen5,
L2: 16MB
L3: 64MB
Clock up to: 5.8GHz
And the GPU is has 32MB of Infinity Cache and clocked at 3.0GHz. All this with a TDP of 150/175W. Also, AI/ML upscaling would help the GPU punch much higher above it's weight.


Moving on to the 16 cores debate, the main point of having 16 CPU cores is to have some cores dedicated to graphics deformation, physics, and AI simulations.
We see current gen lacking in this department.
It doesn't make any sense when you can use that extra space on the APU to have more GPU cores that are much faster in physics simulation.
 

winjer

Member
I agree, but it will take time to get all those
Improvements at the cost you can afford to spend on CPUs on consoles. Which could make the situation even worse for multiplatform devs on PC. I agree there is more they can do, but slapping 32-64 MB of more cache and increasing clocks is not a small ask for a console.

Slapping a chunk of extra L3 is not that bad.
Since sram cells scale very poorly with newer process nodes, what AMD is doing is to make these 64Mb slabs in N7 or N6. This being much cheaper then newer nodes.
Then they connect them to the CPU die using TSVs, regardless of the process node this one uses.
This 3DVcache wasn't ready in time for the PS5, but it's ready for future consoles.
 
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