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We built a PC with PlayStation Neo's GPU tech

We’re months away from the release of PlayStation Neo and as things stand, with a marketing black-out from Sony, it’s still unclear what the purpose actually is for this faster, more powerful console. All we have to go on are leaked developer guidelines, which demand feature parity with the existing PlayStation 4. Beyond that, Sony’s recommendations to developers are surprisingly open-ended. All Neo games must render at 1080p or higher at the same performance level – or better. But beyond that, developers get to choose what they do with a mooted 2.3x boost to GPU power.

So we were wondering, just how much of a generational leap does Neo actually represent? Sony’s docs focus heavily on supporting 4K displays, but to what extent is that actually possible with the GPU horsepower on tap? We wanted to get an idea of what the new graphics core is actually capable of, so we built our own ‘Neo’ and put it to the test.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. The leaked graphics specifications for PlayStation Neo are a match for the latest AMD graphics core, codenamed Polaris, released to the public recently in desktop GPU form as the Radeon RX 480. We’re looking at 36 compute units based on ‘improved’ AMD Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture – just like the RX 480. The difference comes in terms of clock-speed. The RX 480 runs at a maximum 1266MHz while Neo’s GPU runs at 911MHz – a necessity for a small, closed box system.

And curiously that clock-speed is baked into RX 480’s power management set-up, rounded down to 910MHz. It’s ‘power state two’ – the second of seven power states that can be easily configured by PC users meaning that, yes, we can run RX 480 at the same clocks as the Neo GPU core. Confronted with identical gaming workloads, we can now scale up resolution to see just how far the Neo GPU can go before frame-rates become unplayable. Can we get a playable 4K experience?