November 4th, 1999
If you read this easy to follow feature, you'll know more about the PlayStation 2
than 99 percent of the people in the videogame industry.
If you're a PlayStation fan, then you've already read about PlayStation specs, you've seen it in
action, and you basically understand what it does. Even so, many of the details you've seen are
some raw numbers that only make sense to the guys at your local Radio Shack (though not ours,
our local Radio Shack is staffed by simpletons). Well, we don't think that's good enough. Our
readers deserve better. So, put on your reading glasses and get ready to become a graduate of
the PS2 Crash Course:
This is simple enough to figure out.
Suggested Retail Price (Japan): 39,800 Yen ($370)
Although the PlayStation 2 will ship for this price in Japan, it will likely debut in the US around
$249 or $299. This price will be the result of new Emotion Engine factories which are already being built.
Note, however that current rumor says Sony may continue its efforts to push the DVD format and
promote the PS2's multimedia capabilities by offering some kind of free DVD incentive with new
purchases. Remember this is just an early rumor.
Accessories included: Dual Shock 2 analog controller, High-capacity 8MB Memory Card,
PlayStation2 Demo Disc, AV Multi Cable, AC Power Cord.
The Dual Shock 2 analog control is almost exactly the same as the current PlayStation controller
except that all the buttons are analog. This means that if you push a button only half way, it will have
only half the effect, which will be perfect for games like Gran Turismo where slight touches to the throttle
and brake are better than using full throttle or full brake. There are 256 degrees of pressure sensing.
The High-Capacity 8MB Memory Card is also similar to the original PlayStation card, except that it stores
up to 8MB of information (64 times more than the original) and the information transfer rate is 250 times
faster (which means almost instantaneous transfer rates for most current games). Note that you won't
be able to transfer saves from old cards to new, or vice versa.
Dimensions: 301mm (W) x 178mm (H) x 78mm (D), (12" x 7" x 3")
Weight: 2.1 kg (4 lbs. 10 oz.)
Media: PlayStation2 CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and PlayStation CD-ROM, CD Audio
This means your PlayStation 2 will basically play all your old PlayStation games (but not make them look
any better), all music CDs (except Backstreet Boys) and all North American DVDs.
Formats supported: Audio CD, DVD-Video
Interfaces: Controller Port (2)
These are the same as the controller ports on the current PlayStation. Unfortunately the console will ship
with only two ports as a money saving feature. Link cables will still work, and you'll likely find USB
controllers near launch that would give you four controllers altogether.
Interfaces: Memory Card Slot (2)
Once again these slots are very similar to the ones on the original PlayStation, except they support the new,
faster transfer rate.
Interfaces: AV Multi Cable Output (1)
This is where you plug the cord that goes to the back of your television.
Interfaces: Optical Digital Output (1)
This port will let you send data directly to a digital receiver. This is perfect if you plan to plug your
PlayStation into a DTS or Dolby receiver and get perfect sound.
If you don't use digital output, your data will be converted to an analog signal (to travel through your
ancient copper wires) and then be converted back to digital at the receiver. This usually results in some
loss of quality.
Interfaces: USB Port (2)
Considering the incredible amount of hardware that currently supports USB (Universal Serial Bus) and the
amount of planned hardware, this is an exciting development for PS2 plans. USB enables you to connect
any number of devices to your system with a high-speed data link.
Interfaces: I.Link (IEEE1394) (1)
The IEEE139 port is known by two names: I.Link and for Mac owners, FireWire - there are some minor
differences between the two. This high-data transfer port has the advantage of supplying (some) power
to devices that are connected. You can expect that an enormous number of hardware devices will use
this port including speakers, printers, and other like devices.
Interfaces: Type III PCMCIA Card Slot.
This slot is a lot like a laptop's add-in slot. Here you will be able to plug in a modem, more speakers,
and eventually the connection for Sony's planned broadband network and hard drive.
PlayStation2 Technology Specifications and Features
The 128-Bit Emotion Engine is the first chip of its kind. No other mass-market computer technology on the market comes close to its power. In the PlayStation2, this chip is used as the workhorse of the console. It processes all physics and math calculations.
CPU:128-Bit Emotion Engine
The 128-Bit part of the title means that this chipset both processes information and sends it over a 128-Bit bus (A Bus is the pathway between chips on a circuit board. A wide bus carries more bits of information and is thus faster than a narrower bus. The short Bus is what we rode to school on).
By contrast, the Dreamcast has no true 128-Bit components.
System Clock Frequency: 294.912 MHz
You may think that your PC has a faster processor, but remember that the Emotion Engine has inherently faster 128-Bit processing and it is just a part of the overall PlayStation2 power.
A small note for the really detail oriented: The reason that the speed is 294.912 MHz, is that it must be a multiple of a required processor speed that supports the DVD ROM operations.
Main Memory: Direct DRAM 32MB
DRAM (Dynamic RAM) is much preferred over SRAM (Static RAM) because it is able to store data while transferring other data, making it twice as fast as SRAM. The 32MB of main memory is by far the most for any console we've seen. In fact, the amount of memory is even more staggering if you remember that the Graphics Synthesizer boasts 4MB of texture memory on its own. Memory Bus Bandwidth: 3.2 GB per second
This means the memory can store and send up to 3.2 Gigabytes per second. This speeds up overall processor performance. Coprocessor 1: FPU
This stands for Floating Point Unit, which basically means it makes all the calculations.
Coprocessors 2 and 3: VU0 and VU1
These stand for Vector Units one and two. These coprocessors are dedicated to 3D-vector calculations, and determine where the polygons go in 3 dimensions. Emotion Engine Performance
Capabilities: MPEG2 Support
This means that support for MPEG2 DVD ROM compression is handled by the hardware, so your DVD movies will look extra-good. It also means that PS2 developers can compress texture images using MPEG2 compression to save space without taking a hit on game speed.
Performance: Floating Point performance 6.2 GFLOPS
This means the PlayStation 2 can process more than 6.2 billion floating point operations (basic math equations) per second. In other words, this baby can handle physics and math like nothing you've ever seen.
This is about 15 times faster than a Pentium II processor and three times faster than a Pentium III
Performance: 66 Million Polygons per Second Geometry Calculations
This is basically a fake number because; the polygons used for this number are not rendered with all the effects that they will (need to) be rendered with in a real game.
Performance: 16 Million Polygons per Second Curved Surface Generation
This is a better real world test of the PlayStation2, but remember this a best case scenario, in game numbers will be lower. The current PlayStation can only process around 350,000 polygons per second.
Graphics: "Graphics Synthesizer"
Clock Frequency: 147.456MHz
You should compare this speed with your 3D card, not your PC processor. (The TNT2 Ultra runs at 150MHz and the Voodoo3 3500 runs around 183MHz.)
Embedded DRAM: VRAM 4MB
Because of the high memory transfer speed in the PlayStation2, its 4MB VRAM is just as effective (if not more) than higher memory PC accelerator cards.
DRAM Bus Bandwidth: 48 GB per second
This is the memory transfer speed, for the 4MB VRAM. Its outlandish speed lets the Graphics Synthesizer process faster.
Pixel Configuration: 64-Bit (RGB, Alpha, Z-Buffer (24,8,32)
This is how the system supports such amazing transparency and color effects. It breaks down like this: 24-Bits are used for RGB colors, 8-Bits are used for transparency effects, and 32-Bits are saved for the Z-Buffer which keeps track of everything in the 3D environment.) This is a highly effective configuration for a graphics unit.
Pixel Fill Rate: 2.4 Gpixels per second
The PlayStation 2 can render 2.4 billion pixels each second. That's more pixels than you could ever need.
Polygon Rendering: The big numbers
Here are the numbers that Sony gives for the Graphics Synthesizer performance. Remember, these are not real-world numbers, but they do give an idea of the system's power. (Definitions for all the effects are on the following page)
75 million polygons per second (small polygons, no effects)
50 million polygons per second (48 pixel quads, 24-bit color, Z-buffering, Alpha Blending)
30 million polygons per second (50 pixel triangles, Z-buffering, Alpha Blending)
25 million polygons per second (48 pixel quads, Z-buffering, Alpha Blending, and Mip Mapping)
Particle Drawing Rate: 150 million/second
This is the number of particles that the PS2 can render. Particles are
used for rain, fire, explosions, and even hair. And dandruff.
Sprite Drawing Rate: 18.75 million/second (8 pixel x 8 pixel sprites)
If anyone still made sprite based games, they could basically use all the
sprites they ever wanted.
Hardware Effects:Anti-Aliasing (surface and edge)
Anti-Aliasing is a graphics procedure designed to eliminate a stair-stepping
effect, known as jaggies, occurring at low resolutions. It works by blurring
pixels at edges of lines to make the difference between two color areas
This supports fog effects in 3D without a hit on the processor.
This supports transparent textures such as windows and water without
slowing things down.
Hardware Effects:Multi-pass texture functions
This lets the processor render an object and then render another pass on top
of it. Developers can use this to add lighting effects, and even bump mapping,
which makes 2D surfaces look like they have real bumps and divots. And acne.
Hardware Effects:Perspective correction
This makes textures shrink down as they head into the difference. It's like
looking down a straight road and seeing it converge to one point in the far
This lets the developer add spotlights and effects to an existing texture rather
than creating new textures for each new effect. This could be used to display
the effects of dynamic light changes. For instance you could see how a forest
changes (in realtime) from dawn to dusk.
Hardware Effects:Mip Mapping
This simple procedure uses multiple textures for each object so you see one from far away and another from closer up. This avoids the ugliness you used to see in games like Doom where the textures look good from far away but look awful up close.
The Sound Chip
Not much is known about the PlayStation2 sound chip, but here is what we do know.
Number of Voices: 48ch plus software
This lets developers use the sound chip to provide noises for their games. Duh.
Sound frequency: 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz
This provides CD quality sound.
Sound Memory: 2MB
This will help keep games with large sound files running fast.
Supports: Dolby, AC3, and DTS
The PlayStation2 will output sound for Dolby Digital Sound, the older AC3 technology and even DTS sound. If you've got a top of the line receiver then you'll get the most out of your PS2. This also means that the DVD aspect of the console will be on par with the very best DVD players.