PlayStation 4 has 8GB RAM, but only 5GB is usable

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The smart geeks over at Digital Foundry, Eurogamer’s technical division, have done a bit of digging and confirmed how Sony’s PlayStation 4 will allocate its memory.

DF analysed some data, and spoke to developers, and confirmed that the PlayStation 4 will only have 5GB of memory available to game developers. Strictly speaking, the PS4 allows 4.5GB to be addressed, under normal circumstances, but an additional 512MB can be requested from the operating system, under special conditions. This is similar to  Microsoft’s Xbox One, which also houses 8GB of memory. It’s been known since E3 that the Xbox One would reserve 3GB of its memory for the Microsoft’s complex operating system setup, but insiders say that the Xbox One’s 3GB of reserved memory is likely to accommodate expansion of the platform over 10 years. It could make more memory available, at first, but claiming that back after 5 years, when the operating system gains new features, would be extremely tricky.

It does help put things into perspective, now. 8GB sounded impressive at launch, but the RAM allotment is unified: shared among the operating system, the game, and the graphics processor. The outgoing Xbox has 512MB of unified system memory, and the PS3 has 256MB of system paired up with 256MB of video memory, which makes the new consoles look godlike in specification.

Digital Foundry also analysed system profiles from PS4 game demos which show that of the eight processor cores available, two are reserved for system use. Developers still have to juggle resources – there’s just a lot more space in which to do it. However, having just 60% of the advertised memory space available for actual development does make things a lot trickier.

More interesting, though, is what the system-reserved space will be used for. Microsoft makes no bones about its intentions for the Xbox One to serve as a home media hub – and the memory usage, given the sort of functionality it demonstrated at the console’s reveal, makes sense. But Sony’s console is primarily marketed as a no-frills gaming box. Any Windows, Linux, or Apple computer will happily run on just 1GB of memory, so exactly what the two consoles need 3GB of system memory for is potentially quite exciting.

Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.