Unlocking PSP's future. 50% performance increase waiting to be unlocked - Handheld
This is a discussion on Unlocking PSP's future. 50% performance increase waiting to be unlocked - Handheld ; [the following is a new article, based on old information that has been
known for months. but I thought interesting enough to post]
"Unlocking PSP's future
The general perception of PSP games right now is that they look ...
Unlocking PSP's future. 50% performance increase waiting to be unlocked
[the following is a new article, based on old information that has been
known for months. but I thought interesting enough to post]
"Unlocking PSP's future
The general perception of PSP games right now is that they look pretty good.
Pretty damn good. You probably wouldn't be surprised if I told you that PSP
games are going to look considerably better in the future. It stands to
reason that over time, games look better and better across a console's
lifespan as developers become more accustomed to the hardware and learn to
exploit it more effectively. The first-generation games might put just as
much strain on the system as the late-generation games, but the tangible
improvements come from much more efficient coding. The console's
capabilities don't improve, only the software does. Such is the case with
What if I told you that PSP was different? What if I told you that as well
as enjoying the benefits of steadily improving software development, the PSP
would, at some stage in the future (and without any modification), become
capable of a hardware performance increase of fifty percent? That would be
somewhat more surprising, wouldn't it?
Well, that's what I'm telling you. At this year's busy GDC (Game Developers
Conference) in San Francisco, lots of companies gave lots of presentations.
On Friday the 11th of March, between midday and 1pm, Sony Computer
Entertainment America staged four different presentations simultaneously.
Mark DeLoura, SCEA's manager of developer relations, delivered one of them:
a rather dry and technical presentation called "PSP Advanced Software
Overview". It seems that with so many talks vying for attention, this
particular presentation may have slipped under the radar of the mainstream
gaming press. What was revealed in that presentation however, is very
DeLoura explained that the PSP's CPU and bus have software-configurable
clockspeeds. The CPU core is currently locked to a maximum clockspeed of
222MHz, and the bus (typically operating at half the CPU speed) is locked to
a top speed of 111Mhz. The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) operates at bus
speed, in other words, up to the 111MHz cap. The advantage of having
configurable clockspeeds in a portable device is that power consumption can
be controlled by adjusting the clockspeed to the demands of the software at
any given moment. When the PSP is rendering complex in-game graphics at
around 222MHz it will necessarily chew up more power than it would need to
when displaying a simple menu screen running at say 5MHz.
The hardware specifications of the PSP were released last year. Since then
it's been known that the PSP CPU's top clockspeed is 333MHz and the bus and
GPU's top speed is 166MHz. See what's going on? Sony have deliberately
locked the PSP's operating speed at exactly two-thirds of it's actual
potential. They have an extra fifty percent of it's current performance
ability simply waiting in reserve to be unleashed at a later date.
As I pointed out in my PSP Lowdown back in January, the graphical
performance exhibited in PSP's launch titles looks like it's somewhere
between PSone and PS2 standard. Now I understand why. The PS2's Emotion
Engine (CPU) runs at 294.912MHz and it's Graphics Synthesizer (GPU) runs at
147.456MHz. While the PSP is clearly a more powerful device on paper, it's
currently being restricted to a sub-PS2 standard of performance.
Of course, this begs the question: why? Why would Sony choose to cripple
their own hardware? Well, the most obvious answer is that they needed to
maintain an acceptable battery life. In the lead up to PSP's debut, it's
battery duration was often quoted as it's single biggest potential problem.
Had they launched the PSP with games running at a fully unlocked 333Mhz, the
battery could have been dead in less than two hours. That just wouldn't do.
Through capping the PSP's clockspeed (and enforcing other power-saving
guidelines) Sony have achieved a respectable 4-6 hours of gameplay from a
single charge. It now seems apparent that Sony have actually delivered a
portable console whose capabilities are too advanced for current battery
technology. Once that technology improves, it seems inevitable that Sony
will release a higher capacity battery and unlock PSP's full potential.
The current performance cap may have other benefits in the long run. Rather
than letting developers wastefully chew up the whole of PSP's hardware
capability from the get-go with inefficient code, the restrictions
essentially force them to code more efficiently from the beginning.
Consequently, when the ceiling is eventually lifted, the developers will be
ready to put the extra power to good use.
It has been theorized that the clockspeed cap is in the PSP's firmware, and
will be removed by a firmware update. A developer at the gaming-age forums
recently disclosed that this isn't the case. The restriction is actually
being imposed at the game development stage, by way of limits in Sony's PSP
libraries. The PSP devkits allow developers to constantly modify the CPU
clockspeed settings from anywhere between 1 and 333MHz (or 0.5-166Mhz for
the GPU and bus), but the current software libraries simply won't go above
222MHz (or 111Mhz for GPU and bus).
Initially restricting certain features of a console is not as uncommon as
you might expect. As an example, the PS2 was restricted from displaying
progressive scan for many years, though usually such restrictions are
handled by the TRC process, not by a software restriction. The TRC
(Technical Requirement Check) is the console manufacturer's checklist that
games must pass before being published. Any developers who try to hack the
current PSP libraries to exceed the clockspeed limits will undoubtedly have
their games rejected at the TRC stage. Sony probably felt it would be easier
to simply restrict the libraries than to ask the developers politely not to
go above 222Mhz, and have to later issue a wave of TRC rejections. Sony will
provide developers with new software libraries when they are ready to remove
the restrictions. Games developed after that will be free to exploit all of
the PSP's processing power. Ridge Racers' associate producer Hideo Teramoto
recently confirmed in an Edge magazine interview that unlike the
underclocked Ridge Racers, Namco will release PSP games in future that run
When the time comes, consumers won't need to do anything. No firmware update
should be required. Old games won't run any faster than they ever did,
because the restrictions are in the game software, not in the PSP itself.
The new games will simply push PSPs harder than ever before. Sony will have
much improved high-capacity batteries on the market by then, but you won't
actually need to buy one. The latest and greatest games will run on your old
battery. Of course, the speed at which they'll drain your old battery should
be incentive enough for you to rush out and buy a new one.
The tangible difference in the games should be very noticeable. Example:
Right now, the PSP has a maximum fillrate of 444 Mpixels/sec. After the
restrictions are lifted that will become 664 Mpixels/sec. Games will be able
to feature more complex models with higher polygon-counts, more fluid
frame-rates, better physics, you name it. We are talking about an
across-the-board fifty percent performance increase after all. PSP's
hardware supremacy over the PS2 should become evident. It's even possible
that when the new battery is released, the PSP's fourth screen brightness
setting (uber-blinding strength; currently only selectable when the PSP is
plugged into mains power), will be available all the time.
PSP's future certainly looks bright."
posted by Robin at 10:32 PM
Re: Unlocking PSP's future. 50% performance increase waiting to be unlocked
Cygnus, this is your most embarrassingly lame new name so far.
* "Child poverty would be nearly obliterated if every household had one
adult working full time and married parents." -- Rich Lowry, Jan 29 2004.
* 11.4% of married-couple households with 1+ child under 18 and one full-time
year-round worker are under poverty threshold -- US census, 2003.
Re: Unlocking PSP's future. 50% performance increase waiting tobe unlocked
> [the following is a new article, based on old information that has been
> known for months. but I thought interesting enough to post]
> [clockspeed currently limited to 2/3 max]
Just removing the cap wouldn't really help, while you would have a more
powerful PSP, you also would have the crappy battery life which is why
the lock was put in the first place. So removing the lock helps only if
we get either better batteries or developers learn to save battery power
somewhere else so they can switch to full clockspeed without ruining the
battery life. One solution would be mixing complex and less complex game
scenes, so you can render the less complex ones at, let's say, 111 Mhz
to conserve battery power and the use that saved power to render a few
complex scenes at 333 mhz. Or you could try to design memory effective
levels, so you can load a whole level into the ram and switch off the
UMD drive most of the time and conserve power that way. Sure unlocking
the full clockspeed will help developers a bit but don't expect a huge
leap like you would expect it from a 33% increase of cpu and gpu power.
I also heard the PSP is easy to develop for, so I wouldn't expect a huge
jump like it happend from early PS2 to 2-3. gen PS2 titles. We sure will
some improvements, but they won't be huge imho. (Not that they are
And last but not least there is one problem that troubles me with that
clock speed increase. In a few years when we have PSPs with die shrinken
to 65nm or smaller and maybe better batteries, these second generation
PSPs could have a good battery life when running constantly at 333mhz.
Developers then could start designing games using 333 mhz constantly,
and while they would look really good, first gen PSP owners would get
the super short battery life some critics predicted.