Mark Cerny, lead system architect of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro, recently made a curious comment about rendering games in 4K Ultra HD. What he said is that by his estimation, it would take at least eight teraflops of computing muscle to render content natively in 4K. On the surface he sounds like he is disparaging the PS4 Pro, but he's really throwing shade and Microsoft and its Project Scorpio.
Here's the thing about the PS4 Pro—it kicks out 4.2 teraflops of computing power, a massive increase from the original PS4's 1.84 teraflops. That is only about half of what Cerny reckons is the minimum required to handle native 4K content, but that isn't what the PS4 Pro aims to do. Instead, it uses a feature called checkboard rendering, or checkerboarding.
A quick and dirty explanation of checkerboard rendering is that images and scenes are arranged in a 4K checkboard layout divided into four sections. Half of the squares have image data, while fancy computing tricks use that information to fill in the empty squares. Temporal aliasing is then added to smooth things out and what you get is an image that's nearly indistinguishable from one that was rendered natively in 4K.
Time will tell how well that ultimately works out, though if you look around the web, you'll find plenty of praise for the method. Where does that leave Project Scorpio?
Scheduled to release next year, Project Scorpio promises to deliver native 4K gaming without any rendering trickery. However, its GPU falls short of what Cerny believes is required for such a feat—it puts out six teraflops of computing power, or two teraflops less than what Cerny figures is the minimum for rendering in native 4K.
Of course, hardware specs could change between now and the time Project Scorpio release, but even if it doesn't the console will still have more that 320GB/s of memory bandwidth to throw at 4K tasks. Whether it all will be enough is something we'll find out next year.