Sony May Gross About $100 Per Console, Teardown Shows Quote:
Sony is doing a lot of things differently with PlayStation 4 and there seems to be a payoff, as highlighted by an early analysis of the new device’s innards.
TechInsights, one of the first companies to take apart the console, estimates the cost to Sony of its components at about $296–indicating a gross profit of nearly $100 on the $399 product.
That’s quite a different picture than the firm painted after Sony came out with the PlayStation 3 in 2006, which then carried a list price of $599. A TechInsights teardown report at the time estimated the cost to Sony to build the console totaled more than $688, indicating it was losing about $88 per console shipped.
The contrast underscores changes in components and their cost as well as key design decisions Sony made this time around.
For example, Sony opted to use a Blu-ray drive in the PlayStation 3, a then-pricey component that TechInsights estimated cost Sony $81. The same kind of drive costs $20 now, the firm estimates.
But one of the biggest differences this time concerns processor chips. Sony with PlayStation 3 went with the nonstandard Cell chip, developed in collaboration with IBM and Toshiba, which required a separate chip for graphics. That combination, along with accessory chips and related memory, accounted for about $154 of the PlayStation 3′s total cost, according to TechInsights’ estimate at the time.
Making software for the Cell, by all accounts, also caused programmers to tear their hair out.
“The developers found it really tough to come to grips with,” recalled Dominic Mallinson, a vice president for research and development for Sony Computer Entertainment America, in a presentation Wednesday. Issues associated with programming the chip “caused the complexity and the cost to rise dramatically.”
Mallinson, who spoke at an event hosted by chip maker Advanced Micro Devices, said Sony listened to developers this time in a number of areas. For one thing, it went with an AMD chip based on the x86 design familiar to people who write PC programs.
That eight-brained chip, customized with input from Sony, also delivers the PlayStation 4′s graphics capability. TechInsights estimates the processor in the new console cost Sony $85.
But perhaps the thing programmers will be most excited about is the memory in the new console, Mallinson said. Not only is there a lot of it–eight gigabytes–but the chips used are a variety called GDDR5 that offers extremely high bandwidth in sending data to the processors.
In addition, where the PlayStation 3 had separate pools of memory for graphics and for the main processors, the memory in the successor device is one unified pool that can be used for either function, Mallinson noted. (The associated chips add about $62 to the cost of making the new system, TechInsights says).
The technology choices, overall, aid performance and cost at the same time.
“We selected components and semiconductor processes which are very mainstream which will allow us to hit those very aggressive cost targets and to cost reduce over time,” Mallinson said.
IFixit and TechInsights, in that order, both published heavily illustrated teardowns Friday. The former firm doesn’t provide cost estimates, but revealed some of the key chip suppliers in the system.
They are primarily known players. Samsung, for example, supplied the memory. A less familiar supplier, Macronix, provided some serial flash memory. The hard drive comes from HGST, a company based in Japan that is now part of Western Digital.