During the PlayStation 2005 Meeting in Japan last week, Sony executives revealed that the current PlayStation 3 development hardware doesn't include all of the final hardware that will be in the retail system, and that a final PS3 Reference Tool dev kit won't be provided to developers until December 2005. This means that initial launch games will likely be developed on the current "beta" hardware and then tidied up on the final PS3 TOOLs right before production.
Here are the pertinent details:
Current PS3 dev hardware includes a 2.4GHz CELL processor. The reference tool will include a 3.2GHz CELL processor.
PS3 dev hardware includes 512MB of XDR DRAM memory. The RAM data transfer rate in current development hardware is capped at 2.5Gb/s. In the final reference tool and retail system, the RAM data transfer rate will be 3.2GB/s.
Current PS3 dev hardware includes a GeForce 7800 graphics unit, connected to a PCIx4 interface (2GB/sec). The reference tool will include an RSX processor, connected to the CPU by a FlexIO interface (35GB/sec)
What does that mean to us, as gamers?
The current development hardware uses a CPU and RAM combination that's only 75% as fast as the final reference tool, and a graphics subsystem that can only squeeze out 6% of the system's potential graphics bandwidth.
1) Launch games won't come close to tapping the PS3's full potential. Some developers will have to optimize their products on pre-December dev hardware in order to meet production milestones.
2) The demo videos we've seen to-date, some of which have looked absolutely jaw dropping, were made using hardware that only flexes 6% of the system's graphical potential.