Chipworks reverse engineer the PS4′s CPU, GPU, RAM, and other modules

November 25, 2013

ps4_reverse_engineerIt is no news that the first steps in hacking a device often include hardware reverse engineering. For those who don’t know Chipworks, it’s a company that specializes in reverse engineering semiconductors and electronic systems. Once in a while, mostly as a publicity stunt, they publish their work for popular electronics. Today, the PS4 gets the Chipworks treatment.

I mentioned hacking here because it’s a hobbyist’s wet dream to have access to the type of hardware Chipworks use, but it is worth mentioning Chipworks’ main business is patent infringement analysis: they reverse-engineer some company’s system on behalf of another company, to see if company B stole some hardware designs from company A without paying the associated license.

Chipworks are not in the business to help you break DRM or anything illegal, although their findings can potentially reveal interesting facts about the way Sony’s products do encryption or security. If you’re interested and have $11’000 lying around, you can even buy their report of the Vita CPU and see if it has something interesting for hobbyist hackers :P

SONY-CXD90026G-feature2

More seriously, the stuff Chipworks reveal on the PS4 won’t help anyone hack the device directly, although it gives interesting new information on the type of technology used: the shots confirm for example that the CPU is based on AMD’s Jaguar/Kabini architecture, or that the DRAM is made of 16 die of 512MB each.

They also dig into the Network co-processor (the chip that allows the PS4 to download content while in “standby” mode), the Wifi module, or even an unidentified SCEI module simply marked as “1327KM449″, among other devices of interest on the PS4 Motherboard.

But more importantly, it’s an occasion to see cool pictures of a sexy CPU :)

ps4_apups4_cpu

By the way, if you don’t have the $11’000 necessary to buy their Vita report, but happen to have a Vita, concentrated sulfuric acid, and no sense of safety whatsoever, you can also follow this instructive guide on how to open microchips and take cool die pictures like the ones above. The guide is real, and if you’re careful you can follow it. Just don’t expect to reveal anything groundbreaking on the vita about it, and don’t come and yell at me afterwards: apparently putting your Vita’s CPU in a sulfuric acid bath will void your warranty.

More pictures and details in the source below.

Source Chipworks via ps4hax

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