On the same day Apple announced the new iPhone, Sony took to the stage to announce not one, but two new PlayStation consoles… kind of.
PS4 (slim) and PS4 Pro
The first console announced is a slimmer version of the current PS4, which Sony is simply calling PS4. It replaces the current model that originally launched in November of 2013. This slimmer version is the same PS4 in terms of its performance, aside from a smaller footprint (around 30%), less energy consumption (around 28%), and minor aesthetic changes. Because everything about the console—including images—already leaked online, the President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Andrew House, breezed through its reveal in mere minutes.
The second console—and the better of the two—is the much bigger and more powerful PS4 Pro. At first glance, it looks like a three-layer cake made by Cylons (don’t worry… nerd reference). But that size houses a ton of power. Inside is a custom processor with a GPU capable of outputting 4.2 teraflops of power. That’s up from the 1.8 teraflops of the PS4. What does that mean for you? Well, the more teraflops, the more operations the console can perform every second. This means game developers can take advantage by developing bigger worlds with more detail. And even though you’re playing a bigger and better looking game, it’ll play smoother than on your previous PS4.
The PS4 Pro also supports HDR, which allows for greater depth in color and contrast—now the image looks closer to what your eyes naturally see. PS4 Pro also supports 4K gaming—although there’s debate about how it accomplishes this. Sony’s PR page states its 4K ability comes from graphic rendering or up-scaling, while others (like game devs) are claiming it’s a custom method they can’t discuss. Either way, even if it’s not “native”, chances are you won’t see a difference.
Image of Johan Andersson’s Twitter feed
PS4 Pro also supports native 4K for video streaming and has the ability to upscale games to a 4K resolution. It comes with a compatible HDMI 2.0 cable that Sony calls a “Premium HDMI” cable. While there’s some 4K video support, don’t rush out and buy those 4K UHD Blu-rays—the PS4 Pro won’t include a 4K Blu-ray player. Confusing that Sony—the company that co-invented the Blu-ray—isn’t including the better version of that technology to its consumer base. Instead, it’s relying on streaming content to be its main focus for watching media.
The PS4 Pro includes a starting storage of 1TB compared to 500GB in the PS4. However you can get a PS4 with 1TB for more money. And a digital optical out for connecting your console to a surround sound system or a soundbar. The PS4 connects audio through the HDMI port, only.
So, the important question: which one should you buy? Or should you even bother?
The answer is never simple. Chris Plante at The Verge created a fun flowchart to help. And, depending on who you speak with (*ahem…fanboys*), you may get a biased answer. So let’s try to break it down:
Current PS4 owners
There are not enough compelling reasons to buy the slimmer PS4, unless you really just want to spend $300 to save a few inches of space.
As for the PS4 Pro, the answer is: it depends.
• Do you play a lot of games and own a 4K TV? – Buy!
• Do you play a lot of games and plan on buying a 4K TV soon? – Buy!
• Do you love watching movies and only want it for the 4K streaming? – Don’t buy!
• Do you love playing games and watching movies? – Buy!
• Do you want a 4K UHD Blu-ray player? – Don’t buy!
If you’re playing a lot of games, you’re most likely going to appreciate the richer fidelity of what the PS4 Pro can produce… but only if you own a 4K TV (even better if you own a 4K TV with HDR). If you plan on buying a new TV soon, make sure it supports HDR10—as PS4 Pro doesn’t support Dolby Vision. A good one to consider that won’t break the bank is the Samsung KS8000. It’s 4K and HDR10 (they say HDR 1000, but that’s just Samsung’s marketing language). It has great picture quality with low input lag for smooth gaming that’ll only set you back $1,300 for a 55″. If you own a 1080p TV, it’s unlikely you’ll see enough of a difference to merit paying $400.
If you mainly use your PS4 for watching movies, and want to start streaming 4K content from services like Netflix or Amazon—you’re better off passing on the PS4 Pro. At $400, it’s not a cheap 4K streaming box. Instead, consider a Roku 4 ($129) or Amazon Fire TV ($85). Both have 4K streaming capabilities for a much cheaper cost. But keep in mind: streaming 4K content requires a fast and consistent Internet connection (around 25Mbps), so you may need a stronger router, especially if you’re connecting wirelessly. If you’re unsure of which router to get, here’s a few we carry you should check out that’ll definitely meet that need. Oh, and make sure you’re paying for fast speeds from your Internet Service Provider.
Lastly, if you use your PS4 for both gaming and movies—and own or want to buy a 4K TV—then the answer is a resounding yes!
People buying their first console
The biggest question I get from most parents is: which console should I buy for my kids. That’s a very long answer with a lot of dependencies (which I’ll save for another article). For now, I’ll focus on just PlayStation and the two new consoles.
It comes down to the questions I asked above. Usually, people buying their first console aren’t hardcore gamers. So while they may enjoy playing games, they probably aren’t so crazy about them that they’ll see a huge difference between 4K gaming and 1080p. So a PS4 would be more than enough, as it still has a Blu-ray drive and can stream video content in 1080p. However, if you’re considering buying both a game console and a 4K streamer so you can watch content on your glorious 4K TV, then buy a PS4 Pro. It’s the same price or cheaper than buying two separate devices. However, if you want something a bit better in terms of 4K-goodness, while still getting great games, you may want to look at an Xbox One S.
And speaking of Xbox users…
Xbox owners (looking to own a second console)
This one is a bit more difficult, as you may be highly entrenched in Microsoft’s ecosystem of gaming. If you play online a lot, a recent report stating that the Xbox Live network is better than Playsation’s in terms of speed. And if you’re a hardcore gamer thinking about PS4 Pro, you’re probably better off waiting for Microsoft’s Project Scorpio—an even more powerful Xbox console—coming out at the end of next year.
But, if you own an Xbox One and are deciding whether to upgrade to an Xbox One S or get a PS4 (slim), it really comes down to one question: do you care about 4K UHD Blu-rays?
If yes, get the Xbox One S. It’s the same price as the new PS4 (slim), except the Xbox One S has both a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive and supports 4K video streaming. Plus, all of your existing Xbox games play on the Xbox One S. However, if the answer is, “eh, not that big a deal”, then I would suggest getting a PS4. Doing so will get you a strong gaming system with access to a catalog of great exclusives you’re missing out on with Xbox—such as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Gran Turismo Sport, The Last Guardian, The Last of Us, and more. Plus, it’s the exact same price as Xbox One S. So it’s hard to go wrong with the new, slimmer PS4 at that price.
Image of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End game cover from the unchartedthegame.com
Regardless of whichever one you buy, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed. But I’d challenge you to think about how long you’re looking to keep this console. Both PS4 models are designed to be around for a while—so it’s unlikely either will get updated with new hardware anytime soon.
For more perspective on the new PS4 consoles this, check out The Weekly Core: a podcast hosted by a huge gamer and one of our Enjoy team members.