Welcome to the next console generation-ish. This year Sony has breathed new life into the PS4, twice. The result is we now have the ‘PS4 Slim’ and ‘PS4 Pro’ joining the original PS4. Neither of the new machines is a full generational step up, but they do have very specific differences.
So let’s take a look at what has changed…
Design & Connectivity
Immediately striking are the three designs. Living up to its name, the PS4 Slim greatly slims down the original PS4 while the PS4 Pro is significantly larger:
- PS4 – 305 x 275 x 53 mm (12 x 10.8 x 2.09 in) and 2.8 Kg (6.2lbs)
- PS4 Slim – 288 x 265 x 39 mm (11.3 x 10.4 x 1.54 in) and 2.1 Kg (4.6lbs)
- PS4 Pro – 327 x 295 x 55 mm (12.9 x 11.6 x 2.17 in) and 3.3 Kg (7.3lbs)
The result is three substantially different designs yet all clearly stemming from the original PS4. All three retain Blu-ray (and DVD compatible) optical drives while the PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro step up to USB 3.1 and the Pro uses its extra ‘layer’ to add an additional USB port:
- PS4 – 2x USB 3.0, 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x PS Camera, Optical Audio output, HDMI 1.4
- PS4 Slim – 2x USB 3.1, 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x PS Camera, HDMI 1.4
- PS4 Pro – 3x USB 3.1, 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x PS Camera, Optical Audio output, HDMI 2.0
The Pro’s third USB port is likely to be very useful for anyone planning to connect a PlayStation VR since the returning Move Controllers each need a USB port for charging. Meanwhile the PS4 Pro upgrades the original PS4’s HDMI 1.4 port to 2.0 which is vital for its support for 4K (of which more in the next section).
Both the new PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro also get bumps in WiFi performance (to 802.11ac) and Bluetooth is upgraded from v2.1 in the PS4 to v4.0.
Needless to say, from a visual perspective the PS4 Slim is obviously the standout of the three: it’s thin, discrete and very living room friendly. But the real talking point and the key explanation behind their external differences is what lies inside…
While the PS4 Slim keeps to the tried and trusted route of reboxing the original console into a thinner, lighter and more efficient footprint while retaining the same performance, the PS4 Pro has very different ideas:
- PS4 – CPU: 1.6GHz 8-core AMD Jaguar; 1.84 TFLOP AMD Radeon (18CU, 800MHz); 8GB GDDR5 RAM
- PS4 Slim – CPU: 1.6GHz 8-core AMD Jaguar; 1.84 TFLOP AMD Radeon (18CU, 800MHz); 8GB GDDR5 RAM
- PS4 Pro – CPU: 2.1GHz 8-core AMD Jaguar; GPU: 4.2 TFLOP AMD Radeon (36CU, 911MHz); 8GB GDDR5 + 1GB RAM
Sony says the PS4 Pro delivers a 30% CPU and 100% GPU boost over the PS4 and PS4 Slim and its extra 1GB of RAM is specifically for non-gaming functionality so the full 8GB can be reserved for your gaming at all times.
The key change these spec bumps bring to the PS4 Pro is support for 4K gaming and media streaming, the latter just as content starts gathering momentum on services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and YouTube. On the plus side, all PS4 variants now support High Dynamic Range (HDR) via an impending firmware update, which is a big deal.
Tip: ignore Sony’s claims that you need a new HDMI 2.0 compatible cable for 4K. All HDMI cables support 4K natively.
By contrast both the PS4 and PS4 Slim are restricted to 1080p resolutions – though it is important to note resolutions on all three consoles will vary in game as frame rates are maintained. For PS4 Pro developers in particular they will potentially need to choose whether to opt for 4K 30fps or 1080p 60fps in their titles, while there’s upscaling support to run older games in 4K.
For all this there is a spoke in the wheel of the PS4 Pro: despite its 4K capabilities Sony decided not to include an Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray drive meaning disc content on the Pro will be limited to 1080p. This is something of a kick in the teeth given Microsoft has thrown an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive into its upgraded Xbox One S.
There is also an energy price to pay for the PS4 Pro’s extra horsepower: it consumes 310W compared to the original PS4’s 250W and just 165W by the PS4 Slim.
Storage & Price
- PS4 – $300 – 500GB HDD (user upgradeable)
- PS4 Slim – $300 – 500GB / 1TB HDD (user upgradeable)
- PS4 Pro – $400 – 1TB HDD (user upgradeable)
As its pricing makes clear, if you didn’t buy the original PS4 then the PS4 Slim is its no brainer replacement – though its lack of major upgrades may make it a harder sell if you already have a PS4 in your living room. This is where the PS4 Pro steps in. Outperforming the Xbox One S in terms of pure horsepower, it is the hardcore gamers top choice in 2016. Though that may be challenged by Microsoft’s ‘Project Scorpio’ Xbox One upgrade in 2017.
For casual gamers the PS4 Slim is a sleek, quiet and modest upgrade on the original PS4 with greater living room sensibilities. There’s absolutely no need to buy the PS4 anymore.
But the PS4 Pro is the one Sony aficionados will pick. It won’t be enough to get all existing PS4 owners to upgrade, but it is the line’s new flagship model and its competition with Microsoft’s Project Scorpio console will be the gaming world’s big battle of 2017.
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