Four years down the line and 40 million units sold, the PS4 has been a great success for Sony. By focussing on games first and foremost, the Japanese entertainment giant as managed to quickly rebuild a customer base that was severely depleted thanks to the pretty large mistakes made with the lackluster, unfocussed PS3.
Games, games and more games has been what Sony has been about over the past four years and that, speaking from a gamer’s point of view, has been superb. Titles such as Uncharted 4, DriveClub, The Witness, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, No Man’s Sky, Until Dawn, Persona 5, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X and many more have made the console essentially a must purchase and given it an edge in the market.
Throw in the fact that Sony also managed to one-up Microsoft in terms of raw graphical power - with many Xbox One titles running at a lower resolution than their PS4 parallels - and it is easy to see why the PlayStation 4 has become the best selling console on the market today.
Times are changing though. Microsoft has released the well-received Xbox One S, with its impressive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player in tow, while Sony are releasing both this refreshed, thinner model PS4, as well as the 4K-gaming powerhouse PS4 Pro before Christmas. If we’re being brutally honest though, it seems that nobody in the industry knows really how these new systems are going to go down right now. Mid-generation releases are nothing new, however big hardware departures like Pro, One S and - whisper it - Xbox Scorpio, are and it is hard to see how they will restructure the market.
So, the new Sony console is just a thinner model PS4?
To quote the Sir Humphrey Appleby, the answer is yes and no. The answer is yes in the sense that if you buy this new console you are getting the same basic gaming system as if you bought an original PS4. Power consumption is down 28 per cent compared to the original model, and the new system runs quieter and cooler too, however in terms of resolution and framerates, do not expect your games to look and play any different.
No, the new thinner PS4 is still a 1080p gaming machine, with games running at 1920x1080, and at 30 or 60 fps (frames per second) depending on graphical complexity. As such, if you are only interested in a games machine that can play titles at 4K resolution, then you can probably stop reading this review right now. If, however, you are in no rush to adopt 4K, or are quite happy for your 4K TV to do some upscaling itself, then read on.
On the other hand, the answer is no as this slimmer PS4 does in fact make a number of changes from the original model that, in general, are all for the better, making it a great all-round gaming machine.
First among these changes is the new, smaller design. The original PS4 measured in at 27.5 x 30 x 5.3 cm, which was in no way large. The new 2016 PS4 measures in at 26.5 x 26.5 x 3.8 cm, which is roughly a third smaller than that original system. The result is an incredibly thin gaming system that is actually comparable to a largish book rather a piece of gaming tech. The fact that is is noticeably lighter as well adds to this new look, as too the new all-matte black finish.
The overall shape remains similar, with those distinctive angles still present, however now rounded edges and a large recess around the midline grant the PS4 Slim a softer look. We’re still not sure if we like this new look, however there is no denying that it is less intrusive and far more space-efficient that the earlier model.
In terms of ports and buttons, the system retains its front-facing disc slot and two USB ports on the front, however it now features physical power and eject buttons rather than touch-sensitive controls. Also, the top-mounted coloured light bar indicator that showed the status the system was currently in (such as sleep mode) has also been removed. Move round the back of the system and everything remains the same port-wise asides from the new absence of a digital optical out. As we are audiophiles here at T3 Towers, this element of the redesign was not welcome.
Lastly, the new PS4 Slim introduces a 5GHz IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac connection to the system. The original model could only connect wirelessly over 2.4GHz bands, so while we would still suggest plugging the system in via Ethernet cable to your router, if this is not an option you should now get a cleaner, more stable connection.
Are you a control freak? Then look this way
And, while we are talking about redesign, let’s talk about the system’s bundled controller, which is once again similar yet different to the original model. The new PS4 controller, at first glance, looks identical to the original. It feels the same too in the hand - which is great as the original controller was just lovely - and offers the same levels of grip and performance. On closer inspection, however, there are a couple of notable changes.
The first is very noticeable, with a new translucent lightbar stretching across the controller’s touchpad. This has been included to allow players to see which colour they are set as without twisting the controller around in the hand. The second change is the new option of connecting the controller via USB connection for gameplay input. The original controller, in contrast, could only be charged via USB cable, relying purely on its Bluetooth connection for gameplay. This option to carry button and stick inputs over cable has been included to remove any chance of lag during pro gaming tournaments. This change also allows you to use the new DualShock 4 with PC without having to buy a Bluetooth dongle.
But some things haven’t changed
And the foremost thing that hasn’t changed that we wished had is the 500GB hard drive. Sony has promised that a 1TB version of the new PS4 Slim is coming, however right now the only model you can buy comes with a 500GB hard drive. Now look, this is not a serious issue or anything, however after we’d got used to the 1.6 TB of space offered on the Xbox One S and the upgraded 1TB drive we have installed in T3 Tower’s original PS4, to go back down to 500GB was a bit deflating.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is the included Blu-ray disc player. No 4K Blu-ray player is included in either the PS4 Slim or PS4 Pro so, if you are looking for more of a media centre than a straight gaming console, then again this may be something to consider.
So, should I buy this new system?
Look, only you can answer that question. This new thinner PS4 takes the world’s best selling video game console, one that offers a gaming platform that is literally stuffed with amazing games, and makes it better. It is thinner, lighter, cooler and quieter. It also comes bundled with a slightly tweaked version of one of the best controllers ever made and costs a very affordable £249. In our book, that is a great product.
However, considering the wider context, you’ll need to ask yourself a few question before pulling the trigger. First among these question should be whether or not you want 4K gaming now. If the answer is yes, then you need to wait for PS4 Pro or look into the Xbox One S. Secondly, you should also ask yourself what exactly you want this system to do for you? If the answer is to be a multimedia centre powerhouse for your living room, again you should probably look elsewhere.
Overall though, the new PS4 takes everything people loved about the original system and makes it better. Sony has played safe with the Slim, but that is no bad thing.