In a few short days, we'll have our first official glimpse at the newest PlayStation. And heads-up, Sony fans: it sounds like a pretty serious upgrade.
While perhaps not ready to pump out AAA games at 4K resolution, months of rumours and reports suggest that the so-called PlayStation 4 Neo (or PlayStation 4K) will still boost the resolution, clarity, and consistency of PS4 games, allow for 4K video playback, and significantly enhance the PlayStation VR experience.
And that's not all: a slim version of the PlayStation 4 has also leaked, and it will likely replace the old box as the standard, entry-level model. In any case, Sony has a "PlayStation Meeting" event dated for 7 September in New York, and here's what we expect to see.
Back in March, the first reports started swirling about the enhanced PlayStation 4 console, which is reportedly codenamed "Neo." According to those initial accounts, Sony is working on a more advanced version of the PS4 hardware, using AMD's much-enhanced 14nm microprocessors instead of the older 28nm versions.
A more powerful Advanced Processing Unit (APU) will give the console more horsepower to work with, although hitting 4K resolution at anywhere near 60 frames per second seems unlikely for what's poised to be a moderately-priced console. Still, that kind of power means games will still look sharper, run smoother, and pack a lot more detail than their standard PS4 counterparts.
And that's important to note, because they'll be running the same games, according to the reports out there. This isn't the PlayStation 5: think of it like the difference between a lower-end PC configuration and a higher-end one. You'll see the enhancements in the pricier box, but the core game can be enjoyed on either machine.
Supposedly, both of Sony's boxes will run the entire PlayStation 4 library, but newer games (and updated older ones) will have two versions on the disc or in the download. The PS4 Neo will run the better-looking version of the game, and bring in myriad visual enhancements, but Sony is reportedly mandating that the games otherwise be identical in content and scope across systems.
While 4K gaming might be too good to be true with the Neo, at least you'll be able to take advantage of 4K video streaming and 4K Blu-ray movies, along with likely HDR support. It'll be much like the new Xbox One S in that regard, then.
While the exact details haven't yet been confirmed, the enhanced PlayStation 4 is definitely happening: just before E3 this summer, Sony's Andrew House told The Financial Times that a more powerful PS4 was in the works, and would be revealed sometime after the big summer gaming convention. He also said it would run "the vast majority" of PS4 games, so that's encouraging, although we're curious to see what wouldn't make the list (and why).
PSVR's missing link
We've been impressed by our PlayStation VR headset demos at trade shows and events over the last couple years, but there's been that nagging question in the back of our heads: With lower-end hardware, can it really provide properly immersive virtual experiences?
After all, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both need pretty chunky, high-end PC setups to run games, which is about frame rate stability and keeping you from chucking your lunch as much as it is about visual fidelity. We imagine most PlayStation VR experiences will be fine with the standard console, but they'll surely be enhanced by the PlayStation 4 Neo.
The added muscle should put the PS4 Neo within striking distance of the minimum PC specs needed for the Rift and Vive, which should make the PSVR capable of running many of the same sorts of games at comparable quality levels.
In fact, it's why we expect to see the PlayStation 4 Neo out this October, right there on the 13th alongside the PSVR headsets. Expect a big bundle of everything you need for top-end console VR, probably still at a much lower price than a capable PC and a Rift.
If the Neo really is coming out in October, then we probably won't see any big new games announced for launch next week. However, bet on Sony showcasing the differences between the consoles and try to make its case with big, upcoming PS4 releases like The Last Guardian, Battlefield 1, Gran Turismo Sport, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare – and maybe even boosted versions of existing PS4 favourites (Uncharted 4, anyone?)
Slim yet strong
Every previous PlayStation console has seen a slimmer remodel at some point in its lifespan, and the PS4's will likely come next week. That's because a so-called PlayStation 4 Slim has already leaked ahead of the expected announcement.
Don't expect a big, flashy reveal: it should simply be a repackaged PlayStation 4 in a smaller package, trimming about 20% of the bulk from the design and surely costing Sony less to produce. That savings will probably be passed onto consumers as Sony positions this Slim PS4 as the new, cheaper, entry-level PS4.
You'll find a 500GB hard drive within, but the optical audio port has been axed, meaning there is a slight drawback. Of course, if that's a must-have for you, grab a standard PS4 now while they're still on the market – or wait and see if the Neo has optical, as well.
A new DualShock controller?
Interestingly, the DualShock 4 controller looks like it's getting a slight tweak for the Slim release, as well: instead of a big, bright light on the top end of the controller, part of the touchpad will be translucent instead, letting that light shine still. It might save a bit of battery life in the process, hopefully. No word yet on whether it'll come with the Neo, as well.
All told, the PlayStation Meeting event ought to set up Sony's console(s) for another smash holiday season, and give PlayStation fans the world over some prime fodder for their wish lists later this year. We'll bring you the official news as it breaks on Wednesday.