Three years after the launch of the PlayStation 4, Sony has revisited its aging console to give it a new lease on life. As with previous PlayStations, the refreshed console has a slimmer new look, a few new features, and even some minor internal upgrades.
Unlike past generations, however, the new version of the console comes at a tumultuous time for the PlayStation brand. There are currently not one but three new PlayStation devices: this revised PlayStation 4, a 4K-compatible version of the PS4 called the PlayStation 4 Pro, and a PlayStation VR headset that will work in conjunction with any PlayStation 4 device.
The “slim” might appear underwhelming beside such ambitious brothers. It’s designed more to lure in players who haven’t bought a modern console yet than to appeal to current PS4 owners. Nobody wants to buy a four-year-old console, after all.
If you have strong feelings about the PlayStation 4 — good or bad — this console isn’t going to change your mind. Other than a thinner figure, it has only one or two notable changes over the original model. The most important elements — its processing power, the feel of its controller in your hand, the library of games available on the PlayStation Store — have not changed. While the new PlayStation 4 is “better” than the original, the difference isn’t necessarily worth any additional investment, especially with a more powerful version on the market, as well.
PlayStation gets a “fun” makeover
The most noticeable changes made to the new PlayStation 4 are going to be seen, not felt while you play.
On a functional level, the new console is considerably smaller than the original PlayStation 4, just over two-thirds the total size of the original PS4. It’s also a bit lighter: The Slim weighs 4.6 pounds, as opposed to the original’s 6.2 pounds.
More important, the Slim has received an aesthetic overhaul. The PS4’s distinctive shape, a sharp, slanted parallelogram, has been slightly softened with rounded corners. In front, the disc drive and two USB ports are now slightly hidden in a shallow indent. On top, the console is branded with the PlayStation logo. Underneath, the console rests on “feet” shaped like the triangles, circles, and exes found on the console’s buttons.
The power and eject buttons, originally a pair of thin, black buttons on the front, are now much smaller and rest on the “lip” of the console, in front of the disc drive. A large indicator light, which ran along the top of the console, has been removed. The light, which lets you know when the console is powering up or down, can now be seen in a small series of dots on the console’s power button.
If you already own a PlayStation 4, there are few reasons to upgrade to a PlayStation 4 Slim.
The DualShock 4 controller has received a slight makeover, as well. The touchpad is now translucent, allowing a bar of light from the console’s colorful indicator light to shine through. While you won’t notice the change too often unless you routinely hold the controller in front of your face, it does provide easier access to the light at a glance. And the back panel, analog sticks, and direction pad buttons are now gray, rather than black.
While each change feels slight individually, together they make the PS4 feel less self-serious than the original model. You get the sense that this product, while a substantial piece of technology, is meant for play, not business. The long light stripe on the console’s top had lent the console a premium feel and a bit of flair, overall the new console looks nice and maintains a lower profile. People looking for it will enjoy its attention to detail; others won’t notice as it fades into a shelf of routers, streaming devices, and other set-top boxes.
The most substantial improvement to the PlayStation 4 — the one reason you might consider buying one over the original — is its upgraded Wi-Fi compatibility. The Slim now supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which should lead to faster download speeds and more stability playing online for those whose routers support it. In my New York apartment, I was finally able to play games online over Wi-Fi, rather than connecting through an Ethernet cable.
There’s one other system change most people won’t notice: With the Slim redesign, the PlayStation 4 loses its optical out port. If that news doesn’t immediately make you scream, then it doesn’t matter to you at all. The optical out is used for high-end home theater systems, and it will not make a difference for the majority of players.
The PlayStation 4 features a one-year warranty from the manufacturer, beginning the day the console is purchased.
Thanks to some minor tweaks and internal upgrades, the PlayStation 4 maintains its place as one of, if not the premier dedicated gaming platform. If you’re looking to play some video games and don’t plan to sweat the small stuff, you’ve come to right place.
Is there a better alternative?
The Xbox One X, which releases in November, will set you back $500, but its native 4K capability and higher framerates could make it the console of choice. At more than $200 above the PS4 Slim’s price, however, and with a 4K television being an almost essential purchase to go along with it, this will set you back quite a bit of cash.
Then there’s the PlayStation 4 Pro. The Slim sits in the shadow of the more powerful version of the PS4, which has a more powerful graphics card, as well as other upgraded features. But most compatible games require a 4K HDR-capable TV to take advantage of the upgrade. Do you own one? If not, the standard PS4, original or slim, may accommodate you just fine.
How long will it last?
Sony is showing no signs that a “PlayStation 5” is coming any time soon, so the PlayStation 4 Slim will remain a viable game console for at least a few more years.
Should you buy it?
If you already own a PlayStation 4, there are few reasons to upgrade to a PlayStation 4 Slim. While it looks nice, and may be better at connecting to the internet, there’s a good chance that whatever you’ve been doing since you bought the first PS4 has been working fine.
If you do not own a PlayStation 4, the question becomes trickier. The PS4 Slim evens the playing field in one of the few places where the Xbox One had a clear advantage — the original Xbox One already supported 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The decision of what console to buy will ultimately depend on factors that have not changed since both the PS4 and Xbox One launched in 2013: Which exclusive games do you want to play? Which controller feels better in your hands? What consoles do your friends own?
Updated on 8-16-2017 by Gabe Gurwin: Added information on Xbox One X, changed copy to reflect that the PlayStation 4 Pro is now available.