Consoles are all getting a bit complicated. Last night Sony officially announced the PlayStation 4 Slim and PlayStation 4 Pro. Back at E3, Microsoft announced the Xbox One S and Xbox One Scorpio. In both cases, the slimmed down versions of each console offer small but notable improvements over their earlier counterparts, and the souped-up Scorpios and Pros deliver a varied gamut of features.
Now that Sony has revealed details of its Slim and Pro, I thought it was about time we collected together what we know about everybody's newest consoles for a comparison.
PlayStation 4 Slim
Officially announced last night, but popping up around the country for the past three weeks, the PlayStation 4 Slim is set to become the new standard model PS4 when it launches on September 15th. In terms of capabilities, the console is largely the same as the original launch model, offering no great new features.
However, it is significantly smaller, runs quieter, and uses less power. It also comes with a new style of Dualshock 4 controller, featuring a little strip of light at the top of the touchpad that shows you what team you're on - there's no need to turn over controller anymore. The controller's second plus point is that it will transmit data down the cable if it's plugged into your console, meaning that it will become a little bit more responsive.
Thanks to a firmware update, all PlayStation 4's will support HDR gaming and streaming (though, you'll only get a good sense of this on an HDR television).
- Dimensions: 264mm (L) x 39mm (H) x 288mm (W)
- Supports HDR
- Hard-drive capacity: 500GB and 1TB models
- Price: Starting at £259
- Available: September 15th
Xbox One S
Revealed at E3, the Xbox One S is a smaller, more powerful, and better featured console when compared to its older sibling. It also added some much needed usability upgrades.
The console comes fitted with a 4K Blu-Ray player, meaning that you can watch media that makes full use of the improved resolution if you have a 4K television. However, if you don't have any 4K Blu-Rays, the machine can also handle 4K streaming from the likes of Netflix. Xbox One S also supports HDR so, as developers start to make use of the technology in their games, colours and lighting will appear better when played on an HDR television.
The Xbox One S also has an improved wireless controller with a longer range than the original.
- Dimensions: 229mm (L) x 63.5mm (H) x 292mm (W)
- Has 4K Blu-Ray drive
- Supports 4K Streaming
- Supports HDR
- Hard-drive capacity: 500GB/1TB/2TB
- Price: £249.99/£299.99/£399.99
- Available: Now
PlayStation 4 Pro
Sony announced the PlayStation 4 Pro at its conference last night, though we learned that it was working on a souped-up PS4 back in March. The console walks a strange line, however; despite Sony claiming that it's significantly more powerful than the launch model PS4, with twice the graphical power, it will not run any games that the standard PS4 can't. Instead, Pro owners will be treated to better looking versions of PS4 games - although you'll need a 4K TV to take advantage of the majority of Pro's pluses.
The Pro will be the first console to support 4K resolution gaming - the Xbox One S can run media at those resolutions, but not games. That said, the Pro isn't running games at true 4K; instead, it's upscaling lower resolution games to that fidelity. Which, according to Eurogamer's Digital Foundry, already has mixed results.
The Pro will, like the Xbox One S and PS4 Slim, support HDR gaming. It will also produce more stable framerates and be able to record footage at 1080p, a higher recording resolution than the standard PS4's 720p.
Somewhat surprisingly, the PS4 Pro doesn't have a 4K Blu-Ray player so, while you can stream media from YouTube and Netflix in 4K, you can't buy any physical copies of films and play them at that resolution.
The Pro will also ship with the upgraded Dualshock 4 controller.
- Dimensions: 295mm (L)×55mm (H) ×327mm (W)
- Supports 4K Streaming
- Supports HDR
- Hard-Drive capacity: 1TB
- Price: £349
- Available: November 10th
Xbox One Scorpio
The Scorpio is the console we know least about (well, aside from Nintendo's NX). It was announced at Microsoft's E3 press conference, but with a lot of vague details on what the machine could actually do. Since then, Microsoft has opened up a little about the components inside, and about how many teraflops of this and gigabytes of that it has. As for an actual feature set, however, that doesn't seem entirely fixed.
What we do know is that the Scorpio will be significantly more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro, thanks to a details Microsoft revealed at E3. The Pro, for instance, can produce 4 teraflops of graphical power, compared to the Scorpio's 6. The Scorpio, too, will have faster memory than the Pro, meaning it can move data at 320GBps, while the Pro can manage 176GBps. Like the Pro though, the Scorpio will not have any exclusive games that make use of this extra power. Standard Xbox games, however, may look better on the Scorpio and may run more stably.
The exception to the exlusives rule is VR titles. While Sony is releasing a VR headset that will work on all of its consoles, Microsoft is letting the Scorpio have exclusive VR games. It hasn't bee confirmed but the Scorpio may be the only Microsoft console that will be able to run a VR headset, especially as Microsoft hasn't announced its own VR headset and so may use a third-party device, like the Oculus Rift, which is designed for more powerful hardware than a standard Xbox One.
The Scorpio's extra power should allow the machine to produce higher resolution graphics, but whether it will be true 4K or upscaled 4K will only become clear once Microsoft reveals more about the new console. Judging by the Xbox One S, it's likely that Microsoft will fit the Scorpio with a 4K Blu-Ray drive and let the thing stream 4K media.
And as for a release date, the Scorpio is due "Holiday 2017" and the price remains unconfirmed.
If you own a 4K television or were considering buying one, then the news is good: console gaming is catching up with the technology and will soon be making better use of your fancy screen. And, in the case of PlayStation, you won't even need to upgrade to get some of those benefits, seeing as the HDR firmware update is going out to all PlayStation consoles.
Looking at Microsoft's and Sony's consoles together though, I don't really see a clear winner. The Xbox One S gets points for being the only UK console with a 4K Blu-Ray player - a very expensive piece of kit to buy separately - but the games themselves won't look better on your big TV. The PS4 Pro does at least promise better resolutions for its games, but they're upscaled so the results between games could vary significantly.
Personally, I want to see what the Scorpio offers. While it's a long time to wait, it sounds like it may be the machine to make the fullest use of a 4K television.