Whether you like it or not, the PlayStation 4K – or Neo, as it's purportedly codenamed – is real. The system, which has been a hot source of speculation since the Game Developers Conference earlier in the year, was blown wide open earlier today, as internal documents outlining its specifications and integration into the existing PS4 ecosystem were laid bare. While we still don't have the full picture – the Japanese giant, at the time of typing, has yet to comment on any of the reports – we do know that development kits are currently in the hands of some studios, with the manufacturer set to mandate compatibility with the upgraded console as soon as October. But what do we know about the box right now, and should you be worried or excited about its introduction? Let's get to the bottom of it.
What Is the PS4K?
We should stress right off the bat that everything you read in this article – unless explicitly stated – is based on well-sourced reports from around the web. That means that, while we can be confident in all of the information, there is the potential for plans to change. Nothing, of course, is final until Sony puts out a press release. Given its reluctance to comment over the past month or so, you probably shouldn't hold your breath for any official information until at least E3.
That said, we can now be pretty confident what the PS4K is: it's an upgraded console based upon the specifications of the original PS4 console. Codenamed internally as Neo, the system will include a CPU with eight Jaguar cores running at 2.1GHz, 8GB GDDR5 RAM running at 218GB/s, and an "improved" GPU with 36 compute units. You can see how these upgraded components compare to the existing PS4 courtesy of Digital Foundry's reference table below:
We're not hardware specialists, unfortunately, so do check Digital Foundry's article for more information on what these tweaks will actually mean. Leaked documentation from Sony suggests that the new console will enable improvements in the following areas, however: framerate, resolution, and "graphical features". In other words, you can expect games to offer a more stable, moderately enhanced experience when running on the PS4K.
What's the 4K Bit About?
There have been rumours regarding a 4K capable PS4 for quite some time now, which are finally materialising in the form of the PS4K. It's believed that Neo will include an upscaler, ensuring that all games look extra presentable on a 4K television. However, the platform holder is not expecting developers to target Ultra HD for their games – though this may well be possible for indie releases that demand less from the hardware than AAA blockbusters.
The one obvious area of confusion pertains to the inclusion of a 4K Blu-ray drive. Apparently, the devkits that Sony has been shipping do not include an upgraded drive, but this makes sense, as in order to remain compatible with the existing PS4 console, games will not be able to take advantage of the larger Ultra HD Blu-ray discs anyway. However, if the Japanese giant does intend to market this as a 4K device, it's reasonable to assume that it will include a 4K Blu-ray drive.
Is My PS4 Going to be Obsolete?
The short answer is: no – but it does come with a few caveats. Until the system is out on store shelves we simply don't know how developers are going to treat the existing model, but with 40 million PS4 consoles already sold, it stands to reason that publishers will pour more resources into the greater install base; in other words, it's more likely that the PS4K's additional horsepower will be ignored than your current console be fed shoddy seconds.
What we do know is that Sony is requesting developers to submit their games in two formats from October: Base Mode and Neo Mode. The former will ensure a high quality of performance for existing consoles, while the latter will take advantage of any bells and whistles made possible by the PS4K's upgraded internals. These could, as mentioned earlier, involve a higher resolution or a sturdier framerate. It's important to note, though, that – if done correctly – the existing console experience should not be compromised; any improvements made possible by the PS4K would never exist on the current PS4 anyway.
It's also important to note that Sony is not allowing additional modes or features to be unlocked "exclusively" on the PS4K – games would need to be the same from a gameplay perspective across both devices. So the upgraded hardware is purely for performance purposes. All console owners – be it PS4 or PS4K – will use the same PlayStation Store, same PlayStation Network, and same operating system. There will be no segmentation between models.
Will PlayStation VR Be Better on PS4K?
It's hard to say as leaked documents make no mention of PlayStation VR in conjunction with the PS4K. If there are any improvements to the PlayStation VR experience on the PS4K console, then they're likely to be additional visual bells and whistles as alluded to above. There's no word on the breakout box – a core portion of the PlayStation VR package – being integrated into the upgraded hardware, so this seems unlikely as well.
Will Old Games Be Upgraded to Use PS4K's Specs?
This is a possibility that Sony points to, but it will depend upon a developer's desire to revisit their old code. If they want to, though, the platform holder mentions "forward compatibility" in its documentation, meaning a patch could be released for an existing game to improve its performance on the PS4K. This means that a title like, say, Fallout 4 or The Witcher III: Wild Hunt could benefit from a sturdier framerate on Sony's new format – if the developer is willing to put in the work.
When Will the PS4K Release and How Much Will It Cost?
Sony's request to developers to support the PS4K starting October suggests that it will be out before Christmas, but with PlayStation VR also due out around the same time, it's difficulty to envision it deploying two tough-to-communicate products all in the same quarter. However, leaving the launch until 2017 could damage consumer confidence during the busy holiday period, so our personal opinion is that it needs to be out before the end of the year if the manufacture plans to announce it soon.
As for how much it will cost, the number that's frequently being touted is $399.99, which would put it back at the same price as the platform at launch. That makes sense as Sony had significant success at such a price point – and it may even pave the way for it to heavily discount the current model at Christmas, too.
Do you have any other questions or queries about PS4K? What do you make of the information above? Tell us to 4K off in the comments section below.