It's amazing how much can happen in the space of a month. We never really expected Sony to release a PlayStation 4 Slim, but here we are putting Sony's shrunken system through its paces. There are times when the games industry feels like it's moving at a snail's pace, with titles announced eons before they're ever going to release. But the Japanese giant's handling of this diminutive device serves as a reminder of how fast things can move in this competitive market – and to think that the impact would have been more pronounced if the finer details hadn't leaked.
If you'd have asked us four weeks ago whether there'd even be a PS4 Slim, we'd have told you categorically no; days later and we've put one through its paces
As it turns out, unlike previous puny platforms, the PS4 Slim isn't the headline act in Sony's holiday story. Instead, it's a cog in the company's well-maintained marketing machine, as it works to canvas the globe with its fourth console. Designed to partner the more powerful PS4 Pro, this lighter, more efficient appliance aims to occupy a slightly less interesting sector of the market: the more casual space.
Available in a variety of guises and bundles, the PS4 Pro is the cheaper option compared to the aforementioned supercharged system. And for that reason, despite the hardcore interest in the PS4 Pro, it'll probably wind up the better selling of the two platforms when it inevitably hits rock bottom on Black Friday and beyond.
But if the price is right, then what of the product itself? Does it improve upon its parallelogram-shaped predecessor, or does it take a step backwards in an attempt to cut costs? And should this be on your wishlist if you already own an existing PS4 – or should you pick up the Pro? Do check out our PS4 Pro vs PS4 article for a more thorough comparison between the two models, and don't forget to read our PS4 Pro review if you're interested in learning more about that specifically. In this article, though, we're going to specifically review the PS4 Slim.
PS4 Slim Review: How Does It Look?
There's no question that the PS4 Slim is the least photogenic PlayStation platform in a long time. The first batch of photographs that leaked revealed an ugly looking slab, with rounded edges and awkward proportions. The reality is that the system is much more attractive when observed first-hand – but it doesn't work overtime to catch your eye. Aside from a single glossy icon located centrally on the top and bottom of the unit, the console is as minimalistic as these kinds of things come – the two-tone surface and searing light strip of the original removed in favour of a more subtle design.
In losing some of flair of the format's first design, it makes up for it with an almost statesman-like simplicity
But that's no bad thing – in fact, its understated looks almost guarantee a flush fit inside any media centre. Its rounded edges are less harsh than the original PS4 model, meaning that it will better complement any additional accessories you have – be they Blu-ray players or satellite boxes – and the removal of almost all shiny surfaces (barring that single logo as alluded to above) means that you can rest easy knowing that your new purchase won't be drawing dust to it like a turbocharged vacuum cleaner.
Despite its simplicity, though, there are little flourishes that catch the eye. The light strip has been re-purposed as a small LED on the power button (which is now a physical toggle alongside eject) while the feet on the base employ PlayStation's iconic symbol shapes – a small but pleasant touch that comes with the added benefit of ensuring that your system doesn't wobble when its stationed lying down.
And contrary to what some would lead you to believe, it does not feel cheap. The chassis is sturdy and the weight – despite being less than that of the original PS4 – has enough heft to it that you feel like you're getting a solid slab of system. It's an all-around quality revision that, in losing some of flair of the format's first design, makes up for it with an almost statesman-like simplicity – it's almost like it knows it's got nothing that it needs to prove anymore.
PS4 Slim Review: What Has Changed?
Attention, then, must turn to what's changed under the hood. And the answer, frankly, is not a lot. This is still the same PS4, running on the same operating system that you'll already be familiar with. The removal of optical output means that it's not a recommended upgrade for those of you with expensive headphones, though a new Wi-Fi chip means that 5GHz wireless bands are available, which may increase connection speeds depending on your setup. It's important to note that your mileage will vary here depending upon your router and its proximity to your console, and subsequently we found that the standard 2.4GHz setting provided us with the best speeds, but the option is at least welcome for those who want it.
The PS4 Slim consumes significantly less power than its predecessor, almost halving the draw
Elsewhere, the console still only includes two USB 3.0 inputs – curiously spaced on the front of the unit – though it's now possible to connect the DualShock 4 using the provided charging cable for super low latency gameplay. HDMI Out and Ethernet round out the remaining ports, while the more proprietary Auxiliary slot is included for the PlayStation Camera – an essential inclusion for PlayStation VR, of course.
It doesn't sound much on paper, but the biggest improvements are the less tangible ones. The PS4 Slim consumes significantly less power than its predecessor, almost halving the draw when you're idling on the main menu screen. This is consistent across the entire experience, with the new console coming out much more energy efficient irrespective of what tasks you chuck at it. The unit can still be warm to touch after a few hours use, but this doesn't tend to affect operation, and shouldn't prove a problem if you keep the platform in a well ventilated area.
But it's the operation volume that will interest most, and it's quieter than its predecessor. When idling on the main menu, you'll need to mute your television and put your head against the console in order to hear it at all. Its volume increases a touch when you boot a game from the hard drive, but it's still practically silent, and significantly quieter than the existing machine. It's only when you put in a Blu-ray disc that the console starts to kick out a few extra decibels; we found game installs to be a little bit on the loud side, though because the console runs most games from the HDD once the process is complete, it quickly drops in volume again.
Where the original model is something of a juggernaut, the shrunken system feels like a nice coffee table book in comparison
The bottom line here is that, while there is still room for improvement when a disc's being frantically spun, the overall performance is better than the launch PS4 model – and even its minor CUH-1200 revision. The power draw is significantly reduced, the volume when the Blu-ray drive's not in active use is considerably quieter, and the smaller size footprint means that you'll have considerably more space in your entertainment centre to properly ventilate it.
And it is a small console. One thing that's worth keeping in mind is that the PS4 – at 27.5cm x 30cm x 5.3cm – was already pretty small, but the 26.5cm x 26.5cm x 3.8cm of the PS4 Slim seems microscopic in comparison. Where the original model is something of a juggernaut, the shrunken system feels like a nice coffee table book. Consider that the Xbox One S – itself representing a 40 per cent reduction compared to its forebear – boasts a footprint of roughly 43cm x 29cm x 11.4cm, and it's immediately obvious just how small the new PS4 is.
PS4 Slim Review: Does It Include a New DualShock 4?
As has been widely reported, the PS4 Slim does come with a revised DualShock 4, though the changes that it incorporates are minimal at best. It can be connected via USB to reduce latency in-game as discussed above, but its main new change is the light strip that has been incorporated into the touchpad on the front.
You could argue that Sony's missed a trick here by not incorporating a better battery or higher-quality components
The lightbar is a divisive feature, but this new source of light isn't as obtrusive as you may think; the light is dim, and merely adds flavour when you're playing a game. There still aren't a whole lot of developers taking advantage of the lightbar for gameplay purposes, though titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall (which employ the LED to display your health) will be enhanced by the position of the additional light. It's not exactly a game changer, though, and it's worth mentioning that you'll be able to buy the new controller individually when Sony puts new stock out into the channel this holiday, which will allow you to use all of the new features outlined above on a standard PS4 console.
You could argue that Sony's missed a trick here by not incorporating a better battery or higher-quality components, but with the PS4 Slim working to cut down costs without compromising the core experience elsewhere, the relatively minor tweaks to the controller make sense – even if they're not what everyone necessarily wants to hear.
PS4 Slim Review: Should You Buy a PlayStation 4?
The PS4 Slim is an attractive, energy efficient replacement for the existing PS4 – but it's not going to get pulses racing like the PS4 Pro. With very few new features to speak of, there's no real reason to upgrade to this system – especially if you use the Optical Out port on your current PS4. Those yet to enter the ecosystem who are looking for a cheap entry point, though, will find a quieter console capable of everything that the original can do. And with a wealth of exclusives already in its library, as well as the excellent PlayStation VR , there's never been a better time to join the PS4 party.
Do you own a PS4 Slim? What are your thoughts on the smaller console? Did you pick a PS4 Pro instead? Shrink your opinion down into the comments section below.