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Sony announces new Slim PS4, will bring HDR lighting to all platforms with software update

The big news at Sony’s PlayStation unveil was the PS4 Pro, but it’s not the only new console coming to market. Sony’s new PlayStation 4 Slim (Sony is just calling it the PS4, but we need to differentiate it from the current platform) is already shipping to retailers and will be on store shelves by September 15 for $299.

Sony’s “Slim” versions of its consoles have often removed functionality when they hit lower price points, but the PS4 hasn’t lost much in this redesign. The new Slim design drops the optical audio out and some of the fan vents, but reviewers who’ve had time with the design say it’s actually quieter — provided you aren’t using the Blu-ray drive. That’s apparently actually gotten louder. The hard drive can be swapped (earlier rumors suggested this function might have been removed).

The lack of UHD Blu-ray support means that there’s little reason to opt for the Slim if you already own a PS4, and while Sony wants this console to appeal to buyers who “haven’t joined the PS4 community just yet,” it’s not clear why this platform would convince them to do so. Sony touts the fact that “we’ve reduced volume by 30 percent, weight by 16 percent, and power consumption by 28 percent” compared with the original PS4, but we don’t know anyone who put off buying a next-gen gaming platform until power consumption came down by 30%. That degree of power savings does imply that Sony did a die shrink for the PS4, but whether they built it on 20nm or 14nm is open to speculation for now.

The one major upgrade coming to all PS4s is HDR support. High Dynamic Range lighting can offer superior visuals compared to standard television, but only if your TV supports it. It’s mostly been touted as a 4K feature, but the PS4 lacks a UHD Blu-ray player and Sony only mentioned 4K streaming support for the PS4 Pro, not the PS4. Presumably some games will get an HDR update, along with upcoming games like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

On a personal note, I’m surprised that Sony chose not to upgrade any part of the PlayStation 4’s hardware or to add additional capabilities. Leaving UHD Blu-ray off both consoles was a surprise — Sony has always aggressively supported new media standards, even when doing so significantly increased the launch price of the PS3. The company may no longer believe that physical media is worth supporting with its consoles and the Xbox 360’s lack of Blu-ray playback didn’t hurt its popularity — but with Microsoft having already promised 4K playback with the Xbox One S, it’s odd that neither of Sony’s consoles will answer that challenge.

There was no particular focus on PlayStation VR, even though that peripheral is supposed to launch in just over a month. Mark Cerny has said that PlayStation 4 Pro users will see improved VR performance thanks to better hardware, but VR itself wasn’t a major theme. Surveys have suggested that developers and game studios are watching closely to see if Sony’s VR experiment succeeds — but Sony isn’t playing up the capability as much as you’d expect. We’ll know soon enough if that was a strategic decision or a sign of trouble.

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