PS4.5 NEO: What we know about PS4K
PlayStation Neo will be unveiled on September 7. That’s our best guess at least, according to the dozens of reports we’ve seen and the invitation to a "Future of PlayStation" event we found sitting in our inbox. Whether you want to call it the PlayStation 4.5, the PlayStation Neo, or simply the PS4.5, we fully expect to see it less than one week’s time.
So what is this new console and, more importantly, why is Sony trying to fix something that isn’t broken?The PlayStation Neo is a PS4 hardware refresh, but it goes so much further than the ‘slim’ versions of Sony’s previous three consoles (for that you might want to check out the rumored PS4 Slim).
Instead of just slimming down the hardware and putting it in a redesigned box, the Neo is reportedly updating the PlayStation platform to support 4K output and enable smoother playback of virtual reality content.
Now, whether this means games will run at a no-holds-barred native 4K, or whether it’ll be some sort of upscaling trickery remains to be seen, but we know for sure that the hardware is going to support 4K resolutions in some fashion.
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These upgrades will mean that the PS4.5 will be Sony’s first 4K console, a true landmark for the company.
And while we’d love to break out the bubbly to celebrate with Sony, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions about what games will work with the system and how they’ll perform on the "PS4K" (a clever monicker, we know).
Will we have to re-buy our existing PS4 games if we want to enjoy them in 4K resolutions, or will there be some kind of upgrade program? Will PlayStation Neo have its own set of exclusive games that the original PS4 won’t be able to play? Will someone please tell us when the Crash Bandicoot remake is coming?! These are questions that Sony will have to provide some decisive answers to if they’re to avoid the feeling that they’re ripping off fans.
However, here’s some good news: the PlayStation Neo won’t replace your PS4, but rather act as another option for gamers who want to spend extra cash for an enhanced experience. Sony executive Andrew House has confirmed that the PlayStation 4.5 will exist alongside the common PS4, and said that all PS4 games going forward will work across both versions of the system.
Sound appealing? Here’s what we know so far.
So … why create another PS4?
The PlayStation 4 is the most powerful game console on the market today, but after two and a half years on the market, it’s handily beaten by a capable gaming PC. As tech advances at an increasingly rapid rate, Sony is reportedly eager to offer an enhanced version of the PlayStation 4 that will offer a bit more processing power and speed to enable even grander and better-looking experiences.
One reason is to support 4K Ultra HD resolution for gaming. While the PS4 can run 4K video footage, it’s not able to handle interactive games at that incredibly crisp resolution. Supposedly, the PlayStation Neo will be built to allow games to run at 4K – for people who have a 4K television, of course. That might be a small number now, but it’s growing steadily; and an upgraded PS4 might help sell Sony’s 4K sets like the Sony XBR-X930D/KD-XD9305, to boot.
Another reason Sony wants to put a little more power on the table is for the PlayStation VR headset, which will release on October 16, 2016. Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets require a high-end PC to operate, but the PS4 does VR with comparably less power. However, in a VR world, silky-smooth performance is crucial to ensure full immersion. With the Neo, developers should be able to tap into the newer hardware to enhance their VR experiences.
These suspicions were further fueled when in an interview with EDGE magazine an industry insider said that PlayStation VR was going to be "terrible" on launch PS4s, creating the need for an enhanced console to offer a better VR experience.
According to a leaked document first acquired by Giant Bomb, sources indicate that the PlayStation 4.5 will sport some speeder components. The CPU is said to utilize 8 Jaguar Cores running at 2.1 Ghz apiece (as opposed to 1.6 Ghz in the original PS4), while an upgraded AMD GPU should offer extra graphical muscle with 36 compute units at 911 MHz compared to 18 CU at 800 MHz in the earlier model.
The transfer speed on the 8GB GDDR5 RAM will also bump up to 218 GB/sec from 176 GB/sec. Don’t know what that all means? Don’t worry: more processing power and faster speeds mean the PlayStation Neo will be able to handle higher-resolution output, manage more textures and details onscreen, and generally provide a smoother play experience overall.
The report says that while the PlayStation 4.5 will allow for 4K gaming output, Sony won’t require it to be natively supported. In other words, if a developer opts to stick with 1080p and put that processing power into other graphical or performance areas rather than resolution, that’s fine: the image will be upscaled for anyone with a 4K set anyway.
Frame rate is apparently a larger concern for Sony, with a mandate that games on the PlayStation 4.5 must have an equal or higher frame rate than the standard PS4 version. That way, developers don’t sacrifice visual fluidity in favor of a sharper resolution.
How will games work?
Here’s the reportedly good news: while there’s no word of any sort of upgrade kit for the current PlayStation 4, at least existing owners don’t have to worry about two separate game libraries.
That’s according to the Giant Bomb report, which claims that Sony has mandated that all games for the PlayStation 4 platform must work on both the new and old consoles. Games for the new hardware can feature enhanced graphics, of course, as well as some expanded functionality, but they cannot feature exclusive play modes or split the online servers between consoles. Furthermore, the system’s interface should look and act exactly the same on the new box.
The report notes that Sony will require games to feature a "Base Mode" for the original PS4 console and a "Neo Mode" for the PS4.5, both of which you’ll find in the same release. You’ll get the same core play experience on either console, although with the Neo Mode on the new hardware, you’ll see enhanced graphics and perhaps other perks as well.
Andrew House further elaborated on this functionality by saying that "all or a very large majority of games will also support the high-end PS4." This suggests that while all PS4 games will run on the Neo, a smaller number will support the additional 4K functionality.
When’s it coming?
Supposedly, Sony will require that all games released from October 2016 forward offer support for both console versions out of the box, and that games shipping in late September must have a day-one patch to add in the functionality. That’s according to Giant Bomb’s report, but it doesn’t mean that the PlayStation Neo will necessarily release at the start of October: Sony has reportedly given the OK for games to ship with Neo support before the console itself does.
Still, that estimate lines up pretty well with what we’ve heard previously: a Wall Street Journal report in March suggested that Sony would announce the PlayStation 4.5 in advance of the PlayStation VR’s release in October, and this rumor has been further corroborated by a report which claims that Sony is planning on announcing the console at its September showcase event.
A pairing of the PlayStation VR and PS4.5 would make Sony’s VR offering seem a lot more capable compared to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as well, even if those are PC-based options. Maybe we’ll even see a super-sized bundle with everything tossed into one pricey box.
Given E3’s status as the annual hotspot for massive video game industry announcements in June, we initially thought we’d be most likely hear about the PlayStation 4.5 then and see a release pretty close to the PlayStation VR in October, but in the end E3 2016 passed without any reference being made to the Neo.
Kotaku’s original report on the system suggested that a price point could fall around $400, although the site’s sources didn’t have any consensus on that. If true, we imagine the older model will drop further in price to better differentiate the two.
Releasing an upgraded PlayStation 4 so soon after the original might rub some fans the wrong way – we’ve even speculated as much – but at least the rumors suggest that Sony isn’t abandoning the original buyers – just tempting them with something even better.
Will it be worth the extra cash? We may find out on September 7.
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