Unlike Microsoft's compact console offering, the Xbox One S, the new smaller, slimmer, less glossy PlayStation 4 doesn't support 4K (UHD) resolution. It doesn't have a 4K Blu-ray player, nor does it feature slightly faster graphics processing than its bigger brother. Instead, the new PS4 (which replaces the old one) is much like the PS3 Slim: a leaner version of an existing console. That's no bad thing. When it goes on sale on September 15 the 500GB version of the new PS4 will retail for £259/$299. That price means the new PS4 costs largely the same as the old one, and some features have been cut despite the lack of price reduction. That said, they're not ones most players will miss. In fact, after a week playing around with the new PS4, I'd even say some of those cuts have made it more attractive.
Take the light bar that once split the glossy plastic on the left (or the top if you're one of those horizontal users) from the matte plastic below on the launch PS4, for instance. Sure, the visible glow was a nice bit of electronic bling—and arguably useful when it glowed orange to let you know the PS4 was in rest mode—but its removal has rid the new PS4 of the horrors of the fingerprint-friendly glossy plastic, as well as given it a lovely uniform look.
The overall split-parallelepiped aesthetic remains, but the sharp, angular corners that gave the PS4 a monolithic vibe have been rounded off for a softer look, while the matte black surface is much closer to the slightly rougher surface of the PS3 Slim than the original PS4, resisting fingerprints well. Aesthetics are always going to be divisive, but I'm a fan of the subtler PS4 Slim.
Up front are the new oblong power and circular eject buttons, which are thankfully actual physical buttons this time around, again mimicking the changes made in PS3 Slim and the Xbox One S. Why electronics companies feel overly sensitive, difficult-to-find capacitive buttons are worth the premium over far-more-practical physical buttons is puzzling, although I do wish the buttons on the new PS4 were a wee bit bigger.
Above the power and reset buttons is the slot-loading Blu-ray drive, as well as two USB ports. There's a wide gap between them, which may seem a little odd at first, but it makes getting a cable into the port that much easier. Plus, those using chunky USB cables or USB sticks will have no problem filling both ports at the same time. On the right of the new PS4, tucked into the gap between the two halves of the console, are teeny square, triangle, circle, and cross symbols, the circle doubling up as a hole to insert the optional vertical stand.
Unlike the original PS4, which did OK without a stand, the reduced thickness of the new PS4 does make it wobbly when stood vertically. If it's in an AV cabinet and unlikely to get knocked about, it might be fine, but for those with bustling households the stand is a wise investment.
Round the back of the new PS4 are more changes. The optical port has been removed, as has the extensive venting, leaving just the gaps around the edge of the console to pump out hot air. Interestingly, this hasn't made the console any louder. If anything, the new PS4 is actually slightly quieter than the older model, at least when playing downloaded games that don't use the Blu-ray drive. Unfortunately, if you do need to use the drive it's noticeably noisier than on the original PS4, emitting a rather irritating humming sound.
I/O on the new PS4 consists of gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, Aux for the PlayStation camera (which you'll need in order to use PlayStation VR), and a standard figure-eight lead for power. Those worried that the new PS4 wouldn't feature a replaceable hard drive can rest easy; there's a removable piece of plastic on the back that reveals a standard SATA hard drive. Removing the drive requires undoing a single screw, after which the drive caddy slides out.
That's about it for the console itself, other than to say that—like the original PS4—the new PS4 rocks a wee bit when laid down flat on a table. Only some of the square, triangle, circle, and cross symbols that adorn the bottom of the console are raised up and made of rubber. Why not just make them all the same height? Not that you'd go around gently prodding PS4s to test their balance—and if you do, I'd suggest trying another pastime, knitting perhaps?—but still, it's an odd design quirk.