Hardware iterations have been happening steadily and silently for many console generations now. As the cost of parts goes down and more efficient versions become affordable, companies make little internal changes in order to make a cheaper, more reliable version of the same console. And that’s all the new slim PlayStation 4, which Sony simply calls “PlayStation 4,” actually is. It has no new features that haven’t also come to the original PS4 via software, and in fact, it does away with an important piece on its way to becoming just a tad lighter and smaller.

The PS4 "slim" is the 500GB model, which sells for $299.99 - the same price as the original model it replaces. There’s a 1TB version on the way as well, but pricing has not been announced.
The most obvious change other than the smaller size is the full-body matte finish, which replaces the two-tone matte and glossy look of the original PS4. Smooth, rounded edges replace all the sharp, aggressive-looking angles of the last design, making for a more understated look that’s even more likely to blend in with a cable box, Blu-Ray player, or whatever other piece of hardware you happen to have in your entertainment center.

Baby Steps

Overall, the new form factor isn’t really...much of a factor. At 10 inches wide, 11 inches long, and 1.5 inches tall, it’s only half an inch shorter and one inch narrower than its big brother. If you were hoping this new model would fit in places the already sleek-sized original couldn’t, that won’t be the case for most people.
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Other subtle changes include a switch to clearly labeled physical power and eject buttons as opposed to capacitive ones with tiny, near-invisible icons, finally preventing your cats from turning your system on or off at inopportune times. The position of the two frontal USB slots has been oddly changed, with one flush to the edge of the console’s front face, and the other far to the left right next to the disc drive.

In terms of performance, the new model sports the same processing and graphics power, but does run significantly quieter than its predecessor when it comes to disc-based games and Blu-ray or DVD movie playback. In terms of cooling, the new system performs similarly to the old one, at least anecdotally: it was comparably warm to the touch on top, and especially so on the underside of the unit after only a short play session.

Stop the Music

The most disappointing change, however, is the removal of the optical audio-out port from the rear of the system. Every high-end headphone maker, from Tritton to Astro, uses this part to hook the PlayStation 4 up to a Dolby Digital mix-amp of some kind. The removal of this port has rendered not one, but two different pairs of $200+ headphones of mine unusable. If you, like many apartment or small-home-dwelling players, bank on that kind of setup to deliver high-quality audio without disturbing your family or neighbors, this omission makes the new PlayStation 4 impossible to recommend.

The most disappointing change, however, is the removal of the optical audio-out port from the rear of the system.

Perhaps the most significant improvement isn’t within the system itself, but in the newly tweaked Dual-Shock 4 that’s included in the box. A new light strip embedded in the touch panel mirrors the color and brightness of the outward-facing light bar at the top of the controller, making it easier to see. The more practical new feature is the support for controller data being sent over USB directly to the system when it’s plugged in, instead of always using the wireless. This facilitates true, wired performance, providing better response times that fighting game players in particular will appreciate. It’s worth noting however that these new controllers will replace the old ones on store shelves, so you don’t need to buy a new PS4 to get one, and the new USB connection feature will work on original model PS4s as well.
The Verdict

Overall, the new PlayStation 4 gets the job done but doesn’t offer any significant improvements over its predecessor. It’s not much smaller or well ventilated, and its lack of an optical audio-out port more or less forces new PlayStation 4 buyers who want to play with their high-end audio equipment to either hunt down an original unit or wait for the PS4 Pro and spend the extra money if they want to make use of high-end headphones. There are definitely no big reasons to trade in your existing PS4 for this one, unless you’re very worried about the noise generated by the disc drive.