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PlayStation 4 'slim' hands-on test

Is it worth getting Sony's new sleek console?

PlayStation 4 'slim' hands-on test
11 September 2016

The PlayStation 4 has been on a diet. A serious diet.

Sony has drastically reduced the size of the console - a staggering 30 per cent in volume, and a weight loss of 16 per cent - for a new 'slim' design that will replace the old angular box from 15 September.

We've tested out the new design to see if it improves on the model it'll be replacing. 

Note: the PS4 will always manage to attract dust. Always.

It's smaller and curvier. So what? The PlayStation 4 was hardly an ugly big lump (we're looking at you, original Xbox One). But the headline drop in size belies some more significant improvements.

The new design uses components that are far more energy efficient - meaning the new console doesn't heat up anywhere near as much as the old design. This makes the slim notably quieter than its older brother; one of our few criticisms of the original machine is the whirr of its fan somewhat spoiling the atmosphere of any tense gaming moments.

Rather than buzzing, the new design purrs along.

The slim design also feels substantially more robust. You're not going to fling it in a backpack, but it's a good deal more portable than the former build, whose contrasting tones of plastic give a creak and a groan when handled. By contrast, the slim design feels firmer - conveying that reassuring sense of "Someone has put a huge amount of time and money into making this gadget particularly brilliant". 

The power and eject buttons are now impossible to confuse (owners of the old design will have spent a few good months ejecting discs when they meant to turn the box off), while the glowing light bar has been ditched in favour of some subtle LEDs on the power button. The optical output has been dropped, but you now get the option to change hard drives via a panel on the rear of the console. 

The controller has also had the most minor of aesthetic adjustments, with the rear light bar reduced in size, while a new window has been added to the front touch panel to allow to you see what colour your controller is glowing - useful for the few games that use the function to indicate changes in game scenarios.

Otherwise? It's the same comfortable fit it's always been, with slightly greyer direction buttons. 

Two options will be available this month, replacing the old model: 

  • A 500GB hard drive model will cost £259, launching 16 September
  • A 1TB hard drive model will cost you £309.99, launching 29 September

It's smaller, firmer, quieter and a decent price. So, should you buy one?

"I already own a PlayStation 4 - is it worth upgrading to the new slim model?"

Honestly, no. As in previous console generations, this is Sony demonstrating that their hardware can 'evolve' midway through its life cycle. We got the mini PSOne, a smaller PlayStation 2, a drastically reduced PlayStation 3 - the new design of the PlayStation 4 fits this habit of taking up less space under your TV with the same performance results.

Improved HDR graphics will be coming to the 'old' PlayStation 4 model with a download in the very near future, so those who already own a PS4 won't be missing out. Stick with your current box.

"Should I buy the new slim, or wait for the PlayStation 4 Pro?"

That decision should be based on what TV you've currently got sitting at home: is it 4K? If yes, then it's worth hanging on until the arrival of the PlayStation 4 Pro on 10 November (or, if you've not nailed your colours to the PS flag, considering the vastly cheaper Xbox One S): from the brief amount of time we spent playing the Pro at Sony's launch event, we were able to flip between the enhanced graphics offered by the more powerful system, and those of the current PS4. Quite simply, once you've seen the vivid colours, the sharp details and fluid experience offered by the Pro system on a fancy 4K TV, the normal PS4 doesn't quite cut the digital mustard. 

Don't have a 4K TV? Then nab the slim: yes, the Pro will still upscale your images for you and make things look smoother on an HD TV - and it'll be able to handle the PSVR games with more stability - but the PS4 is still an amazing console that will make the most of your regular telly. PSVR games will still tick along on the regular console just fine. Save your cash.

"Any other advice?"

If you really want to mind the pennies, it might be worth shopping around for an 'old' PlayStation 4 once the new slim design hits the shelves. If you're not fussed about the console taking up a bit more space, the old design could see a big drop in price as retailers look to shift it from the shelves. 

If you want a full overview of the current console market, check out our guide here. Happy gaming.